April 18, 2011

Wedding Dress

by Daisy Rockwell

Wedding Dress

As a child, I drew incessantly. My parents, both artists, were perplexed, and eventually frustrated, by the fact that all my drawings were of beautiful, shapely women laden with accessories and wearing elaborate outfits. By high school, I had abandoned this subject matter, but sought another artistic preoccupation in vain. It was perhaps because of this loss of focus that I abandoned my artwork altogether and took a 15 year hiatus which led me through academia and eventually out the other end. When I reemerged, I found myself painting portraits of politicians, then figures of political import. I have been painting politically for five years now, incessantly, prolifically. It was only last week, when I painted the final installment of a series on the Egyptian protest movement, that my childhood obsession with fashion finally expressed itself in my political art.

Bio: Daisy Rockwell paints under the takhallus, or alias, Lapata (pronounced ‘láh-puh-táh’), which is Urdu for “missing,” or “absconded,” as in “my luggage is missing,” or “the bandits have absconded.” She posts her paintings regularly to Flickr, and writes for the blog Chapati Mystery and the literary review Bookslut. She has shown her work in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, DC and North Adams, Massachusetts.

Lapata grew up in a family of artists in western Massachusetts, some whose work adorns the surfaces of chinaware and brightens up the waiting rooms of dentists’ offices, and others whose artistic output has found more select audiences. From 1992-2006, Lapata made a detour into Academia, from which she emerged with a PhD in South Asian literature, a book on Upendranath Ashk and a mild case of depression. Nonetheless, she sometimes still teaches Hindi.

Drag City: Some Sketches on Writing as Performance

by Cole Cohen

Why am I so fascinated by divas? Is it research for a rebirth? A crackling chrysalis split down the back like an ill fitting prom dress, revealing wings of wet pulp; shivering like a Chihuahua until the blood funnels through stiff tiny insect veins and I unfurl my majesty. Is there a term limit for divas? Is my application lost in the mail? Am I late for the coronation? Of course I am. So I peek through the curtains and giggle at the queen. Who can breath through all that taffeta? But the truth is I want you tighten my corset; make it so I can’t breathe.

I want to enforce a structure on my writing that pulls me in and pushes me up, forces an alluring overspill. Paragraphs feel baggy, loose fitting. Timelines and resumes and questionnaires act as a harness, pulling me in until my sentences inevitably runneth over. I want structure so that I can ooze through the cracks of it.

I write about bodies. I write about how they fail us and how we fail them. Cartoon bodies are invincible. Over and over again, they take a pummeling only to launch back up. Text is a cartoon body in which one transcends the limitations of physicality, where the dead spring back up, invincible. In writing no one stutters, Porky Pig should have been a writer. Text is the only body that can outrun time. Writing is a super power. It grants alter egos. By day, I am a mild mannered geek but by night, in front of my laptop, I am no longer limited by the squeeze box of my anatomy. I am endlessly elastic.

Text’s greatest gift to us its indifference to its user. It is entirely submissive. It will do nothing without your prodding it into order. The alphabet is free. You don’t have to take it dinner. It’s also not going anywhere. I have abandonded text, accusing it of abandoning me, but it never went anywhere. It stayed, waiting for me. It can wait longer than I can. There’s not getting rid of it, I’ve tried. Lucky for me, text cannot hold a grudge.

Writing is such an impossibly overarching super power, overwhelmingly simple. I am afraid of it, afraid of my own super power. When I say that writing is my super power, I do not mean that I am the best writer or even a good writer. I mean that the ability to sit down and type out thoughts, accompanied by the ability to read them, is beyond human. We make a big deal about how we are the only humans who are able to write but we don’t make a big deal about how we are the only humans who can ignore writing, who have the ability to process text but may choose not to. There is no other being on the planet who can skip down an article to the bottom of it. There is overwhelming power in what we choose not to do.

I have an invisible disability and an invisible ability. To look at me, you cannot see that I have a neurological condition and you cannot tell that I am writer. I am invisible. Our strengths and weakness are noble gases, impossible to outwardly detect. When I am out in the world these capabilities and incapabilities are cloaked. So why do I spend so much of my time hiding?

The blank page is an abandoned warehouse, dark and spooky and with the chilly sense that it is somehow living, waiting. Lyric essay or performative writing is like the artist who rather than filling up the warehouse cuts shapes out of it.

Copyright Cole Cohen 2011

Bio: Cole Cohen received her M.F.A. in creative writing from CalArts in 2009. She has been a Yaddo fellow and is currently a finalist for the 2011 Bakeless Prize in Nonfiction.


by Caolan Madden

a photo essay/personality test

Q: Would you believe that every morning I wake up in my black lace brassière and smudge the kohl-black sleep out of my eyes and stumble into my study where I snap open my mother's sea-green Viking sewing machine and sort of cast about me (in that green sea) for any old material--a towel, a carpet, a J Crew catalog, a couple of takeout boxes, some fascicles--and get the machine up humming and just start whipping frills?

a) yes
b) no

[Don't believe me. I don’t even know how you whip a frill. But I wish I could spend all morning positively whipping frills until I had something to put on and be and show. Whenever the spirit moved me. I wish I could do it on the Viking. I wish I could do it in my Kitchenaid mixer.]

Q: How do you whip a frill?
a) with an eggbeater
b) with a raglan sleeve
c) what did the frills do wrong?

[Instead I have this housedress of my grandmother's that I think about turning into a cocktail dress. In high school I learned how to make a pattern for a raglan sleeve. The cocktail dress isn't going to have raglan sleeves, so that knowledge is worthless. I hang the dress on the door, think about swanning around in this housedress, hopping around in that imagined cocktail dress. I could DEFINITELY make a paper doll of the cocktail dress. I could MAYBE make a poem of the cocktail dress. I could PROBABLY make a poem of the paper doll.]

Q: What kind of poem has raglan sleeves?
a – d) write your own poem on a separate sheet.

[I can't make clothes like poems/I’m not sure if I can make poems like clothes. I can put clothes in poems/read poems in clothes. One time I went around muttering "red shoes, red shoes." Then I bought these red shoes. I wore them with a red dress & a copy of Ulysses; with a blue dress & a copy of Romeo and Juliet; with a pink skirt & the Faber & Faber edition of Ariel, the one with red tulips on the front. Then I fell down in a park or something and wrote a poem about them! and in them!

Then people thought I liked shoes so they started buying me things shaped like shoes. Mostly those things are useless but this tape dispenser comes in pretty handy.]

Q: What is blurbling off your lips this morning? And is it also on your feet?

a) red-hot shoes in which I will dance to my death/obvs
b) "Unique New York"/sure
c) Scotch tape/maybe

[I could use these pins to stab-bind a fascicle. But I mostly don’t. I just use the tape dispenser and the Kitchenaid mixer and the shoes. But you know. Sometimes you need to learn to love frills before you can whip them.]

Q: Would you rather
a) whip frills
b) rip seams
c) stab bindings
d) stumble around in a black brassière

Mostly a’s: Your frills are dream-frills: so positively foamy they fill up the dream-frame. When we wake up they seem to be gone, but there are those telltale bubbles.
Mostly b’s: You seem to be able to make real frills; please send me some through the U.S. Postal Service.
Mostly c’s: I kind of think you are Emily Dickinson?
Mostly d’s: Let us put on our trashiest peignors and have a mint julep together or maybe a cherry coke.

Bio: Caolan Madden lives in Brooklyn & sometimes makes poem machines (but not sewing or mixing machines).

What Is It, and How Do You Use It

by Allison Layfield

What Is It, and How Do You Use It

I will answer when you learn with your fingers teasing
teeth pulling satin from skin us girls playing sneaky with the luger
from the underwear drawer it is a matter of manners you will discover
My Little guns when you master motion winks lips ungloving
your hands we call it Burlesque when you learn how to other people
grow in fragile comedy to twist a funnel of stocking
around your torso a limp cat a campy name we chase it Sister
it is a matter of noise damage your arm the serpent escaped.

Bio: Allison Layfield writes about princesses and the dresses and shoes that make them. She is on the editorial staff of Bone Bouquet, a journal of women's poetry.

Crinoline Hems Trailing in the Mud: A Tribute to Vintage

by Andrea Quinlan

"I am a very MODERN woman. I like Life in my clothes,” Katherine Mansfield wrote to Ida Baker. Mansfield is just one of the women of New Zealand's past who loved clothes. I think about them as I finger the vintage clothes in my wardrobe. All these pieces of women's lives. A mended hole here, a faint stain there. Lipstick and traces of perfume. A fashion magazine with drafts of poems in between the pages. After the destructive Christchurch earthquakes I have become even more attached to my vintage. The clothes bought in the city are literally part of the fabric of it's history that is rapidly fading from view. So wearing them feels like a positive action, as dressing up always does. Like the colonial women with their crinoline hems trailing in the mud. Me, these clothes and accessories and their previous owners are a part of each others stories and poems. It is much more than just a simple parallel between creating a new outfit from old clothes and a new poem from old materials.

powder blue 1950s halterneck dress
pink satin 1940's dress
1930s black crepe tea dress with multicoloured embroidered detail
black lace 1920s slip with gold thread design
blue 1950s nylon dress with white flocking, black velvet ribbon detail and jet buttons
a stiff white 1950s petticoat that crunches like scrunched paper when you move
1950s red velvet full skirted dress
bright blue velvet wiggle dress
1960s hot pink accordion lace pleated dress
floral silk dressing gowns (2) a pink satin 1930s bra and tap shorts
quilted dressing gown with pockets for lipstick, handkerchiefs or poems scribbled on notepaper
pink 1940s blouse with tea stained trim
gold strappy sandals made in New Zealand with heels worn down by dancing
a white handbag with yellow art deco sunburst clasp
double sided duster coat
1950s pale pink bolero jacket
crunches coloured silk velvet pink tie self and dress
miniskirt cotton pearl flowered black bright checked skirted
clasp made dressing dress dress pink with holes blue top heels
double dress embroidery 1920s neck leaves green orange silk nylon shoulder
green yellow abstract strappy pink art floral scarf shaped
striped Pink 1950s multicoloured with suit dress pleated
1940s red embroidered sailor nylon gown
jacket lipstick 1960s tap with flower bra skirt
look accordion and satin crepe dress stone collar satin floral
look stitched buttons luxurious move sandals Zealand gold
bolero silk of rose crepe velvet crepe net bell
sparkles pale satin duster trim petticoat clear
white rose red scrunched satin piece blue cotton dress
at powder ribbon white dress and blue white jet short fur dress
pattern beaded full knit buttons wiggle red dress ring top green
leather gown style in paper belt pink

Bio: Andrea Quinlan has had poetry published recently in brief and Gaga Stigmata. Another recent project was covers of Finnish songs for the Kemialliset Ystävät big band. She lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

White Dresses, Red Soles + Oil Paintings: Some Notes on Emily Dickinson, Christian Louboutin, + John Berger

by Daniela Olszewska

when i spent $[redacted] on a dress, some friends sniffed that my money could have been put to better use. they said i had no business supporting this industry dedicated to keeping the uber-rich prettily adorned. when i spent $[redacted] on a painting , some of these same friends congratulated me. they said it was good that i was in the business of supporting this industry dedicated to keeping the homes of the uber-rich prettily adorned.

dresses are frivolous.

paintings are ART.

[‘I died for Beauty—] (449)
Emily Dickinson

I died for Beauty -- but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining room --

He questioned softly "Why I failed"?
"For Beauty", I replied --
"And I -- for Truth -- Themself are One --
We Brethren, are", He said --

And so, as Kinsmen, met a Night --
We talked between the Rooms --
Until the Moss had reached our lips --
And covered up -- our names --

let’s say beauty is fashion.

+ truth is ART.



our deliriously white-hemmed heroine was a fashion failure. i’m sure she wore white after labor day, to her brother’s wedding, to her garden parties with the finches, to her own funeral, even. emily’s white dress(es) is (in)famous not because it is/was particularly becoming but because it broke rules. it marked emily as a certain kind of woman, a poet. it marked her as a certain kind of poet. if you are a woman, if you are a poet, if you are a woman who is also a poet (or a poet who is also a woman), there is no such thing as ‘neutral’ clothing. everything you wear MEANS SOMETHING. everything you wear is a costume. an aesthetic argument. even if you’re just wearing a ratty pair of sweatpants + a grease-stained t-shirt you grabbed out of your roommate’s laundry hamper, you are making a FASHION STATEMENT. you are either following the rules are you aren’t (probably, if you’re a poet, this means you aren’t—). you are making a BEAUTY STATEMENT. an ART STATEMENT. a TRUTH STATEMENT. i mean, yea, work it.

REUTERS: NEW YORK— Paris-based designer Christian Louboutin, whose pumps have graced many fabulous and famous feet, sued fashion rival Yves Saint Laurent over the use of the color red on shoe soles…"The Red Sole has become synonymous with Christian Louboutin and high fashion," it (the lawsuit) said, adding that Louboutin had trademarked the design in the United States in 2008 (MSNBC, 4-8-11).

in fashion, you can trademark a color.

+ you can trademark the sole of a shoe.

++ fashion falls under the protection of intellectual property law. as do paintings. +++ poems.

but what would it look like for painter or poet 1 to sue painter or poet 2 for trademark infringement?

once, i wrote a poem about a dead rabbit (i was in undergrad—). i took it to workshop + some people praised it + some people thought it was kinda meh. the next week, another woman in the workshop brought in a poem about a dead hamster. now, a dead hamster is not a dead rabbit + this woman’s poem was very different from my poem (her poem, for example, was set in a second grade classroom whereas mine was set in a cemetery). but it still bothered me. a little bit, at the back of my throat. i felt as if she was copying me, STEALING FROM ME, even though I knew that, in poetry, there isn’t any such thing as stealing. there is only borrowing. homage. inspiration.


the louboutin brand should be rather familiar with the concept of borrowing. with paying homage. with taking inspiration. for their fall/winter 2010 campaign, louboutin put out adverts that mimicked seventeenth century oil paintings. the adverts were still lifes with louboutin shoes + the kind of foodstuffs the rich folk of the seventeenth century would velvet-line their bellies with, would commission still lifes of. the art historian/social critic john berger, writes a lot about oil paintings + consumerism in his seminal work ways of seeing. berger goes:

But what are these (seventeenth century oil] paintings? Before they are anything else, they are themselves objects which can be bought and owned. Unique objects. A patron cannot be surrounded by music or poems in the same way as he is surrounded by his pictures…They show him sights: sights of what he may possess.

i am trying to think of what i would like to possess. of what i would commission to have painted, to hang on my living room wall for others to see (to admire). (let’s remember this difference between the things one privately wants to possesses + the things one publicly wants to possess…) i see still life w/every book of poems i ever loved (an attempt to be ‘surrounded by poems in the same way i’m surrounded by paintings…). still life w/dior coat + la sorrentina coffee machine. still life w/book deal + receipt proving i have paid off the last of my student loans. still life w/second generation iPad. still life w/valentine from a woman i respect + admire. still life w/burmese cat + blue velvet chaise lounger. still life w/a dictator-free belarus. still life w/one of emily dickinson’s white dresses. still life w/vodka gimlet + summer sunburn in new orleans.

Publicity images (advertisements) also belong to the moment in the sense that they must be continually renewed and made up-to-date. Yet they never speak of the present. Often they refer to the past and always they speak of the furute…[they] propose to each of us that we transform ourselves, or our lives, by buying something more. This more, it proposes, will make us in some way richer—even though we will be poorer by having spent our money. Publicity persuades us of such a transformation by showing us people who have apparently been transformed and are, as a result, enviable. The state of being envied is what constitiutes glamour. And publicity is the process of manufacturing glamour.

berger goes on to take a rather dim view of manufactured glamour, he dismisses it as a byproduct of the industrial revolution, capitalism, + the rise of advertising. but, berger’s description also sounds dangerously close to the description of the project of poetry-making. poems must continously be renewed and made up-to-date. they might speak of the present but more often than not they refer to the past + always, always, always the future.

do poems produce envy though? i don’t know. do readers envy the personas in poems? sometimes. if the personas seem especially free of whatever’s weighing down on the poetry reader (job, spouse, credit card debt, cancer, systematic government opression…). is that the poet’s job, then? to create an enviable, glamorous world for their readers? in order to motivate their readers to—what?—
transform herself. not by buying an item persay, but by buying whatever the hell it is that the poet is selling. this is what we mean when we say i like what she’s putting down. poems are, maybe, publicity for the poet’s ideas about BEAUTY + ART ++ TRUTH.+++ poems are publicity statements for the poet’s FASHION.


Bio: Daniela Olszewska is the author of six chapbooks, including The Partial Autobiography of Jane Doe (dancing girl press), Citizen Jane Trains For Many Different Kinds of Careers (horse less press), and halfsteps + cloudfang (plumberries press). She lives in Tuscaloosa, where she is purusing her MFA at the University of Alabama. With Carol Guess, she is working on a manuscript of poems inspired by the website wikiHOW. Daniela recently spent less than $100 on a white, floor-length Dior coat from the 1950’s.

this is the girl of the moment

by carina finn

this is the girl of the moment

the look of the moment is campesino chic. all the lavaliers can be used as ammunition. the word of the moment is functionality. the girl of the moment should be unable to sit. this is the essential pose for spring. all of the condiments are crinoline.

this is the year of the magazine. matte is the new glossy! liner is the new kiss. campfire badges adorn the uncanny. the girl of the moment has never seen a century.

the biennial couture collection approaches! the girls line up to walk a treatise. the treatise takes place in the coffeeshop alley. heark to herald a moment of adversity! last season, all of the girls are starving.

the girl of the moment is pop. pop is the concurrent drama. the drama is sponsored by your local news radio. the radio is the body of a very young girl. the girl is a wasteland. this is the allegory: a voice walks into a bar and orders a body. the bartender is an inkwell. the inkwell is the scourge of a millenia unmaidened. the girl of the moment wears nothing but white. the girl of the moment eats nothing but summer. this moment is always already over. to comprehend the pre-season collections one must employ a derivative commandment.

this is the girl of the moment : a starling sipping tea from a holly leaf : a honeytart baked in pearbrandy : the girl is a moment of : a recipe torn from a futurist cookbook and soaked in ice cream before steaming the girl of the moment is caffeine detritus : the girl of the moment evokes the scandinavian arpeggios in early spring : the moment is nude lips and bronze shimmer-statue : the girl of the moment is taupe! the moment is cheap rhine wine : the girl of the moment is picnic-basket the girl of the moment is straw-brimmed : the girl of the moment is beribboned : the moment is highly breakable alabaster glass : the girl is vaguely chateauesque.

this is the girl of the moment : the girl of the moment is drag. drag is the unofficial party trick of the season. the season is a retrospective of the life of the media. the media has been wounded. the dresses are chestless to showcase the scars. scars are the up-and-coming accessory. the accessory is the murder of a girl in the making. the moment is transient, that is to say, feathers! the hairband is the new waistline. the metaphor is the new stitch.

bio: carina finn is an mfa student at the university of notre dame. her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in cutbank, storyglossia, seven corners, melusine, connotation press, & elsewhere. she has won two academy of american poets prizes & been nominated for a pushcart. she blogs @ ladyblogblah.wordpress.com

Four Poems

by Amanda Montei

Four Poems

Today they announced that the failure age is twenty-nine. That for women it comes three decades earlier than it does for men. “Why is it that people think they understand their bodies?” she says. “How can you know that your insides yearn for salad?” He is on the bearskin rug in the corner of the apartment, eating a violin bit by bit, and yearning for a salad. “Like the man that ate the airplane!” he says. “Like the man that ate the world!” Yesterday, she asked the old woman in the park what she loved. The woman said, “Queen Anne’s lace.” She didn’t know then that Queen Anne’s lace was a flower. (She thought it was a doily-type thing the woman might wear on her brittle bony shoulders, an old delicate shawl that would break apart in hands. She liked the idea of frail-on-frail.)

Her favorite thing is cats that bat at your hand but really they’re just batting at the air. “It’s sweet the way it seems they’re always grabbing at something they can’t quite touch,” she says. He says his favorite thing is the bearksin rug, which he is dusting with a feather duster. He says his second favorite thing is unexpected eye contact. “It’s glorious when you realize you have sexual tension with everyone you meet,” he says. She hasn’t seen the moon in days. She can’t stay awake for it anymore. “My least favorite thing is gin,” she says. “My second least favorite is conversation. My third least favorite is wrinkles.” He falls asleep on the rug, and she goes looking for the moon.

She will write a story about women who feel like objects even in the eyes of women. (They are incapable of seeing themselves as people, as friends, as anything other than sexual. They are constantly searching for satisfaction, attraction, even in those they have no real sexual interest in.) She will write a story about a woman who is looking for the moon, who travels the world trying to find it. (Such is the plight of so many young women. They define themselves in terms of others.) When she finally finds the moon in Biarritz she is blinded by it. The glow is too specular, too iridescent, too much like teenage glitter.

(She has high, round cheeks and looks like she is sucking on the sides of her mouth, like those druggy models. She wears a thin sparkly wrap over her ears, like she is covering the fact that she doesn’t actually have ears. Like she is covering her coiled coiffure. She squeezes his hand whenever anything is funny or scary. Her fingers are muggy on the palm and her cold rings warm to nervous skin. When she doesn’t know what someone is talking about she always pretends she does and then googles it later.) The flower, there on the screen, reaches out, stems like lonely separate fingers stretching from a long night curled. She thinks that Queen Anne’s lace also looks as if it’s grabbing at something it can’t quite touch. They decide to walk through the night. The sky is painted pastel, a swollen peach with blue-gray mold-fuzz, tantalizing in its death. She catches the moon in her eye, but as they pass a high building, it winks out and she can’t get her eye on it again. “Isn’t it upsetting that the moon is always out there but you can’t always see it?” she says. “Doesn’t it feel like it’s running from us?”

Bio: Amanda lives in Los Angeles, where she is completing her MFA at California Institute of the Arts. Her creative and critical work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ms. Magazine, PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, PANK, Nanofiction, Nighttrain, and others. She blogs for Ms. Magazine semi-regularly.