Girls Get Life

Category: Arc, Residency
Written by: Sophie Mayer on December 2, 2013

don’t worry sound

carries meaning intact

carrie[‘]s meaning in t[‘] act
state            ly
breath         y
flute s          ighing / out
the longheld
secret / do the sleepers hear it, girls?
get voluptuous
encounters (with) strangeness

for grace

goes: she has the gift analphabet
(girls) shine is from inside endless
… … little… …cuts… …thirst in her
big sister inventing my own

mythsreally but must

finish the sentence (such red
to last) regard… …les

All words (heard) not author’s own. You can hear “Girls Get Life” here, remixed from live readings at the Contemporary Women’s Writing Association conference on experimental women’s writing.

On my  way to the conference, hosted by the University of Manchester on 12th October 2013, I was in two minds (that were one, to paraphrase Luce Irigaray): one stack of papers on the train table were poems for a reading set as part of the Infinite Difference anthology collective, chaired by Carrie Etter, and the other stack were poems submitted for Michelle McGrane’s online poetry anthology Against Rape. Not least since co-editing Catechism: Poems for Pussy Riot and Binders Full of Women, I’ve found that my writing – creative and critical – has become obsessive in its address to the persistence of narrative, poetic, and even semantic structures dependent on/perpetuating gendered violence. Each project feels like a joyful, collaborative, enlarging response to resurgent patriarchy – and each time, it encounters a repetition of the cultural circumstances that made it needful.

Found text from the School of Music and Drama, University of Manchester, 12th October 2013
Found text from the School of Music and Drama, University of Manchester, 12th October 2013

As she was part of the Infinite Difference reading, I also had the chance to make an Archive of the Now recording of Anna Reckin; the university kindly let us use a drama rehearsal room, which came complete with the prompt photographed above. Unconscious aggression towards the conference below? Or even confused postfeminist misreading of the critical porn of writers such as Kathy Acker, Dodie Bellamy and Eileen Myles (whose live tweeted review-poem of Blue is the Warmest Colo[u]r makes clear the distinction betwixt and between).

Either way, “girls get life,” as Harriet Tarlo put it. As sentence, its grammar is indestructible: life sentence, no appeal. “Get a life” a sub vocalic imperative inscribing a missed comma: follow the script, you failed punctuators, fantasise rightly: subject verb object, full stop. Yet (yes), you get what you give (biological imperative?): that seems the only way out, but it’s an essentialist reading. And there’s no giving here, just receiving: as gift, as idea. Yes, we get it: life. Three monosyllables that, three-read, totally make a mockery of the furrowed brows of philosophy and derange the grammar of the patriarchal sentence.

The post therefore starts with some of the other un-sentences – some settings-free, free of their setting (and mise-en-page) – I heard at the reading, spoken by Etter, Frances Presley, Reckin, Lucy Sheerman and Tarlo. You can hear, in situ and singularity, the recordings of each author that I cut up to make the opening poem.

My aim was choral, in the umbra of reading Adriana Cavarero’s For More than One Voice: Towards a Philosophy of Vocal Expression (Stanford UP, 2005). It’s the first philosophical study of vocality and sonority which, as Cavarero points out (drawing on Julia Kristeva’s chora) are feminised in EuroWestern thought, in its corporeality, internality, lability and affective power. So this is an attempt to speak, chorally, from the archora.

The Women’s Liberation Music Archive, the HerNoise Archive, the Women in Punk archive, Women and Social Movements, International: these labours of love stand distinct from the institutional archive that Jacques Derrida famously theorised in Archive Fever [JSTOR access required]: click and you’re not listening to the House of the Archon, but to the voices power excludes. Through guest curation, open interfaces that invite submission from users, and through narrative context, these archoric spaces create what Lucy Bolton, via Luce Irigaray, calls a “feminist genealogy”: a sense that past history is neither devoid of female artists and thinkers, nor home only to a token few. Here are conversations, chains of influence, transgenerational involvement: all invitational, opening outwards.

There’s no poetry equivalent (so far) for Allison Anders’ blog about listening to Greta Garbo’s record collection, which she bought at auction, and her daughter Tiffany’s blog Jumblequeen about the unsung female singer-songwriters of the 1960s and 70s – although Al Filreis’ PoemTalk offers the occasional feminist genealogical gem, as in this episode with Rae Armantrout, Laura Elrick, and Rachel Blau DuPlessis discussing Cathy Wagner‘s “This is a fucking poem.” But – as well as hosting an anthology-reading within a conference – the Archive of the Now hosts such a latent archora, for construction/curation by (future) listeners…


More Infinite Difference contributors on the Archive of the Now:

Caroline Bergvall
Elisabeth Bletsoe
Anne Blonstein 
Andrea Brady
Emily Critchley
Catherine Hales
Frances Kruk
Marianne Morris
Wendy Mulford
Redell Olsen
Sophie Robinson
Zoë Skoulding