Hysterical Surrealism—edited by Tony Oats, Red Temple Press, New York, 2019.
by Steve Finbow
Salvador Dali’s photomontage The Phenomenon of Ecstasy, portrays (exploits) women suffering from hysteria, they are patients of the 19th century neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, a teacher of Sigmund Freud, and he photographed them at La Salpêtrière hospital in Paris—the loci of Michel Foucault’s Madness and Civilization and the place of his death, Hysteria obsessed Dali, his The Hysterical Arch (1937) is a Surreal stylization of one of Charcot’s positions of hysteria—subverted by Louise Bourgeois in her 1993 adaptation Arch of Hysteria, in which she used a male figure to replace the convulsed female body. And so, in this anthology, the writing is convulsive—to subvert William Wordsworth’s ‘poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity,’ we can say that within this volume, ‘prosetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in hysteria’—texts written somewhere between boredom and violence, between the fantastic and the futuristic, but all concerned with now, now, now.
TJ Wayne’s ‘Blender’ shows the metamorphosis of humour and hostility present in these texts—there is rage and there is wonder; the blender in question, like some postmodern version of Lautréamont’s ‘chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella.’ Doctor Legion provides a humorous new mythology—all scatology and eschatology. The Weatherman oranges language, takes words and citruses the hell out of them—‘forum is never more than an extension of content’ as Charles Olson wouldn’t say. ‘First yer language dies.’ But Tony Oats revives it, gives it the kiss of time, ‘you’re time,’ you’re words and prosetry is an Indian rope trick. Urizenus Sklar out-languages the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, reboots Bernstein, regenerates Grenier, rejuvenates Hejinian. The texts are multidimensional throughout, leaping off the page, not nestling comfortably within the whiteness, ‘sculptures that looked nothing like words’ as Anonymous states or words that burn and dance as Tanya Zeifer intones. There is Blakean joy and mysticism in these works, fused with a synchronic understanding of language in the internet era. EJ Spode transforms the everyday into micro-myths, while Maggie the bartender serves up the flotsam and jetsam of memory and ideals, poetic dreams of the organic and non-organic. Pedro’s prosetry reads like a hipster David Antin who has taken a wrong turn at the seafront. To conclude, Penelope Fate’s ‘Calvary’ is a compressed yonic-Howl for the 21st century— ‘rising against the state against death.’ All of these texts have an energy and a passion that subverts the poetical status quo and creates within the reader a determination to keep watching, keep creating, keep questioning. Or, as EM Cioran wrote about the precursors to John the Revelator, ‘Skilled at making the most of their disorders or their visions, they raved with an art never equalled since: their powerful and imprecise minds helped them in the task. For them, eternity was a pretext for convulsions, a spasm: vomiting imprecations and anthems, they wriggled before the eyes of a God insatiable for hysterias.’
About the author
Steve Finbow‘s fiction includes Balzac of the Badlands, Tougher Than Anything in the Animal Kingdom, Nothing Matters and Down Among the Dead. His biography of Allen Ginsberg was published in 2011. His other nonfiction works include Pond Scum, Grave Desire: A Cultural History of Necrophilia, Notes from the Sick Room and Death Mort Tod: A European Book of the Dead. The Mindshaft will be published by Amphetamine Sulphate in 2020. He lives in Langres, France.
For more information visit his page: http://www.creatrixmag.com/yes-yes-yes-after-the-flood/