Ephemeral Murmur, Effusive Silence, Elusive Truth

Reviews

Ephemeral Murmur, Effusive Silence, Elusive Truth

Kathy Acker,
Pussy, King of the Pirates,
New York: Grove Press, 1996.

In this story told by a poet, the “Days That Are To Come” is the final chapter climax in Kathy Acker’s enigmatic Pirate Days tale of Ange, Virgin, Silver and others. More days that are to come can only but take us back to the beginning.

I’m a famous poet, even though I’m a child.
I am a child and I run back to the beginning.

The Princess Cassandra of Troy spoke truth when she spoked her own visionary hub to a bleakly oracular rim of time. Everything to which she spoke(d) came true. Centuries later, a Roman soldier might hear a warning from the gods in a fragment of conversation and call it divination. Each fragment that survives is cast outward.

Those bits of conversations that the beautiful girl just managed to overhear enabled her to start on her way home, back, as the man had shown her, down the white and brown path, here and there obscured by snow drifts.

French traveler, adventurer and poet Jean-Nicolas-Arthur Rimbaud saw the poet as a seer, a voyant piercing the infinity by defying the restraints and controls that supported conventional conceptions of individual personality.

Unable to be certain of her direction, she assured herself, “I won’t lose my way as long as I stay to the left.

A century later, poet and performance artist Kathy Acker plays ferret and sentry to Robert Louis Stevenson pas(sed) time of postmodern sensual sensibility. Pussy, King of the Pirates is her playful reconstruction and mildly plagiaristic recounting of the Treasure Island pirate adventure stories for the boy(z). With her vers libre contemporary vocabulary, author Kathy Acker is a contemporary Story of O soothsay g(i)rrl Cassandra.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum and
all that’s old has turned to scum

(T)reading Kathy Acker is truly a connect-the-dots literary experience. King to Pirates is hyper(active) text without subterranean hyper(text) linkage. Hypertext – or the remote absence thereof – is a means of delivering inter(active) textuality. The necessity of foraging links creates an urgency to the (re)connection of ideas.

Her hand had moved deeper, as if pirates were exploring and I was their explored. “I’ll take you somewhere you don’t know about and then you’ll be able to open your eyes.”

Pussy does not engage us in conventional or formal narrative pleasure; which is not to suggest that we are not indulged in other ways. Kathy Acker’s dreamtime aphorisms and solipsistic pleasures-with-words cull from a female experience that explores the means by which men and women apprehend and respond to their varying views of the world. Pussy, as a surface-to-surface air miscellaneous handing-out-with-the-bathwater literary writing, rite(ing), and riding experience, highlights the different ways that men and women perceive and describe reality. Just as with comic-book nihilism Cassandra foresaw her own death by murder, does the poet feel herself apart. (Does the poet so feel herself apart?) There is a liquid quality to Kathy Acker’s flow of words from her right to our left across the page.

…there’s no confusion anywhere; when I see all this order, my eyeballs rotate 180 degrees in their sockets. I’m gazing into a world in which sight isn’t possible.

Following the capture of Troy, Cassandra was given to Agamemnon. Almost immediately upon their return to Mycenae, they were both murdered by his wife. Later to be worshipped as Alexandra and “helper of men,” Cassandra could not help even herself. Her warnings never counted. Yet, if Cassandra had not foreseen the demise of Troy, could she not have not helped herself?

Pussy, King of the Pirates is a hypertext of an original kind, a demanding intertextuality that borrows from everything in and around it, the resulting foraging of links encouraging an idiomatic complicity of language, and one that explores relationships of linguistic forms against the geography and social categories of social class, ethnic group, age, sex, occupation, function, and lifestyle preferences.

It is permissible, and this is important, to invent one’s language, and it is further permissible to make language with extragrammatical meanings, but then these meanings must be valid in themselves.

In writing as in speech, where the combination of these various factors result in an individual “idiolect,” the poet’s rules are (re)written.

As soon as she had done this, she knew she shouldn’t have. That it was against rules which hadn’t yet been spoken.

From where does order derive its essential essence? By what arrangement or pattern is the lineage of language ordained and established? Kathy Acker plunders this and more in her reworking playfulness of this Pirate King’s Treasure Island lay.

Gerard Martin is a writer-photographer with roots divided between French-Canada and French-America. In Southwestern Louisiana, he lives along the ancient meander of the Mississippi River. His WWWeb is strung in California.