Dodie Bellamy read here at SOU Wednesday evening for the Emergent Forms series. I'd assigned Cunt-Ups to my poetry students, so she read one piece from that at the end of the reading in answer to a student request, but mostly she read a single long piece entitled "Lady Jane," potentially part of a longer work in progress, but essentially complete in itself.
During the entire reading, a PowerPoint slide of the Delaroche image above was projected on a screen beside her. The piece uses the painting as a launching point, wittily using the execution of Jane Grey as a metaphor for a painful academic hiring experience. Beyond the humor of the conceit, Dodie's writing played with the ecphrastic form in ways that were both funny and dazzlingly skillful. As the piece progresses, it works in recountings of assorted "humiliations" from throughout the author's life (many of them involving bathroom stalls and falling down in front of people), as well as imaginary fortune cookie texts and narratives of various autobiographical events. Dodie said that she had been considering "Lady Jane" as a possible chapbook, and I hope this happens, because it deserves to be read as widely and as soon as possible.
The next morning, at an informal colloquium, Dodie read another selection from Cunt-Ups, and talked very engagingly for about an hour with students and other attendees about experimental poetics, queer & feminist literary communities, horror films and porn as source materials, and her writing process in general. Afterwards, she signed copies of Cunt-Ups and Pink Steam.
Addendum: Dodie's piece made me think of another of my favorite passages of prose, also on Lady Jane, by Roger Ascham, tutor to Queen Elizabeth I, in his book The Scholemaster (1570):
And one example, whether loue or feare doth worke more in a child, for vertue and learning, I will gladlie report: which maie be heard with some pleasure, and folowed with more profit. Before I went into Germanie, I came to Brodegate in Lecetershire, to take my leaue of that noble Ladie Iane Grey, to whom I was exceding moch beholdinge. Hir parentes, the Duke and Duches, with all the houshould, Gentlemen and Gentlewomen, were huntinge in the Parke: I founde her, in her Chamber, readinge Phædon Platonis in Greeke, and that with as moch delite, as som ientleman wold read a merie tale in Bocase. After salutation, and dewtie done, with som other taulke, I asked hir, whie she wold leese soch pastime in the Parke? smiling she answered me: I wisse, all their sporte in the Parke is but a shadoe to that pleasure, that I find in Plato: Alas good folke, they neuer felt, what trewe pleasure ment. And howe came you Madame, quoth I, to this deepe knowledge of pleasure, and what did chieflie allure you vnto it: seinge, not many women, but verie fewe men haue atteined thereunto. I will tell you, quoth she, and tell you a troth, which perchance ye will meruell at. One of the greatest benefites, that euer God gaue me, is, that he sent me so sharpe and seuere Parentes, and so ientle a scholemaster. For when I am in presence either of father or mother, whether I speake, kepe silence, sit, stand, or go, eate, drinke, be merie, or sad, be sowyng, plaiyng, dauncing, or doing anie thing els, I must do it, as it were, in soch weight, mesure, and number, euen so perfitelie, as God made the world, or else I am so sharplie taunted, so cruellie threatened, yea presentlie some tymes, with pinches, nippes, and bobbes, and other waies, which I will not name, for the honor I beare them, so without measure misordered, that I thinke my selfe in hell, till tyme cum, that I must go to M. Elmer, who teacheth me so ientlie, so pleasantlie, with soch faire allurementes to learning, that I thinke all the tyme nothing, whiles I am with him. And when I am called from him, I fall on weeping, because, what soeuer I do els, but learning, is ful of grief, trouble, feare, and whole misliking vnto me: And thus my booke, hath bene so moch my pleasure, & bringeth dayly to me more pleasure & more, that in respect of it, all other pleasures, in very deede, be but trifles and troubles vnto me. I remember this talke gladly, both bicause it is so worthy of memorie, & bicause also, it was the last talke that euer I had, and the last tyme, that euer I saw that noble and worthie Ladie.