“everyone is connected in the thrash”: the bed and the globe in Juliana Spahr’s Fuck you - Aloha - I Love You

Anne Brewster

It was interesting to read Juliana Spahr’s new book Fuck you - Aloha - I Love You at the same time that I was writing a paper on the intersubjectivity of non-indigenous and indigenous peoples in Australia. Having wrestled with the difficulty of finding the best modes of writing about (my own) whiteness and the often fraught interaffectivity of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples, I was bowled over by the efficacy and elegance of (Spahr’s) poetry as a vehicle for investigating precisely this complex of ideas.

The title put is somewhat out of keeping with the poetry which seems to be predicated on the binary of love/sadness rather than love/anger. But to invoke binary oppositions is misleading as this series of poem sequences explores interfaces and the permeability and leakage of categories rather than delineating boundaries. Throughout the different series of poems terms such as loss (erring), locality (here/there), love, circle/tear receive a sustained investigation. Subjectivity and subjection and the various ways they (un)fold — on the level of the inner world of the individual, interactions between individuals and various systems of cultural and political organization — are explored.

For example, the relationality of interiority and “things” dissolves the boundary between the two: “things grow around and into each other” (79). Geographical spaces also bleed into each other through the experience of affect, memory etc. The book opens with the brilliantly aphoristic and quotable lines: “There is no there there anywhere. / There is no here here or anywhere either.” The micropolitics of place and the troubling concept of home are infused with the macropolitics of power and ownership and the ramifications of colonisation particularly for indigenous peoples. The bed, an index of the private sphere, segues into the public sphere. Sexual intercourse is always social intercourse; the homology of table and bed as sites of engagement and exchange is effortlessly naturalised in Spahr’s minimalist encounters.

Similarly the body/mind dualism dissolves under the sinuous reach of Spahr’s language. Thinking is no longer hierarchised and the body no longer under quarantine. They are profoundly mutually imbricated performances, whose ritualistic practices produce the “patterns,” “formations,” “configurations,” “combinations” and “positions” which are themselves the foundation of cultural processes. The intersubjective field of ‘we’ is the primal scene in Spahr’s poetic world. The “impossible position[s]” (43) of intimacy are writ large in the impossible positions of political and racial conflict which, since the publication of this book, seem to be spirally into increasing levels of violence in the global arena. Why don’t cultural theorists or politicians read poetry? Reading Juliana Spahr we might as nations understand a little more the complex ways in which “everyone is connected in the thrash.”

Bio:  Anne Brewster teaches creative writing at the University of New South Wales. Her main research areas are language writing and Australian indigenous writing. Her recent books include Those who remain will always remember: An Anthology of Aboriginal Writing (co-edited with Angeline O’Neill and Rosemary van den Berg, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2000) and Literary Formations: Nationalism, Globalism and Postcolonialism (Melbourne University Press, 1995).

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