“Jump-Off Recital: Act I” performed by Rita-Ashley Cunningham
My favorite remixes get straight to the point—they hit a bit harder. So as I return to my introductory comments about Les Bossip Mademoiselles, Vol 1 I want to be frank. Les Bossip Mademoiselles, Vol 1 can “articulate” all it wants, but the book of echo poems is about “glued on lashes and silicone injected asses” and every other “nasty, funky, and trifling” attachment that defines the black body. And it makes me wonder, can black people have this art? Can we make time for dirty poetry?
I think the answer is yes. The “Princess of THOTlandia” deserves to enjoy her rein! Yanique Norman’s work is invested in excess, from distended figures to poems that echo and repeat. So the visual artist-slash-poet’s work insists there is time and space for more images, more abuse, and more desire—including the kinky kind. The effect of this excess is jamming the conceptual cogs that produce blackness. Grotesque tropes accumulate on these webpages, but a black body (the product) is never built. Norman is not working outside of capitalist flows that devalue black bodies. She is not writing counter-histories or speculative futures that remove racist discourse from the historical record. Instead, the poetry takes the same mediated form and uses the same language as racist Internet trolls—in fact, she does it better—and yet, no amount of visceral bodily description will make a black body emerge from these lines of poetry.
The reason black people can have this art and take the time for dirty poetry is because Norman knows (and deep down, we do too!) you cannot smell a “Stale Mackrel,” race a “Ghetto Gazelle” or catch a “Rachet Butterfly.” But good luck.
Written by Lauren M. Cramer
Lauren Cramer is a PhD Candidate at Georgia State University, studying race and visual culture. She is particularly interested in the ways race is visualized in hip-hop and is writing a dissertation entitled, “A Hip-Hop Joint: Thinking Architecturally About Blackness.” She received her BA in Communication from Villanova University and her MA in Film Studies from Emory University. Lauren is currently an Associate Editor of InMediaRes, a collaborative site for online scholarship that is part of the MediaCommons digital scholarly network and is on the Editorial Board of liquid blackness, a research project focused on blackness and aesthetics.