University, Week 3. I’d be lying if I said it was getting any easier, or that I no longer have to read texts two, three, four times before I begin to understand them (get stuffed, James Joyce). But…and I say this tentatively, not least because the OCD gremlins might hear it and put the mockers* on the whole thing…I think I’m starting to believe I made the right decision in entering into this MA.
The focus of this week’s study was modernist poet Mina Loy, who dabbled in surrealism and dadaism and various other -isms, most notably futurism – influenced as she was by the Italian poet Marinetti. Her work is strange and challenging but – in my opinion at least – quite wonderful. ‘Human Cylinders’ evokes imagery of an almost cyberpunk-esque, posthumanist world full of man-as-machine. ‘Parturition’ is an ode to childbirth, in a time when few other poets would dare to approach the subject, let alone as boldly and explicitly as Loy. Later, when the gloss of Marinetti’s Futurism (laced heavily with fascist and misogynist ideals) began to wear off, Loy wrote the fiery Feminist Manifesto (which can be seen here, inclusive of its unique typesetting and presentation). Light years ahead of her time, Loy advocates positions both progressive and extreme – from destroying the myth of virtue and virginity and a freer attitude towards sex to a view on reproduction which borders uncomfortable on eugenics. I can’t say I agree with all of her positions (not least as someone for whom motherhood is the very opposite of appealing) but she is undeniably years ahead of her time.
Her work put me in mind of Donna Haraway’s ‘Cyborg Manifesto’ – another incredibly dense, difficult piece of work which nonetheless, to me, is immensely rewarding once you’re able to break through the wall of language and access the ideas and concepts within. And already I’m wondering as to the possibilities of comparing the Cyborg Manifesto and Loy’s feminist/futurist work in a future essay.
It felt good to finally read something and click with it, though the struggle to understand it was still very present. And during the seminar I went from ‘quiet and awkward in group scenarios’ mode to my other binary mode, ‘fucking know-it-all who doesn’t shut up’. That said, I’m not sure this is really an improvement from the point of view of the rest of the class!
*fun fact: one of several potential origins for this phrase is from the Angloromani word ‘Mokardi’, meaning something ritually unclean and/or tainted.