autobiography of my gender by j/j hastain
(moria books, Chicago, 2011)
prurient omnibus anarchic by j/j hastain
(Spuyten Duyvil/Meeting Eyes Bindery, Brooklyn, N.Y., 2011)
restitutions for a newer bountiful verb by j/j hastain
(ypolita press, 2010)
cock-burn by j/j hastain
(Cy Gist Press, New York, 2010)
our bodies . . . are beauty inducers by j/j hastain
(Queermojo, Bar Harbor, MA, 2010)
the ulterior eden by j/j hastain
(Otoliths, Rockhampton, Australia, 2011)
asymptotic lover//thermodynamic vents by j/j hastain
(BlazeVox, Buffalo, N.Y., 2008)
UNLIMITED ULTERIORS: j/j hastain’s “opus of awes”
There’s no way I can do justice to all of these books by this remarkable young poet. But, importantly, these various texts are not truly separate. Hastain has, I think, a rather singular project—a thoughtful, sensual rubric.
So, where to begin?
One starting point might be this couplet from autobiography of my gender:
“I have never felt like a woman
I have never felt like a man”
Another place to begin might be with this passage from Tim Dean’s Unlimited Intimacy: Reflections on the Subculture of Barebacking (University of Chicago Press, 2009):
“The psychoanalytic rule of free association—‘that whatever comes into one’s head must be reported without criticizing it’—requires a suspension of judgment that permits different forms of thinking to emerge. Once you commit to following a train of thought irrespective of where it leads or how risky it seems, then you may find yourself thinking new thoughts and discovering spaces that you would not have come across otherwise. We might say that psychoanalysis, like cocksucking, involves taking risks with one’s mouth. Thus although psychoanalysis has an appalling history of pathologizing nonnormative sexual behavior and forms of desire, the clinical practice of analysis depends on not pathologizing any desire, in order to discover where its logic takes you. Rather than the conservative moralism of ‘Just say no,’ psychoanalysis involves the permissive ethic of ‘Never say no,’ because the unconscious never says no. This practical refusal to pathologize desire amplifies thought.” (28-29)
Another beginning might be found in this segment of an “after” note at the end of the ulterior eden:
“I’ve had it asked of me, if I fear that my work might be ‘misinterpreted’ as pornography. My response was that it is not of high importance to me what categories the work does or does not fit in. It matters not to me if there are taboos or apprehensions concerning it. I feel most interested in articulating publically, the things that are of pure relevance in moments, to me—and as such am interested in the myriad validities that exist in a similar sense, for others. That vulnerable, risk-driven sagacity.” (55)
To be open to experience, to be open to others, is to exist beyond what is obvious or admitted or intentionally hidden—in an Ulterior Eden. “Ulterior,” is—I believe—the most important recurring word in Hastain’s body of work (so far).
As a poet who has tried to write sex, tried to allow sex to write me, in various ways, I was particularly moved by this passage in our bodies … are beauty inducers:
“has there ever been a book that exists as a direct
document of sex?
sex as space
where it both makes the logic
as well as sustains it?
this is that book
this is that puja”
I don’t think it’s a stretch to recognize the beauty, power and poetry of sex. I do think though that it is a very different matter to make sexuality one’s method. A very different matter to approach it in epistemological and even cosmological terms:
“this is why I am always constructing
this is why
we make our own
(prurient anarchic omnibus, unpaginated)
Text and sex coincide:
being brought by you to your cunt
this type of slaver
then lathering it
as a force that goes deep enough into
that there is nothing else to ask for
nothing else to need”
(restitutions for a newer bountiful verb, unpaginated)
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m doing anything more than hinting at what’s to be found in these works. These are engaging, multi-faceted volumes which sound in many registers. But there is a this to all of it, a rubric that recurs over and over again:
“this is a spiritual fusion that is so sure
that it turns our physiology
into an opus of awes”
The spiritual and the bodily are cognate and thoroughly conscious of one another. They interpenetrate. That is the wisdom that distills from these texts, that leaks out, expressed:
“this is the refusal to button over ruptures”
(asymptotic lover//thermodynamic vents, 19)
I hear rapture in that. This is work that matters, that makes love as well as sense.
Tom Beckett's Parts and Other Pieces was published recently by Otoliths. He lives in Kent, Ohio.