place of blood: process/text

Place of Blood is a performance that takes place in various stages based on the poetry of American poet Anne Sexton. Sexton wrote about different personal themes. Abortion, menstruation and masturbation are some of the more controversial themes she explored. Many of her themes dealt with women’s issues. And this, during the 1950’s-60’s, was a time running up to the Civil Rights Movement; so they were still relatively taboo. She was labelled as a ‘confessional poet’. Confessional Poetry is often linked to traumatic experiences and psychoanalysis. But it has also been a form to address personal and social issues which had previously not been deemed appropriate topics in literature or just in the general topics of popular culture.

 

I really felt the need to intimately engage with her poetry, not just on a mental level but also on a physical level. I broke the performance up into the following stages:

 

1) I took a collection of poetry by Sexton and cut it up into sentences (or phrases). As I was cutting it up, I was reading it, so first I would read through a poem, take it in and then cut it up. All the phrases were put together into a box. (Photographic documentation)

 

2) Choosing45 random phrases to stand on their own alongside the whole pile of text. (Photographic documentation)

 

3) Creating 45 poems (one poem for each year Sexton was alive) by randomly choosing phrases from the box. Each newly constructed poem had ten randomly chosen phrases. (Photographic documentation as well as sketchbook)

 

4) Creating 45 prints of my labia during menstruation (Artifact)

5) The finals stage is a video performance that takes place on the scattered cut up text by Sexton based on her two poems ‘Ballad of a lonely masturbator’ and ‘Menstruation at forty’.

Two poems by Anne Sexton

The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator

The end of the affair is always death.
She’s my workshop. Slippery eye,
out of the tribe of myself my breath
finds you gone. I horrify
those who stand by. I am fed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Finger to finger, now she’s mine.
She’s not too far. She’s my encounter.
I beat her like a bell. I recline
in the bower where you used to mount her.
You borrowed me on the flowered spread.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Take for instance this night, my love,
that every single couple puts together
with a joint overturning, beneath, above,
the abundant two on sponge and feather,
kneeling and pushing, head to head.
At night alone, I marry the bed.

I break out of my body this way,
an annoying miracle. Could I
put the dream market on display?
I am spread out. I crucify.
My little plum is what you said.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Then my black-eyed rival came.
The lady of water, rising on the beach,
a piano at her fingertips, shame
on her lips and a flute’s speech.
And I was the knock-kneed broom instead.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

She took you the way a woman takes
a bargain dress off the rack
and I broke the way a stone breaks.
I give back your books and fishing tack.
Today’s paper says that you are wed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

The boys and girls are one tonight.
They unbutton blouses. They unzip flies.
They take off shoes. They turn off the light.
The glimmering creatures are full of lies.
They are eating each other. They are overfed.
At night, alone, I marry the bed.

Menstruation at Forty

I was thinking of a son.
The womb is not a clock
nor a bell tolling,
but in the eleventh month of its life
I feel the November
of the body as well as of the calendar.
In two days it will be my birthday
and as always the earth is done with its harvest.
This time I hunt for death,
the night I lean toward,
the night I want.
Well then—
speak of it!
It was in the womb all along.

I was thinking of a son …
You! The never acquired,
the never seeded or unfastened,
you of the genitals I feared,
the stalk and the puppy’s breath.
Will I give you my eyes or his?
Will you be the David or the Susan?
(Those two names I picked and listened for.)
Can you be the man your fathers are—
the leg muscles from Michelangelo,
hands from Yugoslavia
somewhere the peasant, Slavic and determined,
somewhere the survivor bulging with life—
and could it still be possible,
all this with Susan’s eyes?

All this without you—
two days gone in blood.
I myself will die without baptism,
a third daughter they didn’t bother.
My death will come on my name day.
What’s wrong with the name day?
It’s only an angel of the sun.
Woman,
weaving a web over your own,
a thin and tangled poison.
Scorpio,
bad spider—
die!

My death from the wrists,
two name tags,
blood worn like a corsage
to bloom
one on the left and one on the right—
It’s a warm room,
the place of the blood.
Leave the door open on its hinges!

Two days for your death
and two days until mine.

Love! That red disease—
year after year, David, you would make me wild!
David! Susan! David! David!
full and disheveled, hissing into the night,
never growing old,
waiting always for you on the porch …
year after year,
my carrot, my cabbage,
I would have possessed you before all women,
calling your name,
calling you mine.

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