Mix-Tape II: Through Neon Lens, Darkly

Rosebud Ben-Oni
September 8, 2017
Comments 3

Photographs by Holly Burdorff (2016)

A month before Donald Trump won the election in 2016, Entropy Magazine ran poet and humorist Holly Burdorff’s experimental piece “What Spills Out When Torn in Two // Reality in the Time of Trump.” A mixture of photography and verse, Burdorff challenges the reader/viewer to make sense of images presented in warped, overexposed, and 3D-ish colors, accompanied by couplets like “The dimension count is off. Let’s lay out / all the world’s atoms like clothes on a bed.”

I believe it was the poet’s intention in that it hurts to look at these images too long, and yet the longer one does, the easier it becomes to make sense of what Burdorff wants us to realize: ” that reality cracks     ::     one side / slips from another. Oil where the glue should be.”

Take the quartet of her images above. An open hand, barely visible in faded blue, is overtaken by a slightly red, much more real hand that seems to mimic a gun. A suggestion of a dog in blue overlapped with another image of an unidentifiable object in red renders the animal terrifying, ferocious, menacing. A piece of quartz, taken out of focus, seems vicious, sticky, milky, unpleasant. Lastly, a neon blue OPEN sign branches out in the four cardinal directions against a blood red reflection of itself, so that the idea of openness itself seems like a trap—or worse, given its unclear, uncertain multitudes, meaningless.

“Inside the everyday, it is hidden.         It got me— / will it get you, too? Consider the warp,” Burdorff asks.


I’ve been thinking about this piece and how through written and visual poetry, Burdorff was (re)claiming & (re)marking (up) a distorted reality of the everyday leading up to the election and how this sort of reality has become even more distorted now that he is officially president.

To say we live in a reality seemingly twice-removed is to oversimplify a strange and terrible time. After all, we are living in a time when, concerning North Korea, a President of the United States publicly declares that “talking is not the answer” and on Twitter of all things. We are living in a time when we wake up to new tweets to learn which civil liberties will be stripped by this ill-informed man who recently moved to end DACA.

Speaking of DACA, poet Loma (Christopher Soto) is September’s Featured Blogger over at the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet. In their most recent “DACA Rescinded & Poets Respond,” Loma asks:

“What is the point of DACA? What does it mean to be an immigrant? What do you want the government or public to know at this moment in history?”

Poet Joshua Jennifer Espinoza responds:

“To me, DACA being rescinded is proof that the U.S. has always been a project of white supremacy. While I believe all immigrants—documented or not, “successful” by the fucked up standards of capitalism or not—deserve to be here, the current actions demonstrate that notions of fairness and rule of law were always just tools to prop up white supremacy and dehumanize anyone to whom whiteness is not granted. This shifting of goal posts when it comes to who is allowed to be here shows us that U.S. immigration policy is unabashedly a form of ethnic cleansing.”

Read the rest of the responses here and Loma’s first post “What Constitutes Political Poetry?”

In poetry news, Faisal Mohyuddin’s debut collection The Displaced Children of Displaced Children has won the 2017 Sexton Prize for Poetry. Read some of his recent work in Narrative Magazine and The Rumpus.

I highly recommend the entire new issue of Foundry. Check out such stunners like Sarah León’s “Effort:”

Your body pauses,
and I unleash the dogs. I write snow
on a window pane as the man assists
children near water.

Read the whole issue here.

On September 3rd, the world lost John Ashbery, and many poets and writers have offered tributes. Check out Ben Lerner’s “John Ashbery’s Whisper Out of Time” in The New Yorker, Christian Lorentzen’s “Listening to John Ashbery” in Vulture, and Katy Waldman’s “John Ashbery’s Convex Mirror” in Slate.

With school back in session for the fall, historian, journalist, and K-Beauty blogger Tracy E. Robey ruminates on Rate My Professor, gender disparities, and income gaps between adjunct and tenure-track faculty in “How is a Professor Supposed to Dress?” in Racked.

Have you read Paisley Rekdal’s “Nightingale: A Gloss” in The American Poetry Review? Examining trauma, sexual violence, and poetry, I read her essay on the train and ended up missing my stop; poet sam sax also tweeted: “this is one of the best pieces of writing i’ve ever read in a lit journal. i walked around the city reading it, knocking into strangers.”

Check out Emari DiGiorgio’s gorgeous poem “What Is There to Be Learned” in which the speaker professes: “If I am honest with myself I love the way a substation/ sounds like the ocean.” Read the whole poem here in the latest Waxwing.

Here are some poets to follow on Twitter:

Laura Wetherington (@L_Wetherington )

Jessica Abughattas (@jessicamelia22 )

Sasha Pimentel‏  (@SashaRPimentel )

And check out their respective recent work in:

The Normal School


The American Poetry Review 

Lastly, Jaquira Díaz’s “You Do Not Belong Here” (published on KR Online) is a must-read on patriarchal hierarchies both in tightly-knit academic and shared public spaces in which she asks of reader as citizen:

It’s crucial for every single person, not just people of color, to interrogate their own complicity in enabling a system that keeps us out, engage in open conversations about white supremacy and privilege and power. It’s time to listen, acknowledge the ways this privilege has made you safer, to recognize that as gatekeepers, it is our responsibility to do more, to reach out, to say, “You belong here.”

Is it safe there where you are? There are people standing outside, waiting. Open the door.

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