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Obscenity and Disruption in the Poetry of Dylan Krieger

Thomas Simmons

Obscenity and Disruption in the Poetry of Dylan Krieger is the first full-length study of the radical poetry of Baton Rouge-based poet Dylan Krieger. Wickedly smart, iconoclastic, daring in their critiques of religion and contemporary culture, Krieger’s poems rank with Allen Ginsberg’s and Adrienne Rich’s as the most provocative and avant-garde of any recent generation. With its debt to third-wave feminism and the "Gurlesque," Krieger’s work nevertheless moves outward and backward across the landmines of sexual precocity and religious fundamentalism and across the entire western project of epistemology as Krieger came to understand it at the University of Notre Dame. Though this book necessarily stays close to Krieger’s specific poems, it follows her lead in stretching her cultural, sexual, and religious furies to their apotheosis in a manifesto of liberation.

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Chapter 3. Giving Godhead: Performative Poetics as a Manifestation of Trauma-Induced Inductive Reasoning


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Performative Poetics as a Manifestation of Trauma-Induced Inductive Reasoning

—but what’s the point—in

shaking ladders—when there’s nothing—but a rumble—at the top?

—Dylan Krieger, “a ritual feeding// in need of meter”

As Krieger’s first collection of poems, Giving Godhead, is in its appearance on the page unlike anything one is likely ever before to have seen, there’s a temptation to resort to hyperbolic performative vocabulary: the poems “leap off the page” with their ferocious intensity, “incendiary” in their injured and infuriated wordplay, “accosting” in their refusal to be ignored. This is not an unreasonable response, and not only because the poems themselves compel such reactions. They are incendiary, accosting, and unstable on the page; if one analogue (proposed by Lara Glenum at the end of her introduction to Gurlesque1) is Emily Dickinson, “the original Goth girl,” the other is Ginsberg. Few poems in the American panoply come close to the performative magnificence of “Howl” and “America,” but in both of those poems Ginsberg hangs the manic brilliance of his vision on ingeniously simple substructures: the repetitions of relative-clause constructions in “Howl,” the theme-and-variation addresses to America itself in “America.” Krieger’s strategy—though structurally somewhat similar to Dickinson’s dash-spaced phrasing—has Dickinson’s understated fury only in places, preferring a “storm the Bastille” method ← 73 | 74 → throughout, and each poem in Giving Godhead is arguably far more complex syntactically than most...

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