Authors on Artists: Amy King on Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, and Frida Kahlo

Paint Is the Abyss’ Law, Living the Accent: Marginalia on Absorption

Paint Is the Secretion of Scene on Leonor Fini’s Set    
I now confer status on you. As in, everything is as
good as the next thing. Better yet, in this season,
I am implicitly requesting your death
on a platter. That said, should I begin without
interrogating the
great mystery that separates
dark matter from the everyday? Dive into beauty untinged by
the detritus of degenerative mechanics? But…

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AMY KING View All →

Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She co-edited with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edits the anthology series, Bettering American Poetry, and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.

9 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Amy: In arriving at the conclusion that “The bottle sings of.. a world that contains only us..” “only us” apparently meaning females, you have to try to make the case that the Surrealists were equally exclusive based on gender. Of course they weren’t. I will list the responsible scholarship on this if you ask me to, but you appear to have chosen to ignore it. For instance, when you write: “When the Surrealists convened to discuss/ women’s sexuality, only one man among them called/ attention to the absence of women.. ” I assume you had the book in front of you, which no doubt told you that the eighth session included four women out of ten, the ninth included three women, the tenth one. Ian

    • 1. Why must the “us” be only females?

      2. During the first convention on ‘female sexuality,’ no women were present. I believe it was Tzara (though I may be misremembering which poet present actually noted the absence for the record) was the one who noted that no women were present. This from a group of men who were in close relations at the time with Carrington, Fini and Varo, to name only three. Meret Oppenheim and others were associated with the group as well. Why is the note of their absence for that meeting so difficult to accept? And your focus? Are you speculating that women were fully embraced by the group?

      As for your observation that some were included down the road, um, these paltry numbers further emphasize the exclusionary relations. One woman at the tenth meeting? Huh? No wonder the women abandoned the group (or removed themselves as much as possible as in the case of Tanning with Ernst to the deserts of Arizona).

      • Amy, well, I suppose I’m glad that’s a misinterpretation of “us” but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have drawn that conclusion. Aragon raised the objection in the first session. During the time of the discussions, Remedios Varo was not in contact with the Paris Surrealists, Leonor Fini was in Milan, and Leonora Carrington was in her early teens, not in contact with any Surrealists. It was at the time groundbreaking at the time to have those discussions and to make them coed, and the problems that arose with them, including the male mentality toward female involvement, are varied and elusive. Female involvement in Surrealism increased over the years and Surrealism was groundbreaking in that collaboration and in the way they made a case for the influence of the female spirit.

      • Thanks for the info. I’ll have to go back and look – I’m not so sure about those dates. But either way, how does any of this debunk or detract from my poem? No such specifics are proposed in the poem, except your own reading that “us” refers to women – a conclusion you came to on your own. I hope I’m misreading your intent via these “clarifications” a la that I “ignored scholarship.”

  2. Amy, I’m not attempting to debunk your enthusiasm for the artists but rather your claim of the exclusion of females, which is based on repeated citations of the Sexual Investigations which included women and Fini’s impressions of cafe demeanor which she was not excluded from, the ‘tribunals’ that preceded her arrival in town which she probably filled in on by Bataille, Ernst, or someone. The ballet crowd that she was drawn to was more establishment and neo-Classical and didn’t get along with the Surrealists.

    “The legend of Melusina .. supports Breton’s haunting thought that man has unwittingly dislodged women from a position where she could do much good for humanity.. banished (this is in 1944) in modern civilization from a position of power for good to one of servitude… women is superior to man in the very resources that must be tapped to bring peace, harmony, and serenity to our planet.” -Anna Balakian

    “Upon Melusine, we can model our openness to contingency and faith and the positive inventions of everyday life. Landscapes, like lives, have to be created before you can hold on to them, even as they change.” – Mary Ann Caws

    • Again, I’m not sure why your focus is solely on this notion that I claimed “Women Were Excluded.” I made no such claim to a ‘Writ Large’ ban (No Gals Allowed, sez Breton & Co.), but there certainly was an exclusivity and primacy of the male members early on. I don’t have the time nor interest in explaining the nuance of how such exclusivity works nor cite specific instances of omission, though I imagine, as you are so well versed in scholarship, you have some understanding of what it means for men to dominate groups. (As well as understand that some have a compulsive, almost myopic need to “educate” and put others in their places.) Then again, your citation of the aforementioned paltry numbers belies otherwise. Don’t take my word for it – several of the women mentioned were critical of the group’s gendered dynamics, abandoned it and spoke critically of that dynamic — and while that certainly influences the engine of the poem, it is not the sole focus as your ‘criticism’ suggests.

  3. my first time “popping in” upon your blog / stream. Scholarship of an academic bent will never replace doing. Try Irene Gammel’s Baroness ELSA
    ;neat story about her finding that urinal in the street (a used one) and taking it over to her friend, Duchamp’s place and hanging it on the wall on a nail or spike from which it fell later, Duchamp went to a plumbing-supply store or hardware store and bought an identical one and … there you have it … MUTT (or whatever it was called).

    how true everything is
    w/o an urinal to piss into
    who is caring

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