Barf Manifesto Reflection

Both Barf Manifesto and “Everyday Barf” are both vehicles to communicate a set of ideas in an essay-like format to the reader (“vehicle” being used in the metaphorical sense, a metaphor of both the words and concepts that are invoked by the words; as in the sentence “chips are only useful as vehicles for sauces”). Each is formatted as a column of words with little variety; the only deviations from the norm are two large block quotes; the first, from Kevin Killian’s contemporary report, “What I Saw At the Seance Conference Los Angeles, Halloween, 2004”, (Barf Manifesto) and the second, an Amazon review “of a novel by one of my former colleagues in another creative writing department” (also Barf Manifesto). These are barely a deviation, however, because the block quotes are also in the same format as the rest of the piece, as one united column. The main voices in both pieces remain the voices of their respective authors; other characters or voices are presented in quotes.

Eileen Myles’ “Everyday Barf” sounds exactly like how Bellamy writes in her own essay about it: “Eileen said she wrote ‘Everyday Barf’ straight through in a rush, she said she didn’t know herself as she wrote it how or why it worked, but she was on a roll, she knew it was good what she was doing, she knew to just keep on going, to not stop, to let the rush flow through her.” Both this sentence and what it is describing (Myles’ essay), are this nonstop flow of words from one destination to the next (having not read the sentence and having read the sentence / having not read the essay and having read the essay), similar to the act of vomiting. Both essays are a series not necessarily of events but of anecdotes, of pieces of other stories, told in summary but not ever devolving into scenes. “I wrote my destiny on a boat. I was living in P-town this summer in Mimi’s house where she often pointed out that Charles (Bernstein) had also lived with his family. Each time I left that house to go to New York or California I took a quick boat and this one time it was the week of the RNC and I thought well I’ll write the fucking seating on the way to the reading in New York. It’s a political reading, so I’m thinking that way.” (Everyday Barf) “I even tried to read. There was this great book Chronophobia which was about time. Like what’s not, right. I can barely tell you what it was about yet I feel all these systems kicking in. Like when you hear your computer shift. The book was just so right. People driving in cars on unborn highways, people blowing things up in deserts. A woman Bridget Riley going to see a collector who turned her work into a dress.”

The form of the piece: prose writing in sentences after sentences, lends itself to the content of the piece: a series of events that possibly add up to something but are presented in such a roundabout way that it is difficult to make sense of them. But is making sense something that a piece should be striving for? Is it not enough to simply vomit onto a page and then make everyone else deal with it? The person who cleans up a piece of writing to make it more legible and reasonable is simply your future self when they are revising, and if you’ve decided that you don’t want to be legible or reasonable, then you’re done. Bellamy and Myles both do this in not-scenes, in anecdotes of their little memoirs of essays; “Meaning is so surplus it decimates form — or is it the other way around, its form is so vicious it beats the fucking pony of content to bits. The pony explodes and chunks of content bob about, collide with one another in the great toilet bowl of memoir.” (Barf Manifesto)

Each essay sets out to say something through anecdote, and also through vomit, and performs this action by being herded into paragraphs and told to perform like an essay for a reader. If there was dialogue, if there was a coherent story, it would follow the form of a story instead of vomit, and would not work as well. Experimental fiction; but trying to say something, not be something.

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