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Q&A with Nijinsky’s Head, aka Kyle Coma-Thompson

If nothing else we Meeklings believe in Wittgenstein and his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and the way it articulates so clearly an idea we summoned when making The Meekling Review: “The limit can, therefore, only be drawn in language and what lies on the other side of the limit will be simply nonsense.’ What is that limit? How far can we overshoot? We grasped towards it with words and searched for it in work that bathed us in so much nonsense we couldn’t help but make sense of it. We had our contributors cloak themselves in false identities, too.

Nijinsky’s Head, better known as Kyle Coma-Thompson is the author of ‘Mutiny in Heaven,’ a poem whose narrator insists on the performance of other selves, one of whom is possibly Njininsky: “Truth is, I am someone else alive in the leap,” he says. We published an excerpt from Kyle’s poem earlier this week. In today’s Q&A we asked him some questions about the poem:

 

What inspired “Mutiny in Heaven”?

Over a span of six and a half weeks, while living in Switzerland at the beginning of WWI, Nijinsky writes his diaries. Thirty-one years later, he dies, having spent half his life in what can only be called “poor mental health.” Thirty-three years later, the Australian group The Birthday Party makes their last recording, the Mutiny! EP. The last song on that recording is a hilarious ear-orgy of gored, grotesque sound, titled a bit cheekily “Mutiny In Heaven”. Thirty years after that some quiet American sits down to listen to the Mutiny! EP while simultaneously leafing through Nijinsky’s diaries and finds himself duly humbled and moved by the poignancy and ferocity of last works. So to commemorate the occasion, he writes a poem.

 

The events of the past week(s)—including the commander in chief’s telling the FEMA chief that he’d become “ very famous” as a result of Hurricane Harvey, and his excuse of timing Joe Arpaio’s pardon to ‘maximize’ ratings—are a hollow echo of “Mutiny in Heaven”’s  observations regarding  power and authority and celebrity. Is our narrator Nijinsky prophetic? Chronology says he precedes our times and yet he’s a keen reader of them….

Nijinsky was Russian and a celebrity in his time. So you could say he was acquainted with the worst aspects of human nature, by design. But then, he was able to render such beautiful movements with something so small and fragile as the human body. So his vision of the contradictions of our current moment, you could say, was comprehensive, and total.

 

With regard to identity: I came away from recently reading Catherine Lacey’s The Answers, thinking of the narrator’s claim that “Love is a compromise for only getting to be one person,” I liked the sound of this, but then when confronting the narrator of “Mutiny in Heaven”, he refutes this idea of only having to be one person, stating, “Truth is I am someone else, alive in the leap.” I like the sound of this too. If identity is shifting, how does the narrator perform this, and what is the price for getting to be many people?

 Maybe best to say: having to be one body is the price we pay for getting to be many people. And that that’s a paradox that leads so many of us into so much trouble.

I would say, being the narrator of a poem titled “Mutiny in Heaven” instead of a novel titled The Answers, it seems to me many hope that love will do the opposite—keep them still, in place, stable, only one person. Being multiple is a restless confusion; so maybe it’d be safer to be only one thing to one person—if that’s love. Which, of course, it isn’t. Not the kind that lasts. But then, this is only one version of me that’s saying this. There’re others in here who’d say different. And so it goes, the comedy of the human condition—outrageous, subtle, relentless.

 

What do you think of this Nijinsky’s head, Nijinsky’s Head? (below, by Auguste Rodin) Why not cast your feet? What is  most overlooked with regard to Nijinsky? And what does he overlook himself?

Dancing begins in the mind, so it only makes sense A. Rodin would sculpt my head. My feet are in my mind…so you have to look me in the face if you want to appreciate them—while they’re in movement, while I’m thinking them.

What’s most overlooked? The thirty years I spent in exile at the end of my life, away from what everyone expected of me.  I feel like poor Robert Walser. Only long after I’m gone do comfortable people feel moved to take up my name and speak of me as if I were always alongside them—instead of beneath them, for a very, very long time. God help them. And me too.

 

Nijinsky’s Head was born on Apr. 8th 1950 in London, England. It has been rolling towards you ever since, and will continue to do so long after you’re gone.

Kyle Coma-Thompson is the author of short story collections The Lucky Body (Dock Street Press, 2014) and Night in the Sun (Dock Street Press, 2016). The title story for this book was included by Ben Marcus in the anthology New American Stories (Vintage, 2015)

 

get your own damn copy!?

 

from MUTINY IN HEAVEN

by Nijinsky’s Head

“He also gave a final dance concert, before an invited audience, at a near-by hotel, the Suvretta House. As Romola describes the performance, Nijinsky began by taking a chair, sitting down in front of the audience, and staring at them for what seemed like half an hour. Eventually he unrolled two lengths of velvet, one white, one black, to form a cross on the floor. Standing at the head of the cross, he addressed the audience: ‘Now I will dance you the war… the war which you will not prevent.’”

*

 

Father, Son & Holy Ferret, I want rest, I want rest, I want rest. From up the zero rectum of this great green void, at last I’ve come out as sane as my mother before she made me. Was it the voice of the Authority still on me like sleek afterbirth that I heard, shaking my head a bit to knock loose the amniotic fluid still trapped within my ears? “Are you willing to be a nobody? Yes?” Yes. “Then you are free. I condemn you.”

 

*

 

So, condemned as such, besmirched like a louse fresh from the crush of a thumb, I was spat out like human realism, cast out. The churches would not have me. The halfway houses would not have me. The myriad jackbag jobs would not have me. And yet, was I not a spy as I was–a devout Christian, homeless, diseased with criminal drugs? To the nearest low wage I took myself and from the incredible hours passing through me made something measly. Under the awning above the grocery loading dock, I stood half in sunlight and submitted myself to a coworker’s lessons on smoking. Hold the cigarette like so. Suck. Hold the smoke, then let it flow out, or blow. Out both nostrils if you are a true animal. And if you are so skilled, out of one only. Best to be elegant with your cancer.

 

*

 

The somebodies, what of them? The somebodies, they say, are deeply weak for their identities, which, of course, we give them. We kill them to be one thing and one thing only. Here one comes walking along, snipping people’s ears off with scissors. In their presence everyone learns to listen. The end of God is a mouth. Blah blah. The end of the mouth is God. Now that sounds more like it. A sweet day for the nobodies, who have had to stand by for so long, moving through the vanishing circuits like so much Zen money. For today, like us, they drag God from his inborn lair, face-down through the streets of his literature.

 

*

 

Because he was one of the first, wasn’t he? For I am full of increase now, moving through the bowels of Authority’s communal ego—I can, and will say it! Celebrities are feces of the disenchanted, the anonymous, blandly downtrodden, lives too dumb to rise. Here is Monica Belluci, here is Beyonce, here is Jack Nicholson and Andy Warhol and, yes, barely last and mostly least, yours only—Nijinksy! Then we are, here we go, on our mobile thrones, carried across wasteland relevance atop a velvet pillow. As our pallbearers crumble, their children step to take up pillow. The burden, as they hate themselves praising us so, is more than they could ever know!

 

*

 

To dance the war, then! A pornography of realism. I lay no preexisting claims on what will happen next. Ballet is life lunging out of death. It says much—that no one now would dare believe it. As I have established, I am of these beings, vibrating among them along the nimble continual string of consciousness. Each time I seize one and become them, I tell them: every day I meet my maker, because I am him. They only believe in their condition, as if it were selected for them, like a body. A body is there to leap out of time, to shame space and gravity, and just as vigilantly, sculpt it! These weaklings, these inborn wraiths, who have never allowed themselves to be brushed so by the unreal greatness of their bodies!

 

*

 

A good hard living look. A good look at them. And there they go, one by one: staring back. What do they think I think they are? They should know, I am full gone obliterated back through the insane navel of my animal. Whilst they sit and stare, reduced, like just that: an audience. Cast out at breakneck speed into helplessness. Though to them it feels like waiting for no one else.

 

*

 

As I am! No one! One with a body, a Nobody! A Nobody flooding space like a ghost! Hold me close, Holy Ghost! Drowning in the now, new as a death-throe, as full tight with birth as roe.

 

*

 

Look up, and there you are. A leap suspends us—you, me, every one of me as you—above and below, unknown!

 

*

 

The meaning of life is power. The meaning of life is self-interest in flower. Those who can’t climb it, hallucinate it. Ranting, doctors would later say, is the sympathetic magic of madness. Imagine how dangerous I would be if I were useful! High on the view from up here, where I leapt with a lonely body, and then, from that simple height, one by one, dropped them.

 

*

Nijinsky’s Head was born on Apr. 8th 1950 in London, England. It has been rolling towards you ever since, and will continue to do so long after you’re gone.

 

Kyle Coma-Thompson is the author of short story collections The Lucky Body (Dock Street Press, 2014) and Night in the Sun (Dock Street Press, 2016). The title story for this book was included by Ben Marcus in the anthology New American Stories (Vintage, 2015)

 

WANT TO KEEP READING?

Find the full text of ‘Mutiny in Heaven’ in The Meekling Review:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCING…

We’ve been toiling behind the scenes for a while now — for over a year! — searching far and wide for assortment of fevered dreams and absurdities, heartbreaks and betrayals in order to collect and bring them together here in the freshest of compendiums, The Meekling Review.

And we’re thrilled to announce that at last it’s here!

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Ah, a Review — we imagine you’re thinking–so Meekling is launching a literary journal? 

The answer is yes — but mostly no. This issue, No. SZQ.645π, is the first and the last, the alpha and omega.

Or maybe it’s easiest to say The Meekling Review is a slice from a one-off pie in the sky. Or something like that.

As we explain in our editors’ letter: 

 

“We stumbled upon the idea of a Review with a sense of despondency toward language and toward any sort of seriousness. There was something wrong with how sincerity juxtaposed against the absurdity of our current political climate, and the direness of our planet’s future habitability. What use are words when so devoid of meaning, what are promises without follow-through? We sought to take the formality and superciliousness of criticism and supersilly it, dash it open upon he dregs of our hopes to let it blossom in all its messy joy.”

 

Drawing inspiration from Pataphysics and Dada — we aspired  to turn the seriousness of literary criticism on its head and transform it into something more clever, playful, absurd.

How did we do? What did we realize? Anything? Nothing?

You’ll have to look inside. The Meekling Review filled with meaty ads and a prose poem about the performances of self, psycomagic-inspired tarot readings, symbolic logic magic, a catalog of opening paragraphs, a series of images and their artistic analysis, studies on rat habitats, and a alternative taxonomies of a distinguished literary oeuvre. 

We plan in the coming weeks to bring you excerpts and author interviews….

Stay tuned.

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credit: Murry Klumps aka Mary Climes

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Flummery: Meekling Talks 12/3

Come out & join Meekling’s Department of Continuing Education for our final TALK of the season, with an evening of flummery. This event is a great event for lifetime learners, and for people who want to know things, regardless of the facts.
Thursday December 3rd, 8pm
Tritriangle, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave, 3rd Floor, Chicago
$5 Suggested Donation

Tonight’s talks will feature flummery & lecturing by our distinguished speakers—

GUY EYTAN in conversation with a gate (McKinlock Gate at Northwestern University Chicago Campus)

JAY BESEMER on The Sexual Practices of Popular Diacritical Marks

ANNA WOLFE-PAULY on Wind Reading

Things that should not be picked up in the first place

Do you like going out on a Monday Night? Do you want to see a great performance? Huh? Huh?

Why don’t you come visit us at the Meekling Press headquarters, AKA Jura$$ic Park, tomorrow (MONDAY NOVEMBER 16) for a performance of Becky Grajeda’s

Things that should not be picked up in the first place: part 4

November 16, at 7:30pm, 2059 N. Racine Chicago IL

Here’s a clip from a previous performance in this series:

In Becky’s words:

Existing somewhere between sound and comedic art, Becky Grajeda’s “Things that should not be picked up in the first place” is a series of performances in which a panel of Chicago-based artists and non-artists improvise a conversation, while embedded in a live mix of sound art and/or music. Grajeda and fellow panelists will discuss topics ranging from the banal to the socially relevant, together devising, deconstructing, and perfecting absurd concepts and contexts. The live mixed sound art will disrupt and inform the panelists’ conversation, each taking turns at the periphery of the soundscape.

Panelists:
Becky Grajeda
Nicholas Davis, sound and performance artist, member of Meekling Press
Neal Markowski, musician, sound artist, founder of the Single Action Rider label
Jacob Layne Miller, writer/actor/director, producing partner at Gratuity Not Included Productions

Tickets: $10

“Things that should not be picked up in the first place” is being developed during Grajeda’s Artist Sponsorship at High Concept Labs, Chicago.
highconceptlaboratories.org/becky-grajeda/

 

 

Chill Horizons coming SOON SOON

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July 14 2015. The New Horizons spacecraft sped past Pluto, snapping pictures, gathering data, and creating, in effect, a “scientific bonanza” while giving witness to previously unseen and uncharted sights on the edge of our solar system. We launched our Chill Horizons Chapbook Series in solidarity, an effort where we sought glimpses of beauty and darkness and hybridity in the hidden contours of the literary cosmos.

And after months of diligent work and preparation, we are proud to announce our findings.

Chill Horizons Chapbook Series will consist of seven books released over a series of seven months, or slightly more than half the time it takes to make one revolution around the sun. The first fifty chapbooks include a limited edition print as a centerfold to accompany the text. The final line-up includes works by:

Heather McShane
+++
Suman Chhabra
+++
Evelyn Hampton
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Holly Lee Warren
+++
Hannah McHugh
+++
Mairead Case
+++
Brad Vogler

Additionally! Full subscriptions to the Chill Horizons series are now available. The cost? $40—a meager amount, which will bring not only the delight of a new chapbook in the mail each month, but also it will help us fund this series and others like it.

We can’t wait to unveil them. We hope you will join us in this exploration.

Back to School with Meekling Dept. of Cont. Ed.

The information presented by these distinguished lecturers may be fabricated, but that makes it no less useless. Please join us for the first evening in our 2015 fall lecture series: Meekling TALKS: Confabulations.

at

Tritriangle
1550 N. Milwaukee, 3rd Floor, Chicago
8pm, October 8, 2015
$5 suggested donation

Facebook Event

The Clairaudient at Work

Nicholas Davis describes and demonstrates his practice of CLAIRAUDIENCE, receiving audio signals from creatures & objects that have passed beyond the grave, from aliens in the farthest reaches of space, and from the deepest depths of the human psyche. Supernatural or just super? You be the judge.

 

Understanding Molecular Typography by H.F. Henderson.
Understanding Molecular Typography by H.F. Henderson.

 

Woody Leslie explores H.F. Henderson’s UNDERSTANDING MOLECULAR TYPOGRAPHY, and the system explained therein of deconstructing letters into their constituent molecules. Will this change the way you interact with words, language, communication with your peers? Will you soon see the letters on the page start to dissolve into vibrating strings right before your eyes? Yes, probably!

An Interview with Miranda Steffens

In anticipation of the upcoming launch party for Peripheral Vision, we sat down with author Miranda Steffens to ask all of the questions — read on for some of her insights on the writing process, making an e-book, and the weird convolutions of English grammar.

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MP: One of the first motifs I noticed in Peripheral Vision was the parenthetical, self-conscious commentary on choices made by it speaker — a demand to better articulate a given claim, or observing the finer points of changing tense, made at a slight distance from the “other” story we’re being told in the book. Could you talk about how you developed these parenthetical parts, and how you see them working in conjunction with the other sections?

 

MS: Well, I guess I wasn’t thinking of the parentheticals as a removal from the narrative but rather going into it deeper, which probably is also sort of removed — trying to follow the meaning behind each previous section. I guess that does in turn pull away from the moment through the overthinking and over-analysis.

 

MP: Totally, I think the speaker even says outright in the book that those moments are distracting them from a task at hand … I’m also really interested in this book’s commentary on being alone or loneliness, especially since the speaker sometimes sees this loneliness as a result of their own artwork, could you touch a little bit on that on that?

 

MS: Well, the piece actually came as a response to a video I saw —

 

MP: Oh really! I didn’t know that.

 

MS: The reason I didn’t mention that was, I don’t remember the name of the video or who it was by! It was from a prompt in a class I was in with Matthew Goulish called Writing Systems. My assignment was to respond to this video in writing, and because I’m not a visual artist I had a really hard time with it. The video was sort of abstract and conceptual —interesting, but I had no idea how to respond, so I probably got a little anxious about it and felt rather isolated from the piece. I was trying really hard to do it justice, but writing is so much more logical than a visual piece needs to be. The first section is a dream, because when I had that dream I thought, Okay, I need to use this because it’s going to be the only way I can respond to this video! So I wrote it down, thinking I would use it somehow and not knowing how. Then I ended up deciding to respond to my own dream, which was in turn a response to the video — so, taking my subconscious response to this work and adding a conscious response. And at that point I had a piece that was totally separate from the original prompt.

 

MP:  So was this dream of the object you reference in the book, the board with the four openings?

MS: Mhm. Now I remember her video had something to do with a ball bouncing, just one shot of it, so in the dream that art piece was my only way of making art — I’m not a visual artist, so I don’t think in those terms, so my brain gave me this object and I knew I needed to work with it.

 

MP:  Speaking of objects — so what was it like to collaborate with us on the book; could you talk about how you made certain decisions in the design? Now that we have the finished product it’s so compelling to me because every aspect feels so intentional — the vellum pages, the binding, and so on.

 

MS: It’s been really cool having other people work on it because the original piece was already a response to someone else’s work. So with Peripheral Vision, further collaboration seemed like the natural way to take it … actually, for my reading I’m going to do something similar where I have the audience interact with the text. I feel like the piece is about responding to something, whether it’s responding to your own thoughts or other people, so it seems really appropriate to let someone else see where they can go with it. Rebecca [Elliott] was totally spot on — the slightly transparent paper, and visually separating each thought from page to page.

 

MP: Oh, absolutely. I also love the overlap in certain sections, how once sentence will partially obscure one on the next page.

 

MS: Totally — and I think that’s actually how the brain works, how you’ll have one primary conscious thought and then so many other fragments behind it that you can still kind of see, and it’s just a matter of getting to them.

 

MP: Going off of that, could you talk about the way different grammatical tenses work in Peripheral Vision? I’m so taken by how the speaker is literally transparent about it! It’s funny because I feel like that’s something that we wouldn’t normally try writing about — the ideal of “too much telling”, or whatever — but it’s so lovely to see what can happen here where there is that amount of disclosure. I became so aware reading this of how the shifts in tense would seem very natural until the speaker went on to break it down further, at which point one could see the scaffolding, so to speak, and notice how unusual it was — and how much room there is for error.

 

MS: The tense thing … it’s interesting, now that I think about it I wasn’t actually doing this when I wrote Peripheral Vision, but I teach ESL, so I’m really aware of verb tense and how when people misuse it totally changes the meaning of a sentence. I did also teach for a bit before writing the book, so maybe that was it. But what tense to use in writing is always a question, regardless of genre — the present tense makes it more immediate, but if you’re writing in the present tense about something that really happened, then by the time you edit it you can’t anymore since it’s already in the past! I think that’s what I was going for, this process of each movement down through tense as an editing of the previous section.

 

MP: So cool. Well lastly, this is kind of a trendy question, but what was it like for you to make the e-book? Actually, how do you feel about e-books in general, and did that change after you actually made one?

 

MS: I never read e-books! It changes the way reading feels, you can’t handle the paper or anything — and it’s bad for your eyes. But I also think there’s a lot that e-books can do that paper books can’t quite do, so I was open to making one. I’d thought about trying it myself in the past for other pieces, but I don’t have the technical skills; I’m not very good with computers. When I was talking with Tim [O’Rourke] about it, he was describing all of these possibilities and I was totally blown away —you can make something in three dimensions! It was such a fun process, and even though I don’t personally read e-books, if I knew something like what he made existed I would want to look at it.