Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Girl Talk 

The perverse, provocative writings of Dodie Bellamy challenge standard notions of both poetry and female sexuality

Wednesday, Dec 12 2001
One gets the distinct impression, when reading local writer and essayist Dodie Bellamy's new collection of surreal prose poems, Cunt-Ups, that she would be adept at talking dirty. Here's an excerpt: "Can you see me kneeling there on the floor nostalgic for our past and filled with desire fuck me with your teeth." With the notable exception of literary bad-girl Kathy Acker, few female authors have adopted the primarily male tradition of the cut-up, a writing technique most famously espoused by William Burroughs and painter Brion Gysin. For her effort, Bellamy divided pages of her text into four squares, which she then mixed and randomly spliced together with the words of other writers to create a "new Frankenstein page." Although the poems contain bits of appropriated text (including the confessions of convicted serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, science articles about sperm and ectoplasm, and John Weiner's A Poem for Benzedrine), the results are undeniably Bellamy's own.

The former director of Small Press Traffic, Bellamy currently teaches in private workshops and at San Francisco State University, where she works to challenge standard notions of gender politics and female sexuality in literature. In an article she wrote for the Village Voice last year, she condemned the "expectations of traditional prose," suggesting a form of writing that would "collapse the boundaries between literary forms and confound the categories of sexuality." And confound she does: Defying conventional rules of syntax and logic, the "cunt-ups," like Bellamy's earlier work -- including the epistolary novel The Letters of Mina Harker and Real, a collection of letters between Bellamy and the late author Sam D'Allesandro -- also dispense with genre. Here, letters become novels, fiction becomes nonfiction, and words become images.

More than an exercise in creative writing or mere X-rated text, Bellamy's poems are purposely perverse and provocative; they create what Bellamy calls a "work of nonlinear, fragmented sexuality." Almost every sentence contains the words "cock," "cunt," "pussy," or "asshole," yet the prose is surprisingly unarousing: It's more like playing doctor with the boy next door than bumping uglies with him. Non sequiturs and 180-degree turns pepper the verse, jarring the reader and forestalling titillation: "I'm fucking you. Then I boil your head. We are on. My cock, I think it wants to go camping." The undeniable tension between the explicit language and the startling imagery -- lines like "The first time my cock bloomed into you I got manic" -- give Bellamy's pieces vitality and urgency. Her gift lies in her ability to make the familiar (in this case, the tired love poem) new again.

About The Author

Lisa Hom


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"