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Creative Engagement with Joyelle McSweeney’s Percussion Grenade (Fence, 2012)

Precision, procession, possession—Percussion          Grenade. Not only a boom but a particular-sounding boom. A percussion instrument is an instrument that must be sounded by way of it being scraped by a beater or a rattle. In the context of consideration of a grenade, initially I assume that McSweeney’s Percussion Grenade is the derivative of untuned percussion instruments—(instruments that produce notes without an identifiable pitch) because who would tune their grenade?

Then thinking a bit more specifically on Joyelle Mcsweeney’s body of writing (I think about her talking about the thematic/ philosophy of the Necropastoral (“where chromosomes kiss and divide”)–Mcsweeney also wrote a book that came out with Spork Press named Necropastoral http://sporkpress.com/Images/McSweeneyNecropastoral.jpg))) I am forced to reconsider the above stated. In fact, it just might be Joyelle Mcsweeney who would emphasize that the grenade itself must be tuned (“sound is a type of violence”) to the exact timbre for it to produce its most performative effects!

Necro: a combining form meaning “the dead.” A form used in formation of compound words (“once everything on earth’s surface is dead”). Pastoral: the lifestyle of pastoralists such as shepherds, herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and changing availability of water and pasturage (“like pussy in the well. Who put me in [here]?”).

The body unconditionally outgasses toward combustible-ness, doesn’t it? Breath is this—the outgassing toward. Maybe Mcsweeney’s theory of Necropastoral asks us to focus in on a sort of combustible-bucolic–on the fact that the moist meadow can always be burned down.

In regard to the Necropastoral, I am also interested in considering the differences between pastoral nomads and pastoral farmers? Is there a socio-cultural difference (class?) between them? Is there a Necropastoral difference? I think now of some sort of obsessive focus on the cow pies that exist all throughout the meadow–or perhaps a myopia regarding the one deteriorating deer that has been on the North side of the meadow for almost a month now–that deer that the cows will not go near (“corrupt imaginings”). Why won’t the cows go near the decaying deer? Fear (“you have to bleed more. You have to make it matter”)? Do they not know how to “force a crisis”? Are they aroused? These types of questions feel like necessary inclusions because Joyelle Mcsweeney’s Percussion Grenade involves many Necropastoral torques (“the killer of little shepherds appeared in a white rabbit-fur toque”)–torques which take us places.

The “indications” section of Mcsweeney’s new book reminds me a bit of CA Conrad’s prescriptions for somatic engagement. Here we’re not only invited, but told it is expected of us that we engage (“if you have lost your voice or among the voiceless, please stand in front of a hotel mirror and translate the poems into international hand gestures [] how brilliant, how strange you have become. What a current”) in performance-oriented ways. It is expected of us that we not only read, but that we invest—get involved. Every good activism demands from us in such a way!

“Contagious Knives (A Necro Pastoral Farce)” is a section of Mcsweeney’s book in which a girlboyteen (queen?) has been damned (“because you liked the look of you, liked the looks you were coming into like the cash in your wallet, the bulge in your throat and your jeans”) “to stand outside in the wet forever”—sweet queen (swan) who “gazes into muckpond, a pond sized petri dish-cum-pocket mirror filled with black petroleum/fetid goo“ (“sink your visage into the dish”). This section of Percussion Grenade feels (in non-negative contrast to the rest of the book) like it performs itself a bit for us. This section has multiple characters in it (“braille” (the guy who invented braille writing), a girl from abu ghraib photos and a few poignant others)) each with strange, strong narratives. As these narratives combine they compose a “burial berth”—a place to ask “how [to] tell if there’s a goddess of destruction and death [] in your bed.” Bed (“lay[ing] in an array of pixels”), a place of rest? Bed, a place where one is haunted? Yes, bed is certainly a Necropastoral dwelling.

As a non-whole whole I feel like Percussion Grenade performs as asymptotic-alembic–a continual drawing (so, intended action instead of the mere falling together of) of a line (within a curve) that approaches zero as it tends toward infinity. Percussion Grenade is a form of alchemical betweeness, is a non-dueling relation that persists, while dense and deserving quantities are “shaking the map out”.


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