The Braid, by Lauren Levin
130 pages – SPD
Lauren Levin’s book, The Braid, moves between, through, under spaces
Sometimes they are inside one another, next to each other,
apart but always in relation
The continual interruption/replacement/relation makes it difficult to talk about this book without weaving in lines & phrases from the text itself
it opens up pathways (or threads) of ideas
but also cuts off the frayed bits
the visible becomes erased & the invisible made present
Reagan’s dull exterior
the flatness of whiteness
labor coupled & decoupled from love
we are held in tension, waiting for the next layer, next thread, next
tightening of the braid
Part of the act of braiding
is manufacturing an interiority,
making a space inside that is
still intertwined with an outside.
“I feel so unredeemably outside, unstirred
or maybe it’s inside, so deep inside this one body
that the only interaction I have with the world is
where it meets the world”
As soon as a space is constructed it is interrogated — “are we really inside each other the way I think we are”
Here the act of negation becomes a way to allow for a possible, for a future
“I would have loved nothing so much as nothing— that
is, the space for something else to happen”
This creates a form of vulnerability that allows for radical
forms of love and care, but this vulnerability is also the way that our bodies are open to injury — to the state, to capital, to patriarchal violence.
To Quote Levin altering a Fanon quote — “a woman who possesses a language is possessed by the world expressed by this language”
possession is about letting too much in, the body is no longer one’s own — but when was it ever?
we are always already woven in — “Consider how capitalism, work and love weave together in our culture”
The braid — more clearly seen through weaving — is also about movement between visible & invisible.
Making things seen and unseen.
The masculine elevates vision – what can be seen:
“the eye objectifies and masters
But here, with the braid, bodies are constantly extending beyond their space, not staying within the lines –
Some are self-effacing, “a book that keeps erasing itself”
But this is an act that is cyclical – erasing & appear or the act of cutting away as the point of resistance
To point of emergence
“When Elizabeth Cady Stanton learned that “in the eyes of the world she was only a woman”
She told her father she would cut that law out of his book with a knife”
In Levin’s poem “The Diamond Skull,”
a reference to Damien Hirst’s artwork FOR THE LOVE OF GOD — we have the interior & exterior
seen as the perfect commodity solution
while also being an image of capital’s decay
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD is a call of horror and outrage while also being a claim of exchange value – – an attempt to hold the market on god’s love
As soon as I thought I had a clear, clean reading of this work, everything I thought was wonderful about the poem started folding back into the content that disturbs
Fluidity & flow could map back onto Reagan, back onto violent
whiteness, back onto the way capital moves through all of us
The totalizing reading ignores the nuance. Totalizing reading
erases without hope for a reemergence.
Sometimes you need to set something on fire & that’s
sometimes sharing your body is about love and care — and sometimes your body becomes
weaponized as an instrument for the state, for whiteness, for everything you are trying to write against.
This is where the importance of the braid, importance of the weave comes in.
but within the braid, capital intends to totalize, to enclose, to consume
Tthat is when that knife becomes important. To cut away. To undo.
“It’s a hard, violent work to undo anything much easier to keep committing new crimes”
“Maybe I should call this poem that refuses to stop ‘the care-giver’ or ‘the shepherdess’ or ‘the murderess’ “
There, the braid is continually coming undone, unraveling, recreated over and over
it opens, it negates, but the act is necessarily social — it is about alterity
it’s just as important to undo the braid as to braid
“The sculptor decided to carve waves out of granite/Search the dark net”
it is a dark net
cutting through the darkness — connecting
but also leaving, removing
TO WRITE OF (THROUGH) VULNERABILITY IS NOT ALWAYS CLEAN
TO WRITE OF (THROUGH) VULNERABILITY REQUIRES A KNIFE
TO WRITE OF (THROUGH) VULNERABILITY CAN BE SEXY & MESSY
TO WRITE OF (THROUGH) VULNERABILITY IS TO BE VULNERABLE,
TO INTERTWINE, TO LEAVE & RETURN
TO ERASE & WRITE AGAIN
Jake Reber lives and works in Buffalo, NY, where he co-curates hystericallyreal.com.