I guess we all sort of know that poets are slippery. That’s part of why we love them, and get all drunk inside when we are near them, and fall down glass staircases in stiletto heels while their words are careening through our veins because we still somehow believe that these words are closer to God than we are, even or especially in our secular beau monde. I mean, if we really think about it, the presence of these drunken words in our drunken veins does that Michelangelo finger-stretching thing, right? So that as we crash at the foot of the glass staircase in our mangled stilettos and our ankles twist and our bosoms fall out of their cages, we are actually really truly bleeding lipstick and touching the numinous.
That’s what I was thinking when, from my hall of mirrors temple where art imitates life and things get all weird, I watched Ariana Reines read one of her new long poems. Even before she opened her lipstick-smeared mouth, and her bosoms fell out of her shirt (was she mirroring us mirroring her mirroring art mirroring life and God?) I had already succumbed to art’s artifice and ruin.
I can’t remember what she said. There was something about a lover and a tower and a near-death sex experience. It was hard to tell what all this meant as her hair got louder and her mouth got wilder and her gestures of throwing the handwritten pages as she was through reading them got more violent and higher into the night air above our frightened heads, but the spectacle as a holistic tragi-drama was high voltage, which in itself is stiletto-numinous and God worthy. I could say more about this special form of thrilling art but poetry is kind of a private experience. You should all go see her perform. But don’t try to meet her afterwards.
Ariana is not like Rihanna (though she might sometimes want to be). Ariana is not like Lana (yes, I know, the names all rime). Ariana is what we might call Neo-Post-Pop. Like, way beyond playing in the sand pit with a female gaze that vamps up the chauvi-porn model and feeds it back to the chauvi-porn people slightly feminized. Ariana’s poeticus eroticus is dark and twisted, primitive and magical, hyperbolic and bucolic, grotesquely deep and terrifyingly ancient, contemporary and beautiful and fruitfully insane. She’s the real deal.
So, we did arrange to meet after her reading. We were going to talk about why she wanted to vomit the whole time while translating Tiqqun’s Theory of the Young-Girl from the French to the English. We were going to talk about her Neo-Post-Pop carnality and how cool this is for digital native feminism. We were going to do all this over exotic tea in a bohemian cafe where antique saxophones hang from the ceiling and soft jazz plays over the microphone. We might have smoked. We might have admired each other’s toenail polish. She might have brought her copy of Mercury, her latest poetry book, the one with the silver cover, so that we might have seen our faces reflected in it as if it was a mirror, and taken selfies into it that we might have posted on Instagram.
But art being what it is, especially while imitating life, and most especially while imitating God, this is not how it happened. What happened instead was a city-wide chase and counter-chase accompanied by a texting frenzy that went like this:
Ariana (night of reading): i’m here till tuesday it turns out. let’s meet later in the day tomorrow — i’m gonna need all the sleep i can get. only just got back to the hotel.
Caia (later in the day of the following day): where are you? i’ve got a date in little italy at 6:30 that will go about two hours. i can meet u after x
Ariana (following morning): i’m at the marriott. i’m free now til 3:30
Caia: actually it’s nearly 1:30 now. i’ll come to your hotel. i guess i’ll be there closer to 2. if you’re not in the lobby i’ll call up to your room
Ariana (while Caia’s phone has no bars): so sorry — had to go to the bank. wanna grab a coffee hereish?
Caia (phone back in range): i’m at ur hotel on the other side of town. r u coming back down, where r u?
Ariana (an hour later): i’m at chez boris — i think. my phone is really stupid Caia, so so so sorry. i’ll be in this neighbourhood for a little while
Caia: (no reply)
Ariana (next day): Caia, i hope i didn’t ruin your afternoon yesterday. i’m gonna wander a bit today & am cabbing to the airport @6. it’s not tea or delicious but
if you want hop in the cab with me & i’ll treat you to an airport apology beverage.
Caia (next next day): Ariana. i’m sure you loved ruining my afternoon. i’m sure i loved being ruined by you. i would like to do it again, but not yesterday.
Ariana (next next next day): I didn’t love it 🙁 at all
As far as close encounters go, where strangers have strange effects on one another while squeezed into impermanent togetherness inside the mercurial art-warp, I’m thinking that our non-meeting is getting exciting. It’s a little like Waiting for Godot crossing Lars Von Trier via Lady Gaga as a prematurely inflamed crone. It’s not nearly as good as the poetry itself, obvi. But I will keep you posted.
Stay tuned for regular contributions of life imitating art by our Pop Talks columnist Caia Hagel.
Caia Hagel’s personality profiles, fictions, cultural travelogues and art+design thoughts appear in magazines, in advertising, and on social media and TV networks internationally.
Ariana Reines is a poet, playwright, and translator who has been claimed as one of the crucial voices of her generation. See her full biography here.
Visit Ariana Reines on her tumblr here.