Quick thought on the case study model in art and politics

Had a long close reading “Court and Spark” with a young poet online. I’m thinking of pitching something to the Fader on reading Joni Mitchell songs. After, I watched a YouTube video splicing Amelia Earhart footage with a live performance of the song by Joni in 1979. Thought about how “the personal is political” is a basic conflation of life for art. What makes self expressive art work, particularly pop music, is the extrapolation of one person’s experience to human experience as a whole. In other words, the case study model. Whereas “the personal is political” mistakes politics for case study. You can wash your hair for Egypt in art, but not in politics. Maybe some of this conflation is due to the basic goal of politics to be together with others, to speak and understand across constituencies, representatives, and their electorate seamlessly. Because if politics were successful and we became one, you could wash your hair for Egypt.


The summer after my third year of college we took the CAPITOL LTD from Chicago to DC by way of WV. Just passing through.
The mountains there are mostly not mountains.
With the exception of a stripe of Alleghenies, West Virginia is soft
a dimple of water.
Maps know this and name their non-mountain mountains knoll, knob, and other nouns so soft they whisper their first offerings.
The ground is mild
–except for a row of Appalachian rock–
so the terrain map looks like a feline spine
where the fur begins to go in one direction
and darkens the animal’s coloring in streaks.
Everywhere else,
it’s yoga town.
The rolling hills downward dog their lawns
into the base of a river, gluteus up,
and the bridges there are lovely too.
The most famous, the New River Gorge Bridge,
caps off ‘Corridor L’ in West Virginia’s highway system,
a designation that evokes the hallway of a spooky, looming manor
with a terminal doorknob that gleams forbiddingly in fisheye.
But it is beautiful.

It was the strangest thing.
As I sat in my snack car
warming the bench for more serious eaters at my plastic table
I became overwhelmed with a deep sadness.
The landscape was beautiful and I did not feel alone.
It was the presence that bothered me. So much beauty!
I did not feel bodypressed by the sublime.
It was because (I didn’t figure this out for years)
I now knew all the world’s beauty was already in it
and West Virginia, its proof.


I’m struggling with the ending. I have another half to this poem that I can’t figure out how to pull off because it’s about my fear of aliens which is a bizarre subject shift. I think it could be great and human and a little pop-y if I could just figure it out. Basically, whenever I worry about alien invasion I think about West Virginia and how all the beauty and pain of the world has already been factored into it– West Virginia’s the proof– the converse of which is, nothing really terrible can happen because all the pain is already in the world…or something? Or maybe it’s because WV is a protective talisman. Anyway there’s something about equivalence between great beauty and great pain.

An onion

The insecure academician wanted his brush with history
so he historicized. The fauna, the fungal toe, Hepatitis B (In 1959
that affliction was publicly still a mystery)
transmitted through a shared utensil.
The critics and the artists and the academicians deigned
to print on the skin of history.
History, like tattoo, is superficial but permanent.
Strange the room full of them, the academics,
groping at what they think is an elephant in a room so dark it bleeds
and actually manhandling, say, an onion.

Readers of Playboy on the midi, August 1970

The miniskirt is doomed– unless American women, with the support and help of men, refuse to wear the so-called midi fashions and continue to wear short skirts as a gesture of opposition to the designers, the fashion industry and the fashion publications that would defeminize women and make them pay through the nose for the privilege of looking ugly.

-Phyllis Tweed, Girls/Guys Against More Skirt (GAMS), Box 386, New York, New York 10022

Now that the 1970s are back and the midi with it, I found this complaint against grandmotherly fashion mostly contemporary…except the parts that weren’t. I wonder if Phyllis’s version of women against the fashion industry is an earlier version of today’s real/fat women against the fashion industry. The other notable difference: no rhetoric about “empowerment.” Does the mini skirt empower against the corporate homosexual shibboleth that is the fashion industry or what? Is this a cult of domesticity for women who want to fuck? Anyway good luck to you, Phyllis of GAMS. I hope you’ve had a good 45 years.