Friday, April 02, 2010
Fuck Death Revisited (@Harriet)
I remember seeing Conrad read for the first time in spring of 2007. Conrad’s best friend, the Philadelphia-based poet Frank Sherlock, had just recovered from a life-threatening illness, a meningitis which he contracted in Philadelphia, and nearly died from. It was Easter weekend at SEGUE series and Conrad said he did not believe in the resurrected Jesus, but that he did believe in the resurrected Sherlock. Conrad’s comment, interjected between readings of poems generated using his (Soma)tic Exercises, was powerful to me for the ways it deflated Easter’s otherworldly promises of salvation and transcendence.
During the poetry reading, Conrad also read a poem in which he intoned “fuck death,” a statement which I took to mean “forget death,” but also that one should have sex with death, that death undergirds life comingling life’s forces with its own. The confluence of living and dying, for Conrad, as for many gay men who grew up in the 80s and 90s, is an unforgettable, if not unforgiveable, reality. An unmistakable melancholy touches many of Conrad’s poems, and especially those poems collected in Deviant Propulsion and The Book of Frank in which people and things that have disappeared are often underscored through their absence—longed for, mourned. In many of Conrad’s poems the inanimate often becomes animated by a spirit of mourning—a longing for ex-lovers, as well as for the victims of sex and gender based crimes. Grief forms the conditions of possibility for action, communication, life loving. Animism grounds impossible return.