Another review from Creative Writing grad student Gerard Breitenbeck; this time Gerard reviews Brenda Iijima’s recent BathHouse reading:
Professor Carla Harryman introduced Brenda Iijima to the Dreamland Theater in downtown Ypsilanti, speaking of her strengths as a poet who writes both inventively and politically. Following Professor Harryman, a small group of her undergraduate students presented their own poetically minded introductions, insightful and often surprising soundscapes.
Iijima begins by playing a video of her from Youtube, which depicts her dancing in a flowing dress on the front lawn of her mother’s house, in a salute to women labeled derogatively as witches.
“You might be bored by oxen, or you might be predisposed to oxen.” The Donkey poem explores what it is to be a donkey, or rather, what common language would conceive a donkey to be. Lines like “They are donkeys, they go by the name donkeys, humans call them donkeys, they are recognizable as donkeys” suggest the distance and alienation language affords humanity, particularly from other animals as we reduce them to the most utilitarian conception we can muster.
Iijima continues this theme with meditations on Mules, Pumpkins, Pork, Polar Bears, and Swans; inviting us to consider the nature and implications of how we conceive of the animals and plants around us. By placing under a microscope the reductive, exploitative language we use to relate to other living things, Iijima prompts an internal and external discussion on the nature of how language has been constructed, and for what purposes it finds itself employed. It would seem, Iijima leads us to consider, that like the Donkey and its similarly burdened counterparts, language itself has been subjugated for the purposes of alienation, hierarchy, and patriarchal hegemony.