work of mourning

Whiskey & Fox mourns the loss of the poet Julie Granum, most recently from Pittsburgh, PA, who died in an accident last week in San Diego while visiting her brother.  

Those who knew her as a poet also knew her as a friend.  And we are, simply, devastated. 

 Julie's work as a poet was important and admirable for its deep engagement with language and issues pressingly important to the critique of American consciousness. She was able to register in her work, simultaneously, language that can only be called Gothic and Southern alongside language that can only be called Surreal, and do so in linguistic and cultural scenes at once of the northeast urban, and of the southern rural, while maintaining the sense that the work was also hard at work to not give in to the reification of those difficult terms. The scenes are sometimes of the quiet estate, sometimes unapologetically of the excess of the life of the bourgeois or the gentry poor in northeastern cities. Such a rich and complex language attempted, above all, to look the sickness of American late-capital in the face, to admit that we can't escape it, and still, to continue to live.

For a writer who, as mentioned, engaged with the pessimism of the Gothic, she surprised us with a Whitmanic energy recombined with the strange-making transformations more like those of Bréton, or, more recently, of David St. John's engagement with Surrealism in the early 70's. This is to say that she found a way to transgress--even a little bit--, sexually and mentally in language, from within a place in history which, according to Slavoj Zizek, leaves us unable to transgress by removing all the limits which make transgression meaningful.

Take, for example, this bit of Julie Granum's poem "the frog princess," which is as hopeful in its transgression as it is terrifying:

i didn’t realize this whole time that i’ve wanted you every time

i’ve wanted something. i can’t read a whole page at a time

without taking a break so how could i have remembered you.

fucked three men since the last time we kissed. and i want one

even now, sitting here with my coffee.

you tell me that people send you, from time to time, submissions

telling you they’re dying from cancer. could you please publish them,

last wish. but the writing, swan song or not, is atrocious and

you can’t make yourself.

Or alternately, more surreal, these lines from "Potomac":

Inside the river mothers, with mud-boots

and starched muslin sunday dresses,

hold their babies firm against the undertow

while preachers, daddies, cousins nod

at the wind holding the soft, reptilian skin

of a well-worn bible .

Reading these little bits of her work of poetry may be, for some us, the best way to start the fact of of our lives as a work of mourning that needs to include an adieu to Julie Granum. To look look America's sickness-factory in the face and, with a surreal or transgressive dance-move of a poem, figure out ways to go on living.

An yet, the loss of Julie is incalculable. Those that knew her knew an energy that was at once loving and loved. Once, while her friends sat around a campfire, she read Shakespeare (according to the lore, it was Twelfth Night ) for a graduate seminar by flashlight because she dared to love Shakespeare that much genuinely, without apology. Some will recall her loving a dog as much as we should love our companion animals--as a person--and throwing dessert parties so that she might rap about absolutely nothing for 5 minutes straight. This kind of energy was singularly what we named and name as Julie Granum, and in naming, love and loved as Julie Granum, just as she loved as well.

From a secular magazine, this is a religious address to a person that cannot answer: goodbye Julie Granum. Of course you cannot answer back, of course you are dead; but we do not care how mournful and transgressive it might be: please, please, haunt us.