"what is a body that can be a body not constantly exposed" : A Celebration of the work and life of kari edwards

Xpoetics has been on a bit of a time-delay in terms of posting responses to events. Life has just been that way of late.

But, Thursday, February 18th I made it to Modern Times Bookstore on Valencia in San Francisco for a celebration of the publication of kari edwards' Bharat jiva and No Gender: Reflections of the Life and Work of kari edwards. Each of these beautifully printed books was published as a collaborative effort between Litmus Press and Belladonna Books.

Thursday night's readers included contributors to No Gender: Reflections of the Life and Work of kari edwards: Fran Blau, Rob Halpern, Tanya Hollis, Kevin Killian, Wendy Kramer, Joseph Lease, Yedda Morrison, Donna de la Perriere, and Eleni Stecopoulos.

The editors--Julian T. Brolaski, erica kaufman, and E. Tracy Grinnell--of No Gender write:

kari's genius moved others to their own words, art, action--following a mandate of reclaiming the very words we speak and write--writing our selves, our other(ed) bodies, into a foundationl post-gender post-genre state. This book is that start of what hopefully will be a much longer conversation....

By "attempting language" as a way of combating the oppression of forced identification, kari shared with so many others this desire not to write the self into a genre, rather to find a space where gender could be written out, where a body can exist just as a body--not a body gendered, but a body othered, a queer fluid body, "a body without organs."

kari's authorial "signature" undoes the authorial body in favor of a visible obfuscation--strikethru: kari never just signed, but rather crossed out hir name and wrote "NO GENDER." The erasure--well no, the palimpsestic remaking of the name into a symbol for the dismantling of enforced gender codes is a profound and provocative gesture--the name is still visible behind the NO GENDER, as if behind bars....

These texts celebrate kari's mark--and insist that we must continue to take on and bamboozle our oppressive cultural nomenclature. kari, we'll keep reading your work, and continue the conversation and the protest and continue to challenge gender race class binaries and speak out about violence against transpeople and protest the two-gender option on governmental forms and public bathrooms, and take it to the streets and not shop at corporations and piss in a jar and use all kind of pronouns and let children decide their own gender.

kari, your work will keep calling keep inspiring the rewriting and re-visioning of speech previously ingrained. kari, you perpetually push the line of what one thought was possible to achieve both in verse and in how one positions oneself in a life. so, let's undo the words that bind us, let's write ourselves a space in a post-gender world.

Here's a piece from edwards's Bharat jiva:

exposed to a potential body, exposed constantly
exposed, broken to bits to prove death's limits,
choosing the most logical answer, someone said,
"do not do this." someone else said, "do not
presume screaming one more time will prove
anything," will divert broken bodies to bits, to
form another lonesome particle of something
between multiple co-authored epics and another
official counter-sentence, grotesquely misplaced,
measured in the name of...blown to bits to
prove, wounded by bullets, disfigured by rumor,
crippled by falling lies, in a state of the state of
euthanasia, choosing the most logical question to
prove, what is the correct program? what is the
correct proportion of rice? and what is that
something between partition and pogrom? what
is that something piles in vain, tears in suits,
linked to fantasies hidden blindness, full of strife
and bitter endings? what is a body that can be a
body not constantly exposed, blown to bits? (68)

Below are quotes from a few of the contributors to NO GENDER.

"kari edwards's late work reads like a sustained séance with the dead. The writing channels identity's effluvia so much phantasmatic excess, so many voices that won't submit. Singing in transitional tongues, kari activates the space between sensation and expression, where movement rescures the body from its own image, and language drives a wedge between thinking and naming."--"Reading the Interval, Reading Remains" Rob Halpern.

"kari represents representation, particles of body / speech, the matter of the material, of unverse, containing dynamic and dialectic contradiction, a consistent proliferation of possibilities, not the limiting question, but the opening question, through expanding layered varying repetition"--"this and that and everything and kari edwards: rhythm, repetition and "breath" "in hir" "work" Cara Benson

"I have this feeling about kari that kari understood how to be both physical and virtual in the contemporary world, which enabled her to be extremely present as an activist of conscience no matter where she was geographically....Though I am uncomfortable with the religious connotations of Agamben's "coming community" "Kingdom" in this [passage not reproduced here in this quote], it is useful to me in thinking about kari's work, her voluminous project of redoing and undoing and redoing until the redoing was no longer necessary, as ground work, a ground work that leaves us empty as it is ever assisting us along our way. "Assistance" Rachel Levitsky

"The real gift kari gave me was an entrance point into the history of and evolving politics of the transgender movement. Sie gave me a chance to reconcile with my own modest insecurities about gender and desire, and more importantly to come into a clearer understanding of the socially-constructed aspects of who-we-are. These days it feels beside the point to make the judgement of male or female or male-to-female or female-to-male. kari was kari, and when I think of the people I love, there's a real beauty in the places where the boundaries of gender begin to melt." "Some Notes on kari" Lisa Jarnot

"kari edwards' Bharat jiva explores a relentlessly critical, passionate and agonized relationship with transcendence. On the one hand the book is concerned with a utopian narrative of dismantling structures of power in language, especially in situations wher these structures represent essentialist remnants of the body in writing or the violence done by the process of gendering people. Yet at every turn the writing wounds itself in advance to ward off an easy escape to the bourgeois, the reified, or the assumption that there could be a solution or answer. There is no answer, only process moment-to-moment, the writing thrashing about in the hope that somehow one of the buckles in the Christianized straightjacket of western thinking will come loose and permit escape, and the writer in turn scoffing at the idea of escape itself once that possibility appears." "Fuck Transcendence: A Close Reading of kari edwards' Bharat jiva" Tim Peterson

"iduna is an example of the poet's aim, which probably started with Baudelaire, for the text itself to be paradise as the 'author's desire.' The text's paradise can only be achieved by imperfection, total as continual disruption, or rather a perfect disorder as simultaneity of changes all present visible at once not either static or resolved, yet somehow held, as disorder." "Destabilized Space, With Counterparts: kari edwards' iduna" Leslie Scalapino

"That kari on some level saw herself as one of us was an affirmation that the New Narrative cause wasn't just about identity politics. The next time I saw her was at a setting equally sublime--Niagra Falls--and perhaps in consequence, when I think of her in retrospect, I always counterpose the beauties of "nature" with the rough-hewn and very human determination to wrest happiness from nature's maw. kari never looked natural per se, her quizzical, sometimes breathless air, her mode in the French sense, prevented one from thinking of her as naïve, or even young; and yet there was no one I knew with a deeper commitment to looking for something real in the heart of the façade." "Long Ago Tomorrow" Kevin Killian

"kari and I lived together for more than 10 intense and transformative years. She was my life partner, teacher, lover,critic and cheerleader....kari continued her prolific writing practice and sought out people to engage with, but sorely missed the writing community in San Francisco. After braving the heat of summer in Southern India we returned to the US in August of 2006. However, the contrast to the simple way we were living in India, coupled with general fast pace of life and oppressive and aggressive political climate promptly induced us to return to Auroville. We were working on those plans when she died suddenly of a pulmonary aneurysm on her birthday, December 2nd 2006." "My Words" Fran Blau

Fortunately for us, Litmus Press and Belladonna Books have made edwards' work and legacy available and legible.

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