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Barf Manifesto

Authors: Dodie Bellamy

Published by Ugly Duckling Presse


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Asked to write an essay on alternative forms of memoir for the 2007 Modern Language Association conference, Bellamy wrote an admiring analysis of 'Everyday Barf', the essay that concludes Eileen Myles's recent poetry collection Sorry Tree. Bellamy's talk, 'MLA Barf', became a rousing defense of the 'barf' as a literary form. Here 'MLA Barf' is joined by its sequel, 'CCA Barf', delivered as a lecture at the California College of the Arts some months later.

Together the two talks celebrate Eileen Myles—especially her genius for bringing the body into writing—as well as the conceptual practices of two British visual artists, Tariq Alvi and Bridget Riley. In addition, Barf Manifesto, like The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, is an intimate account of a long, sometimes tortured, but enduring friendship between two female writers.

In the words of critic Ramsey Scott, "Bellamy asks us: how can sloppiness become an intellectual stance, a methodology with its own aesthetic and political priorities? How might a permeable editorial screen that allows for error, parataxis, and the non sequitur serve as the basis for a hybrid kind of writing that is at once critical and autobiographical, factual and fictional? What does it mean to insist upon the disorderly as a means of cultural critique and political engagement?"

from Barf Manifesto:

Passion in writing or art—or in a lover—can make you overlook a lot of flaws. Passion is underrated. I think we should all produce work with the urgency of outsider artists, panting and jerking off to our kinky private obsessions. Sophistication is conformist, deadening. Let's get rid of it.

"Her verbal upchuck could have become a mess, but the shifts are so exquisitely structured that they rarely fail to marvel. When one steps back from Bellamy’s narrative, her discrete thoughts somehow contrast and interact like the dots on a Seurat canvas, forming a vivid portrait of art and friendship. You’ll wonder how she did it. Barf has never looked so good."
Time Out NY

Dodie Bellamy has written a novel, The Letters of Mina Harker (2004); a collection of fiction, memoirs, and essays, Pink Steam (2004); an epistolary collaboration on AIDS with the late Sam D’Allesandro, Real (1994); and a cross-genre collection of pedagogical essays and fictions, Academonia (2006). She lives in San Francisco.

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