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Awkward Texts: Performative Ingestion in the Work of Performance Artist Kristin Prevallet and Poet Juliana Spahr

Published onMay 19, 2021
Awkward Texts: Performative Ingestion in the Work of Performance Artist Kristin Prevallet and Poet Juliana Spahr


Performative ingestion in the physical and textual performances of Kristin Prevallet and Juliana Spahr is a provocative, compelling, and efficacious response to socio-ecological crisis. Prevallet and Spahr performatively and iteratively ingest Western imperialism, the oil economy, resource wars, ecological degradation, and extinction into their respective physical and textual bodies as acts of complicity and transformation. Prevallet concludes a reading of a deformed poetics (a 2002 UN address by George Bush) by pouring ‘oil’ into her mouth, while Spahr’s performative ingestion arrives directly into her textual lungs and heart via ingesting and pumping. I situate the concerns of this paper – performative ingestion as positively directed towards socio-ecological crisis – in conversation with the relational philosophies of Karen Barad, Stacy Alaimo and Rosi Braidotti. As an important and intrinsically boundary-crossing response to socio-ecological crisis, performative ingestion is ethically relational via volitional complicity, vulnerability, and entanglement with the abject/other. I examine performative ingestion in Spahr’s The Transformation (2007) and Prevallet’s ‘Cruelty and Conquest (Oil, Oil, Oil)’ (2004).

Keywords: Performative Ingestion; Juliana Spahr; Kristin Prevallet; Karen Barad; Socio-ecological Crisis

When it came down to it, it was an awkward time and it was the awkwardness that obsessed them… It was a time of overt and dramatically unsustainable resource use. It was a time of oil. (Spahr 2007)

As the early twenty-first century works of Kristin Prevallet (‘Cruelty and Conquest (Oil, Oil, Oil)’, 2004) and Juliana Spahr (The Transformation, 2007) make evident, the challenge of performing ecologies is ever increasingly the challenge of performing ecologies-in-crisis. Performance and performativity emerge in creative works such as Prevallet’s and Spahr’s, and in theoretical texts, including Karen Barad’s posthumanist philosophy, as important and efficacious modes of response to socio-ecological crisis by acknowledging complicity, vulnerability, and entanglement with the global impacts of “petro-capitalism” (Aborisade 2010, p.35). In Prevallet’s physical performance and Spahr’s textual performance, the dominant trope is “performative ingestion”, a term first deployed by Laura Elrick in her 2011 article on Prevallet’s performance, ‘Cruelty and Conquest (Oil, Oil, Oil)’. In this paper, I draw extensively on Elrick’s term to describe the similarities and differences between Prevallet’s and Spahr’s work in their compelling attempts to confront socio-ecological crisis. While ingestion featured prominently in the work of feminist performance artists and theorists, primarily in relation to issues of gender, embodiment, and sexuality, Prevallet’s and Spahr’s performative ingestion is explicitly directed towards socio-ecological crisis. Although the body is gendered and sexed in Prevallet’s and Spahr’s work, these orientations are focused on a cluster of interrelated systems and forces (Western imperialism, oil economies, resource wars) responsible for ecological degradation that impact human and non-human lives.

Through the mode of performative ingestion, Prevallet’s and Spahr’s work, as with posthumanist and new materialist relational philosophies of Barad, Stacy Alaimo, and Rosi Braidotti, necessarily engages human interconnectedness with the rest of nature. As both creative performance and theoretical discussion evince, this human/non-human interconnection – particularly in the West – is complex, hierarchical, and compromised. It is awkward and problematic. Prevallet and Spahr perform this connection through ingestion: they take the degrading world – no matter how abject – into their performative and textual bodies. Their work can be interpreted as a provocative rejection of the Western nature/culture binary through the volitional act of ingesting what would be considered “other”. This volitional ingestion inexorably encompasses affective states of loss, grief, and mourning, which nevertheless hold the potential for transformation. My discussion of Prevallet and Spahr is augmented by the work of Barad (2007), particularly her concept of “intra-action,” which she describes as signifying “the mutual constitution of entangled agencies” (p.33). Intra-action places emphasis on the moment in which entities or agencies are constituted through their encounter with one another. For the purposes of this paper, in terms of the nature/culture binary and performativity, the significance of Barad’s (2007) concept is evident in the following extended elaboration of intra-action, “[a]ll bodies, not merely ‘human’ bodies, come to matter through the world’s iterative intra-activity – its performativity” (p.152). Iterative intra-activity is a hallmark of both Prevallet’s and Spahr’s enactments of performative ingestion.

Barad’s (2007) concept of intra-action is central to her posthumanist philosophy of “agential realism”, which she defines as an “ontoepistemological framework” (p.44) predicated on co-constitution of entities, and the very specificity of those entanglements (p.74). Barad’s work has been especially influential in the formation of new materialism, and her conceptual language is perhaps most evident in the theoretical work of Stacy Alaimo. Alaimo’s (2010) key term, “trans-corporeal”, describes the vulnerable porosity of bodies (human and nonhuman) in local and global contexts (p.15). She goes on to define trans-corporeality as “an ethical space [which] is never an elsewhere but is always already here, in whatever compromised, ever-catalysing form” (p.18), which captures some of the boundary crossing embedded in Barad’s intra-action. As I will suggest, it is the volitional nature of Prevallet’s and Spahr’s performative ingestion that usefully expands Alaimo’s concept of the trans-corporeal and provides an active instantiation of Barad’s intra-action. To ground the potential efficacy of Prevallet’s and Spahr’s performative ingestion, I end my discussion of their work in the conceptual terrain evoked by a phrase excerpted from Braidotti’s (2016) relational philosophy, “enfolding the world within” (p.26). Ultimately, performative ingestion in the work of Prevallet and Spahr is, I argue, a volitional act of enfolding the world in all of its inequity and degradation within the self – the self that is, in a loose paraphrasing of Barad, simultaneously differentiated and undifferentiated. Volitional enfolding through the act of performative ingestion is directed towards transformation in which mourning plays a constitutive role.

As performative ingestion is a relational gesture, this paper discusses Prevallet’s and Spahr’s physical and textual performances in conversation with relational philosophies, beginning with Barad, followed by Alaimo, and concluding with Braidotti. In the discussion below, I begin by introducing the similarities and differences in Prevallet’s and Spahr’s enactment of performative ingestion, then provide an in-depth focus on each practitioner’s work for the purposes of comparison. In particular, I am interested in bringing to light the implications of performative ingestion as an efficacious response to socio-ecological crisis.

Performative ingestion in the work of Prevallet and Spahr describes an awkward and unsettling act of volitionally choosing to take into their physical and textual bodies Western imperialism, oil economies, degraded ecosystems, and extinct species. Their performative ingestion can be interpreted as an acknowledgment of complicity with structural and coercive systems of oppression. Prevallet’s embodied, durational performance, in which she pours ‘oil’ from a raised oil-can into her mouth, choking and gagging until it is empty, uses ‘oil’ to metonymically encompass petro-capitalism. The gush of oil is a tentacular stream whose flow unavoidably evokes Stephanie LeMenager’s (2014) “fossil fuel complex” (p.66), or the ongoing extraction, refinery, transportation, and distribution of oil even as CO2 emissions continue to rise. This flow of oil for the maintenance of wealth by states and companies who control the production and distribution of oil is necessarily contingent on the military-industry complex to secure continued access and control. Prevallet’s performative ingestion of ‘oil’ is predicated on her everyday complicity with oil-dependent products and systems, and as a U.S. citizen, of her indirect implication with the Gulf resource wars. While Prevallet’s ‘oil’-guzzling performance encourages viewers to recognise their own complicity with the everyday presence of oil in daily life, she does not directly list or otherwise state the role petro-capitalism plays in the destruction of ecosystems. The viewer must make these connections themselves.

In contrast to Prevallet’s evocative physical performance of ingestion, Spahr’s textual performative ingestion explicitly names a vast array of negative, interconnected socio-ecological conditions that she takes into her textual body. Spahr (2007) performatively ingests “the cracking Larsen B iceshelf… endless nameless and faceless deaths… grief for all of them killed by the military that currently occupied the continent” (p.213). This excerpt makes connections between the melting of the polar caps and the deaths of Iraqi and Afghan people killed by the U.S.-led resource wars in the Gulf. The presence of oil, or rather oil-dependency, and the West’s ceaseless drive to extract oil, and to go to war for it, in spite of ecosystemic degradation, underpins the “deaths” and the “grief” in this excerpt, and in other passages, Spahr mentions oil directly. Spahr’s torrent of words, analogous to Prevallet’s gush of ‘oil’, nevertheless enables Spahr to explicitly name the effects and repercussions of oil dependency on both human and non-human ecologies. Spahr pumps the conditions, coordinates, and effects of Western imperialism, oil dependency, and ecological degradation directly into her textual lungs and heart. Arguably it is this presence of the body that draws Spahr’s text into the realm of performance. Her textual body provides a foundation for the ensuing performative ingestion. In addition to the presence of a textual body that performs ingestion, Spahr’s use of formal techniques including the repeated refrain, repetition, “accumulation, acceleration, [and] feedback” (Merola 2018, p.32) coalesce into producing a physiological rhythm that pulses in the body of the reader.

Whether textual or physical, Spahr’s and Prevallet’s performative ingestion registers complicity and personal implication with oil-driven petro-capitalism and negative systemic impacts on human and non-human ecological communities. If petro-capitalism is a system that disproportionately produces excess and lack, it both aggressively and subtly (though coercively) encourages and rewards over-consumption. This drive is captured by a line in this paper’s opening epigraph, “[i]t was a time of overt and unsustainable resource use” (Spahr 2007, p.205). It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that both Spahr and Prevallet’s act of performative ingestion instantiates excess and over-consumption. Spahr’s extensive inventory of loss and degradation builds and swells in lengthy repetitious sentences of accumulation, while Prevallet’s mouth, face, and body are deluged by the sticky, viscous ‘oil’ she pours onto herself. Spahr and Prevallet are engaged in “performing consumption”, to borrow Marcy J. Epstein’s term (Epstein 1996, p.23), but are doing so in order to confront the inequities and degradation caused by oil dependency and petro-capitalism. In these two performative instances, excess and over-consumption not only mirror the over-consumption of Western culture, but through their performance of complicity and implication, both practitioners make themselves vulnerable. Acknowledgment of complicity renders both Spahr and Prevallet vulnerable, and this very vulnerability is itself a relational act. Through the act of performative ingestion, Spahr and Prevallet deliberately position themselves in close relational proximity to that which they protest. Their performative bodies are saturated in the act of being-with petro-capitalism’s fallout. In so doing, Spahr and Prevallet’s performative ingestion exemplifies a theoretical proposition of Barad’s (2007) – namely that, “knowing does not come from standing at a distance and representing it” (p.49).

Although Barad (2007) precedes this phrase with “[a] performative understanding of scientific practices […]” (p.49), it is possible, given the scalable scope of her project, to extrapolate beyond scientific practices to performative practices. Barad’s (2007) proposition of situated and responsive knowing appears in her elaboration of intra-action (p.33). Preceding or appearing in the same year as Barad’s influential text, Prevallet and Spahr’s performative ingestion enact the very entanglement of agencies articulated by Barad’s concept of intra-action. Through the ingestion of ‘oil’, Prevallet not only privileges the matter or being-ness of oil, she evokes her own (and provokes her viewers’) complicit entanglement with the everywhere presence of oil, and what oil is made to do. Similarly, although in textual-physiological form, Spahr presents and ingests the sticky entanglements between Western imperialism, oil addiction, threatened ecologies, and species’ extinction. All appearing in the early 2000s, the texts and performance works by Prevallet, Spahr, and Barad discussed here are concerned with our complicity and entanglement with each other and the rest of nature, and they offer tools for reworking our relationality.

A feature of Prevallet, Spahr, and Barad’s work is iterability. In ways comparable to Spahr (though to a lesser extent), Barad too deploys repeated refrains, repetition, and accumulation to communicate her agential realist theory. Prevallet’s performance begins with the recitation of a ‘procedural poem’ that is repeated until deformed, until nearly every word became ‘oil’. She follows the reading of this deformed poem with the aforementioned ‘oil’-guzzling performance. Iteration in all these works can be interpreted as an attempt to expand interconnection, to acknowledge that being in relation to multiple others is processual and ongoing: that it takes time, commitment and numerous situated encounters. From this overview of interconnection, entanglement, vulnerability, complicity, relationality, and iteration in the work of Prevallet, Spahr and Barad, I turn to an in-depth discussion of Prevallet and Spahr’s performative ingestion.

To clarify and contextualise, this discussion of Prevallet’s 2004 performance ‘Cruelty and Conquest (Oil, Oil, Oil)’ is accessed through Laura Elrick’s description and analysis in her 2011 article, ‘Performative Ingestion: Mourning Rite of Peak Oil’. While Prevallet’s procedural poem ‘Cruelty and Conquest’ (first published in 2003, and then 2007) is available online in its entirety, Prevallet’s 2004 performance, which involved a reading of the poem and the performative ingestion of ‘oil’, is not available. For this reason, I rely on Elrick’s description of Prevallet’s performance. This engagement with Prevallet’s physical performance as a textual experience forms a type of equivalence, therefore, between Prevallet and Spahr, though always with the knowledge that Prevallet’s performance did take place as an actual physical performance.

In her 2004 iteration of ‘Cruelty and Conquest (Oil, Oil, Oil)’ at Naropa University, Colorado, Prevallet stood on a U.S. flag, wearing a red, white and blue bathing suit, read a poem, and to quote Elrick (2011), “guzzled an entire gallon of viscous black liquid in an endurance of choking and gagging” (p.267). The poem ‘Cruelty and Conquest’, read by Prevallet, begins with a section of a speech by George Bush to the United Nations in 2002, giving the tenuous reasons why the U.S. declared war on Iraq. Prevallet deforms this speech by gradually substituting the word ‘oil’ for specific words over multiple readings until, by the final stanza, nearly every word becomes ‘oil’. In an interesting connection between Prevallet and Spahr, Prevallet’s poem ‘Cruelty and Conquest’ was constructed using a constraint originally created by the French avant-garde group Oulipo, and re-introduced by Spahr in 100 Days: An Anthology (Prevallet 2007b). This Oulipian constraint involves counting and eliminating words, or, as is the case with Prevallet, of counting and replacing words. In stanza II, where every seventh word is replaced by ‘oil’, Bush’s speech is still largely coherent.

The United States has no
quarrel oil the Iraqi people; they’ve suffered too
oil in silent
captivity. Liberty for
the oil people is
a great moral cause, oil a great strategic
goal. The people
oil Iraq deserve
it; the security of
oil nations requires it. Free societies do oil
intimidate through cruelty
and conquest, and
oil societies do not
threaten the world oil mass murder. The United
States supports oil
and economic liberty
in a unified oil.

(Prevallet 2007a)

Gradually the speech is deformed until it becomes, in stanza VII.2,

VII. 2
Oil Oil Oil oil oil
oil oil oil oil oil; they’ve oil oil
oil oil oil
oil. Oil oil
the oil oil is
oil oil oil oil, oil oil oil strategic
oil. oil oil
oil oil oil
oil; oil oil of
oil nations oil oil. Oil societies oil oil
oil oil oil
oil oil, and
oil oil oil oil
oil oil oil oil oil oil. Oil United
Oil oil oil
and oil oil
oil oil oil oil.

(Prevallet 2007a)

Prevallet (2007b) acknowledges that her use of the constraint “refused to stop developing after the steps were followed and the pattern realized” until “the original passage became completely erased” (n.p). In an interesting parallel between the verbal reading of the poem and the physical ingesting of ‘oil’, Prevallet found herself choking and stuttering on the repetition of that small word ‘oil’. She writes,

“It’s impossible to say ‘oil oil oil oil oil’ without choking. It’s a hard, ugly, pig-like sound. When the poem came off the page and into my voice it became apparent that I had to gag on the word oil. Before this evening, I had read this poem several times, at different poetry readings”. (2007b, n.p)

After reading this deformed speech-poem, while still standing on the U.S, flag wearing a red, white and blue bathing suit, Prevallet then begins her arduous, durational ‘oil’-guzzling performance. Prevallet repeatedly chokes and gags on the liquid, which, according to the performer (2007b), is distressing for the people watching her: “[a]nother sobbed, permeating the silence of the riveted room” (n.p).

Both Prevallet’s effective deployment of the (altered) Oulipian constraint to replace the false speech of Bush with its unspoken primary reason for war (oil), and her performative ingestion of ‘oil’, accrue effect and affect through iteration. Where Prevallet’s repetition of the word ‘oil’ tangles her tongue, her lengthy pouring of ‘oil’ causes her throat to constrict. It is perhaps time to consider why I have placed ‘oil’ in quotation marks when discussing Prevallet’s performative ingestion. The ‘oil’ was in fact molasses that closely resembled oil. By omitting this substitution, I follow Elrick (2011), who in her description of Prevallet’s performance, uses two terms: “viscous black liquid” (p.267); and “toxic substance” (p.270). Only in the footnotes of Elrick’s (2011) article does the reader find the sentence, “[t]he audience was unaware that the substance in the oil-can was molasses” (p.270). Elrick’s withholding of ‘molasses’ for ‘oil’ follows Prevallet, and mine follows Elrick. In terms of performance, it is precisely Prevallet’s substitution of molasses for oil that takes her protest more securely into the realm of performance and performativity.

In contrast to this paper’s focus on one single, evocative performance by Prevallet, my discussion of Spahr’s performative ingestion encompasses the entire iterative accumulation of Spahr’s text, The Transformation, which is Spahr’s third major publication. Spahr (2007) began writing The Transformation “in 1999 or 2000” (p.217) when she moved from the U.S. to Hawai’i to take up a lecturing position in the English Department at the University of Hawai’i on Manoa. According to The Transformation, Spahr first experiences the impact of U.S. imperialism as a haole or non-Hawaiian, which triggers an awakening of sorts. 9/11 takes place shortly after her move, as does the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. and allies, which results in an increased media focus on oil, and the role it plays in sustaining petro-capitalism and accelerating climate change. Spahr’s text therefore encompasses this constellation of interconnected forces, events and their ramifications. I should also add that during this time, Spahr was living in a three-person romantic relationship to account for the “pressured pronouns” (p.205) she uses.

Over the course of The Transformation, Spahr and her lovers variously ingest flora, fauna, and the climatic elements of Hawai‘i, extinct species, pre-colonial languages and the “expansionist” language (English in this case), their status as “colonizers” (Spahr’s term), the melting of polar caps, and the military-industrial complex (p.210-211, p.98, p.213, p.212). Spahr introduces, revisits and elaborates on each of these entities and events throughout The Transformation, and it is only in the final four pages that Spahr and her lovers ingest them all as an interconnected string of somewhat alien comestibles. Spahr and her lovers ingest this string of entities and events not through their mouth but directly into the chambers, atria and ventricles of their heart, and through the valves, atria and veins of their lungs. While Spahr frequently uses the term ‘ingest’ in the buildup to the final pages, the most repeated verb in this last section is ‘pumped’:

Pumped with the right ventricles the 70 percent reduction of the zooplankton biomass. Pumped through their pulmonic valves a theory of collective responsibility. Pumped with the pulmonary arteries a vow to let the nameless and faceless deaths caused by the military that currently occupied the continent break up their language. (p.213)

In this excerpt, it is the anaphoric repetition of ‘pumped’ that pulses each event, entity and affective state in a semantic equivalent of the heart’s pumping of blood through the body. The verb ‘pumped’ not only names the function of the heart, but in the way it is used by Spahr, the verb is active and carries a sense of intentional, volitional action. ‘Pumped’ also coheres these disparate (though ultimately interconnected) events and responses, and in so doing, creates a textual and somatic pulse.

As a performative text, the intention of Spahr and her lovers as they ingest all that petro-capitalism and the military industrial complex have wrought globally on the rest of nature, is to take into their very bodies the fullest extent of (particularly) the West’s degradation of human and nonhuman lifeways. In this text, performative ingestion can be interpreted as an explicit willingness to go beyond the boundaries of subject and object, to swallow any hierarchical difference between agencies and to register absolute complicity. Spahr and her lovers ingest all the awkwardness of the time, as the following excerpt makes clear:

It was a time of overt and dramatically unsustainable resource use. It was a time of oil. And because it was a time of oil, it was a time of risk. It was a time of an altered environment, an environment altered by the oil economy. It was a time of invasive species. A time of climate change. A time of an overly fished and empty ocean. A time of the elimination of predators from ecosystems. A time of toxins in the water. A time of not enough fresh water. A time when it seemed all the parts of the world were being turned into an oil-based indestructible plastic. And because of this it was a time of bombing in different parts of the world. (p.205)

In this long refrain of anaphoric sentences, Spahr brings together the oil economy, war, and socio-ecological crisis. Her inventory of petro-capitalist-induced ecological crisis includes the introduction of invasive species and the elimination of predator species, climate change, unsustainable fishing practices, and pollution. Anaphoric repetition establishes a somatic pulse that amplifies the interpolation of the oil economy, war, and socio-ecological crisis.

Spahr’s somatic pulse can be contrasted with Prevallet’s stutter, but both emerge as a result of repetition and iteration. Spahr and Prevallet’s enactments of performative ingestion embody and critique the excesses and over-consumption of petro-capitalism. Where Prevallet’s performance is visceral, evocative and allusory, Spahr’s is textual, inventory-like, and accumulative. Both enactments of performative ingestion acknowledge complicity with oil dependency, and through their performances, Spahr and Prevallet make themselves vulnerable for the purpose of examining fraught entanglements and hierarchical relationality. Importantly, both practitioners perform ingestion with abject, toxic, degraded, and violent events volitionally. This volitional dimension draws Prevallet and Spahr’s work into relation with Alaimo’s concept of the trans-corporeal introduced earlier.

In contrast to Prevallet and Spahr’s willingness to be relational through vulnerability, Alaimo and the subjects and cases with which she develops her theoretical framework of trans-corporeality are, (perhaps quite rationally) resistant to chemical contamination (the vehicle for interconnection Alaimo uses). Alaimo (2010) draws on environmental justice accounts of toxic infiltration and “chemical trespass” (p.83) to illustrate the trans-corporeal. In the ethical space of the trans-corporeal, Alaimo (2010) frames the human body as “never rigidly enclosed, but vulnerable to the substances and flows of its environments… permeable” (p.28). This intermeshing of human and nonhuman entities via industrial toxins also sustains the theoretical discourse of ‘ecosickness’ in texts such as Heather Houser’s Ecosickness in Contemporary U.S.: Environment and Affect (2014). In these accounts, toxins and chemicals contaminate the soil and water that both humans and nonhumans ingest. Although understandably resistant to chemical trespass without consent, to toxins that “take up residence within the body”, to entities who “absorb” (against their will) toxicants (p.83, p.102, pp.110), Prevallet and Spahr’s volitional ingestion can be figured as relationally inclined, even reparative, precisely because the act of ingestion is not resistant but voluntary.

Performative ingestion of all petro-capitalism’s negative impacts in Prevallet and Spahr’s work can be positioned as either commensurate with socio-ecological crisis or excessive. In Braidotti’s (2016) relational philosophy of radical immanence, which is founded on reciprocity, she defines radical immanence as, “unfolding the self onto the world, while enfolding the world within” (p.26). It could be argued that Western bodies (to varying extents) have already unfolded themselves onto the world via imperialism, and that enfolding might be a more equitable approach. On this reading, a clear correlation would seem to exist between Braidotti’s enfolding the world within and performative ingestion as enacted by Prevallet and Spahr. But what are the implications for enfolding or ingesting the world? That is, what does performative ingestion enable? There are both general and specific answers to this proposition.

In general terms, performative ingestion in the work of Prevallet and Spahr evinces a commitment to ethical relationality with the rest of nature, and addresses the inequities caused by petro-capitalism, particularly socio-ecological crisis. This commitment is evident in both practitioners’ acknowledgment of complicity and in their willingness to be vulnerable. Complicity, vulnerability, and relationality form a chain of interconnected affective states of being that encourage openness to the other, and particularly to the grievances of the other. Performative ingestion through iterative physical and textual enfolding is one response to socio-ecological crisis that makes crystalline our obligations to the rest of nature.

For Prevallet, and here I am in agreement with Elrick’s (2011) assessment, Prevallet’s performative ingestion acquiesces to the “permanence of mourning” (p.264). Through Prevallet’s ‘oil’-guzzling performance and related poetry and performance works, Prevallet offers mourning as a permanent affective state commensurate with socio-ecological crisis (and to personal trauma). As LeMenager (2014) writes, “[f]orgetting the trauma of an oil spill or the death toll of sea otters in Prince William Sound to resume modern life as usual implies not only the vagaries of memory and the cognitive paralysis of despair, but also something terribly compelling about modern life as usual” (p.66). Prevallet holds open the duration of mourning in order to be responsive to the affective potentialities that such an openness encourages.

Loss, grief, and mourning similarly recur in Spahr’s poetry, but in The Transformation, performative ingestion, as the text’s title suggests, is oriented towards transforming Spahr herself and her writing. By listing, inventorying, ingesting, and pumping through her and her lovers’ bodies the abjection of ecological crisis and war, Spahr and her beloveds hope that this process of volitional vulnerability will transform them sufficiently to write precisely from a place of transformation. A transformation that is oriented towards ameliorating socio-ecological crisis.


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