Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Lyric Fever: Erin Moure and the Queer Anatomy of Lyric Life

Academic journal article Mosaic (Winnipeg)

Lyric Fever: Erin Moure and the Queer Anatomy of Lyric Life

Article excerpt

This essay reads Erin Moure's O Cadoiro with Derrida's Archive Fever and against lyric criticism's dream that its genre lives, arguing that Moure's work anatomizes the lyric and queers its archive to reveal that it has always been nominal: its singular voice and its proper whole alive in name only.

Erin Moure

"Erin Moure"

Eirin Moure

Erin Moure

Elisa Sampedrin

Calgarii Mourii

Hardly proper patronyms, this list names some of the heteronyms, pseudonyms, and even toponyms associated with the work of "Erin Moure." (1) If they were not working to undo the lyric genre's central claim to subjective expression, these -nyms might look and sound lyrical in their line-breaks and slant repetitions, their slight shifts in length and typographic emphasis, and their letter-by-letter displacements. As it is, their mobility and their multiplicity sound their author's repeated challenge to that genre. "Erin Moure" consistently refuses to resign herself to the monopoly of the English language or to sign on with the lyric, whether hand-picking "lesbian sex poems" from computer-generated prose in Pillage Laud, "transelating" Alberto Caeiro and/as Fernando Pessoa and/as Eirin Moure in Sheep's Vigil by a Fervent Person, quoting from Elisa Sampedrin in Little Theatres, falling back on the Galician-Portuguese cantigas in O Cadoiro as Erin Moure, or working with and as Sampedrin on translations of Nichita Stanescu and Paul Celan in O Resplandor. In translation, the title of O Cadoiro might be taken to name a waterfall or cataract, but rather than carrying one meaning across languages or sustaining the lyric as the expression of emotion through a single voice, the collection carries these singularities out of any assumed unity. Nominally based on the cantigas of medieval Galician-Portuguese troubadours and echoing with the "perverse" courtly love practice by which "names were never named" ("O" 275), throughout O Cadoiro names are dropped, doubled, or graphically crossed out: Joham de Guylhade, Maria Perez (or Balteira), Johan Lopez D Ulhoa; even Pessoa makes a "scribbled" appearance (7), as does "[begin strikethrough]Calgharij M.[end strikethrough] (for I cannot call her)" (54). These polyonymous cantigas also provide a polyglot "fount for [Moure's] own inventions and coalects" (133); beyond monoglot English, beyond a dialect, O Cadoiro's coalects put languages in proximity by transelation, suturing English to French and Galician-Portuguese. Moure characterizes transelation as textual inscription and "exhorbitant" performance: an embodied reading practice that carries English and its lyric subject outside and in excess of themselves ("Exhorbitant" 173). Of O Cadoiro's transelations and denominations she observes, "I wrote plaints of my own, enacting, mixing and echoing, translating but two or three poems and enclosing them among those that are sheer invention, and attributing my own poems impulsively to whichever troubadour's name was most proximate in my notebooks" ("O" 275-76). (2) For Moure, proximity connotes the placement of elements into the same visual field of the page without grammatical or logical connection ("Staging" 291). These approximations and transelations undermine the lyric's presumed unity, its immediacy, and its originality, displacing its historical priority along with any linguistic or authorial propriety.

Given this persistent challenge to their language and their object of study, and despite the proliferating possibilities above, certain critics have no doubt about what Moure and her work should be called. While no longer in question, Moure's standing in the experimental CanLit canon is no less criticized for her apparently opaque and unabashedly intellectual work. A small but vocal critical minority calls that work inaccessible, baffling, offensive, egregious, flaccid, and masturbatory, a "wanton wordplay" that "embraces failure" and uses a "largely outmoded style of poetry" (Gray n. …

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