MY VIRTUAL PUSSY, MY ARTIFICIAL LUNGS
Poet Anaïs Duplan reflects on Juliana Huxtable’s otherworldly collection Mucus in My Pineal Gland (Wonder and Capricious, May 2017)
Something feels wrong about calling Juliana Huxtable’s new book a “poetry collection.” Huxtable’s poems feel more like Tumblr posts whose maneuvering of space, time, and genre is downright masterly. Straddling narrative poetry, speculative fiction, and archival document, Mucus in my Pineal Gland doesn’t present itself as a series of cohesive object-ideas (i.e. “poems”), but rather, as a colloquium of our voices, connected online.
While there are the occasional moments of lineated lyric verse, MIMPG announces itself as striving for a “VISUAL LANGUAGE CASTRATED OF ITS GRAMMATICAL STRUCTURE.” The majority of the text is in all-caps, with section titles like “DIVINE BITCHES” made up of prose blocks that extend for pages on end. Huxtable’s loose and copious syntax and morphing typographical landscape serve as the engines by which body and text – text and body – become interchangeable with one another.
Like the parts of the body, syntactical grammar relies on a “STRUCTURE WITHIN WHICH ITS MEANING RESIDES.” Flesh is the threshold that speaks and that is called upon whenever you refer yourself to me, or I to you. Throughout MIMPG, Huxtable maps the body’s planes and passageways, while at the same time drafting a map of what it means to make physical contact with someone else, or to hide from that contact. “IT’S PINK INSIDE THE BLACKEST STRETCH / OF FLESHTONE PLANES WHERE GOOSEBUMPS / TAKE PERMANENT RESIDENCE BETWEEN RIDGES / THAT HIDE THE MOON,” she writes in the poem, “MORNING LIGHT ON MY SKIN.” With keen awareness of the body’s physicality, Huxtable deconstructs the experience of embodiment down into tones, textures, and landscape. The book’s deconstructive impulse may be the reason why MIMPG seems full of maxim-like wisdom: “THE AGENCY ONE HAS IS TO PLAY IN THE REFLECTIONS.” You can’t help how other people perceive you or your body, but you can play in the spotlight.