Mala piel / Bad skin

Bad skin is my translation of Mala piel, a poem by Carmen Berenguer. It’s about bodies, women’s body, color, texture, in a political anti-dissection of the conventions of anatomical description that catalogues our body parts. It made me think of Monique Wittig’s work The Lesbian Body, but written in densely disruptive neobarroque (or neobarroso) verses.

Mala piel branches into multiple directions or layers, evoking the history and landscape of ocean-faring indigenous people of Chile, who lived most of their lives in their doubled canoes. Women owned the boats and hunted shellfish underwater; men and boys were forbidden to learn how to swim, gathering eggs and other food on land.

tiny books

I had mixed feelings about surrounding the poem and translation with other stuff. Illustrations, a short encyclopedia entry about the history of the Kwashkar or Alcalufe people, a little quote from Helene Cixous “The Laugh of the Medusa” (“Le rire de la méduse”), a photo of Berenguer accepting a literary prize from Chile’s President Bachelet. In my impulse to provide context, I may be suffocating the work. It’s a poem best read multiple times or circularly. It’s strong and weird. Maybe it should stand alone. Why did I surround it with these trappings of legitimacy? While I love context and footnotes and glossaries and cheat sheets, biographies, research, and history, and fancy talk about decolonization, if you don’t love that stuff, please ignore it. Read the poem however you like!

As long as you love its stretchmarks and pores, and notice a little of the politics, I’m happy!

The cover of the book is warm brown and randomly speckled – Mohawk Kraft cardstock – and the pages are natural linen, 24 lb. I printed 250 and am planning on mailing 50 of them to Carmen.

Here is a video of Carmen Berenguer at a reading,



The first in this year’s series of tiny books is Daylighting, a long poem on the geography and history of a buried creek system of San Francisco. The creek formerly known as Islais goes under Alemany Boulevard and out into the Bay through Bayview and the Mission, where 101 and Cesar Chávez cross. The poem is a critique of the politics of the creek’s past, present, and imaginary futures.

Daylighting was printed in January 2011 in a run of 300 copies, and I’m still mailing it out to people on the Burn This Press list.

Here’s part of the promenade along the mouth of Islais Creek. It’s in Bayview, just north of Hunters Point and east of Potrero Hill.

Islais Creek Promenade

To get there, go east on Cesar Chávez under the 101 and 280 freeways. Turn right on Indiana Street and then onto Tulare. The broad shallow steps and sea walls could make a nice spot for skateboarding. If you continue around on 3rd St. and across the creek you may find a small park, or Building Re:sources, which sells a fantastic assortment of recycled junk.

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Here’s what the tiny books look like!

January book

I should note that much of the last verse is homage to an unpublished novel by Jo Spanglemonkey about the last woman in the world; the last generations had a political movement to re-green everything, tearing up pavements and trying to re-create some semblance of wild or Nature or something, erasing their evidence as best as possible to create new habitats for the inheritors of the planet. The last woman in the world wandered around the SF Bay Area, talking to her mother’s ghost and to her horse and dog. It’s completely unfair to make complicated literary references to an unpublished manuscript that will probably be different whenever it sees the light of day, but that suits me fine as it is also unfair to refer to shitty elitist cultural references that no one gives a flying fuck about, such as anything about classical music, flowers, a “famous” painting, New York, Paris, or some book about middle class people having massive yet quiet angst about their boring-ass lives. As “poetry” tends to do.

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