666: AN INTERVIEW WITH HEATHER GOODRICH
Installment Four | Author Four
[six words six authors six issues]
The 666 Interview Series is an attempt to explore language, the conceptual, and experimentation in writing and art-making by creating a space of vulnerability and transfiguration through engaging simultaneously with a structured and open format.
The last words in Heather Goodrich’s chapbook The Filaments of Heather read, “I murdered the secret keeper in me.” Who is this secret keeper? Is she the repressed, the downtrodden? The angel in the house who no longer agrees to her role, to swallowing her own voice, her power? In Alice Notley’s poem The Secret, she writes, “If reality in all its details were but aspects of a voice/it would not be Language, rather, one would be obligated/to define voice.”
In this slim and terse volume, the reader encounters a woman whose voice is shaped by her overshadowing domestic life. She must clean. Specifically, she must sweep. Her clothes unravel. Her body decays. And still, she sweeps. The patience surrounding this chore feels urgent, an act of perseverance. She sweeps because it is all she has left, all she can do. An undeniable bridge between language and action begins to illuminate. To sweep is to weep. It is a motion of automatic creation. The body creates water, specifically tears, in reaction, and in this case in reaction to normalized ruin. She s(weeps) as an act of what Bachelard would refer to as the “impossible real, that share of disaster where every reality, safe and sound, sinks.”
The performative act of sweeping is a motion that can never be exactly replicated. It slightly shifts each time the broom is taken in hand. Is this a vision of decay or literal decay? What does it mean to stand on a dirt floor swept clean of dirt? It is here that to sweep becomes an action of unreal domesticity. Just as domesticity forms identity, so does the unreal domestic, subverting the concept of the domestic itself and therefore destabilizing this internalized patriarchial role. Sweeping becomes a reclamation of agency. The angel in the house is killed by the hysteric, who cannot stop the repetitive action of sweeping, which strips reality down to its seedy underbelly, and the viewer begins to witness the abject body: squishy pink guts, desire and rot. The female body is experienced in many forms. It is oppressor, other, and self. It is meat memory, sausage casing. Through this engagement with the visceral, the speaker summons the reader into her descent.
Goodrich writes not only of the domestic disaster, but also of its history, as her prose span both girl and womanhood, revisiting a hazy innocence as the speaker kisses mirrors and snaps dandelion necks. She also gestures towards the wise woman and the crone through the text’s pervasive underlying connection to witchcraft and alchemy. It’s as if Goodrich invites the reader to grab a broom and get to work dismantling the master’s house through this repetition. Is it possible to dismantle the master’s house with the master’s tools if you first cover them in excess flesh, menstrual blood, placenta, a screaming voice? Can we melt down the broom and shape it into our own? Can we reclaim it for the girl, the woman, the crone?
Full disclosure: Yes, Heather is an editor here at Gesture. Is this shameless promotion? Perhaps. What I am certain of is that The Filaments of Heather is an important work, one that needs to be talked about and included in the expanding discussion of the 666 series.
Disengage from the narratives that exist. Did said narratives receive permission to act or did they just act? When a body is under duress, it will bend and break until it ruptures. What then?
For several years, I dream about sucking blood from someone else’s fingers. I am not the only person in my dream doing this. All of the people are living, drinking blood. Or sometimes, I dream about being on my period and not having anything to absorb the blood. To interpret my dreams, I type “Carl Jung Blood Dream” into Google, and several returned entries state that if someone dreams about blood, it is a warning sign for mental health issues. Of course, I roll my eyes and say something like “for fuck’s sake.” Then, I Google “blood dream interpretation” and I receive no blood-to-mental health results. Instead, I get 38 possibilities from one site from “relationship problems” to “premonition of something bad.” What does madness feel like? Each website I go to has a different take or a narrative that is so expansive that it covers every facet of life, in addition to bombarding me with popups to buy a book, talk to a psychic, talk to an interpreter to really interpret my dreams. Maybe I’m in the wrong business. I could make up all of this shit, too. When I read one of my mom’s clinical nursing textbooks on psychiatric mental health, it does not say anything on Jung or blood dreams, instead I’m slighted by the fact that in 800 pages, there is less than one page about actual perception.
As a female writer, killing the angel in the house is necessary. Evaluate the metaphors, tropes, and symbols in a text. For centuries, houses have symbolized the female body. The house is a cell in which keeps woman in her place: trapped, kept, owned. In this possession, female authors have explored the house/female body as haunted, dilapidated or living creatures. These transgressive metaphors may have worked for that time, but they no longer work now. The angel and monster female tropes are stifling female representation in narratives. Kill the angel, kill the monster. And for that matter, kill the female/bird metaphors.
Lately, I avoid looking up. The neck aches. The sentences are dulled, perfectly-scribed constructions. Like sucking on cinnamon candies until the tongue is no longer piqued by spiked burning, it is lulled into a rolling pulse. The tongue existing to swallow. To keep going. When is the right time to transgress instead of swallow? Fat girls usually don’t look up. They don’t deserve that right. Their necks are bent, observing the ground, unable to see anything else coming.
The woman’s will specified that her body was to be donated to the human body exhibit. She always wanted to travel the world. Upon death, her body would go through the extensive process of plastination:
1. Stop the decay. Embalm and anatomically dissect her body. Use a scalpel to peel back her skin, remove her fat, remove the connective tissues to keep the anatomical structure intact.
2. Soak her in an acetone bath to remove all water and more fat.
3. Lift her body from the acetone and put her into a vacuum chamber to remove acetone from her tissues and replace it with silicone.
4. Correctly place her body: squatting, spread eagle with her hands behind her head. This is non-negotiable. Use any necessary materials (wires, glue, nails, etc.) to keep the integrity of her position.
5. Cure her body accordingly, depending on the plastic used, whether it is with hardened by heat, light or gas.
Her body was found in a well and never donated because it was too badly decayed. When she was removed, her clothes pulled away revealing her swollen skin and stretchmarks. Her body was incinerated and she never saw the world.
If I knew erasure was coming, I would have left trails of rice to find my way out.
Cavities indicate that my sweetheart mouth is a problem. A cavity forms when a thought rises and the throat, mine, is warm. My second and third molars throb.
This is when I should swallow my tongue.
Cut it off.
A hysteric text does not have pre-existing narrative structures and forms of representation of characters/figures/actors. A hysteric text is a new discourse of bursts and performances. It is writing about the body as the body is. Less of a salvaging and more of a reclamation. A hysteric text can be a narrative of excess and emotions to give feminism a jolt. A jolt of dissociation. A graveyard for metaphors. Hysteria is not a goddamn bird. Hysteria is not a wandering womb. Hysteria is a logical reaction to the psychological and physical colonialism of the female body.
Lastly, please leave us with a word, an offering for the next interview: Settle.
Heather Goodrich’s work appears in The Filaments of Heather (Sad Spell Press, 2015) and A Poetic Inventory of Rocky Mountain National Park (Wolverine Farm, 2012). Her novel GRISTLE will be published soon by Durga Press. She received her MFA in Prose from Naropa University and BAs in English and Journalism from Colorado State University. Heather co-runs Gesture Press & Journal and lives in the Front Range of Colorado.