In this past weekend's Sunday Book Review, David Orr pretty much confesses to a"gender bias" in assessing the topic of my last post, O Magazine's poetry issue, especially its "Spring Fashion Modelled by Rising Young Poets" feature. He calls mixing the two disciplines--fashion and poetry--a sign of "the coming apocalypse."
This kind of highbrow dismissal of feminized popular art forms like fashion has been roundly critiqued for lo these thirty years by feminist cultural critics, but in the boy-boy world of the poetry biz, you can have your sexist cake, eat it too, and still pimp your book in the New York Times. Hey David Orr, newsflash: Fashion design and fashion modelling are both art forms. Design is a form of making (like making a poem! like making a sculpture!) and modelling a form of performance (like acting! or performance art!). Neither are beneath the dignity of anyone seriously engaged with visual culture. Let's take Kate Durbin, whose work seems to have inspired the feature Orr hates so much.
Like Marina Abramovic (http://www.moma.org/explore/multimedia/videos/96/56) or Linda Montano,
Kate is engaged in a long-term performance art project that involves in part reading her (extremely accomplished and well-regarded) poetry in costumes she creates specifically to blur the boundaries between fashion and poetry.
Straight male poets have to work so hard to make poetry seem, well, masculine. (Their work pays off, as the recent Vida survey confirmed. Male poets take up most of the space in literary magazines in the United States and Britain. Just more talented and deserving? Check it out: http://vidaweb.org/category/the-count.)
Throwing fashion, a business run by gay men that caters to women, into the mix, risks undoing all that good masculinizing cultural labor. You know what? Too bad. And go Kate, Marina, Linda, and all the other genre-mixing, high-low culture-combining, irreverent and brilliant women artists who make David Orr and his ilk nervous.