Alter the genetic code of the males so they produce sterile offspring, then let them breed the species out of existence. It sounds like the set-up for a fairly funny joke about how shit men are, but it’s actually the exciting way to eliminate a disease vector, to ‘edit nature’. Trick a creature into killing itself through sex. This is a new ploy of epidemiologists, but it’s also just another day in Florida, Zika or no Zika. Wallace Stevens said that Florida had ‘venereal soil’ because everything on it squiggled with fecund pizzazz. So modifying 90,000 mozzies on Key Haven for a trial specicide lets us excite two often-ignored taste buds: the moral and the technological taste buds. Both at once? Well, that’s like smelling a cake and a casserole baking in the same oven. It’s unpredictable, unbelievable, unheimlich, un-something.
For twenty-five years the brave French ignored the Académie Française’s call to drop the circumflex. But a bad message will get through in the end, like the neighbours’ horrible music heard through the cat-flap. Resistance is what happens while other people discuss what to do now that you’ve lost. In English, the printed long s was killed by the revolutions of the end of the eighteenth century as surely as the 4,000 people drowned in the Loire at Nantes in 1793 were. Yet we find Edward Lear using it in his handwritten diaries into the 1880s, addressing himself in a way at once familiar and increasingly strange. Private usage of vanished symbols is how we make arcana, and arcana helps us reintroduce magic into language, on top of the conjuration that language already is.
Argument: everything made before your last ever work is juvenilia. Your career advances in one direction, outbound, and, like a minor river, culminates in a city on the sea that is the only reason anyone will have heard of the river at all. (See Plymouth, Falmouth.) The counter-argument is that at the moment you first turn to art your childhood ends. Once you accept responsibility for the lives of words or sounds or shapes, every creation is a mature creation. On her fifteenth birthday, in 1767, Frances Burney ‘burned her collected juvenilia in a doomed attempt to cure herself of writing.’ Regardless of which argument you favour, it’s easy to see why the attempt was doomed: 1) like dentists, writers are advised not to work on themselves, 2) burned books are more forbidden than forgotten, in the same way that the grey painting-over of graffiti shocks the sensibilities more than graffiti ever does.
Erik Kennedy's poems have appeared in (or are forthcoming in) places like Ladowich, Prelude, and PUBLIC POOL in the U.S., 3:AM Magazine, Oxford Poetry, and Poems in Which in the U.K., and Landfall and Sport in New Zealand. He is the poetry editor for Queen Mob's Teahouse. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.