cover image Homage to Leroi Jones and Other Early Works

Homage to Leroi Jones and Other Early Works

Kathy Acker, edited by Gabrielle Kappes. CUNY/Lost & Found (SPD, dist.), $8 trade paper (68p) ISBN 978-0-9888945-2-5

Written in the early 1970s, when Acker was 25 and not yet "the high priestess of punk" that she would be dubbed a little more than a decade later, the four early works in this volume constitute a portrait of the artist as experimenter. "Homage to Leroi Jones" consists of "exercises" (Acker's own term) employing William Burroughs's cut-up approach to transform narrative into a form of rhythmic and repetitive scat-song more akin to poetry than prose. Using the same approach in "Journal Black Cats Black Jewels," Acker serves up slivers of impressions and observations that read like a running commentary on her moods from moment to moment: "feel disgust. feel horny. feel burnt skin. ache. feel desire. friendly. unending pain." By contrast, the lush, erotic imagery of "Excerpts From: Entrance into Dwelling in Paradise" more fully anticipates the novels that secured Acker's fame, such as Blood and Guts in High School. A selection of her letters to writer and musician Alan Sondheim, with whom she collaborated on the performance piece Blue Tape, offer raw observations about the intersections between her creative and personal lives. Fans of Acker's work will appreciate this illuminating glimpses of the artist in the making. (Sept.)