‘A DISGUSTING LIE’ by Fran Lock
A5, 226 pages, black and white printing, perfect bound, softcover, 2023
If Hyena! Jackal! Dog! (2021) tendered a feral poetics through the lens of therianthropy, then ‘a disgusting lie’ is concerned with animality in its most abject and excessive forms. Hyena! returns, but changed, not merely beastly, but monstrous: physically, psychically, morally, and politically. This Hyena!, like all monstrous bodies, knocks aside her receiving subjects, gestures to a terrifying excess of meaning beyond all of those tired canons of the “natural”.
With her habitual disregard for the language of accommodation or catharsis, Lock interrogates what it means to inhabit an impossible (queer) body within a (politically) unbearable present. ‘a disgusting lie’ is preoccupied with violence as both a rhetorical and territorial strategy – all the weakly murderous uses English is put to – and with the smug inertness of literature’s response.
The phrase ‘a disgusting lie’ is taken from Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy, and the notion that without ‘sincere passion, the heroism of self-sacrifice, and the unity of thought, word, and deed’ revolutionism ‘inevitably degenerates into rhetoric and becomes a disgusting lie’. Yet Lock is – at best – an ambivalent subscriber to this school of thought; her disgust is capacious, and she bestows it with as much energy on the sentimental overtures of extremism as on the guarded and self-regarding soundbites of “moderates”.
What drives Lock’s poetry, however savage or uncompromising, is a fierce and compassionate regard for the ill-used o/Other in our midst; those whose minds and bodies cannot or will not reproduce the values and forms neoliberalism wills on them.
In Dead Girl Industrial Complex, the final section of the book, voices of murdered women and girls break out in strange and puzzling polyphony. Featuring a cast of characters including the Babylonian Goddess Tiamat, and the alleged sixteenth century witch, Mary Bateman, strips of whose skin were tanned into leather and sold to bind books – specifically The Hurt of Sedition and Arcadian Princess – following her execution, this section of the book is perhaps the darkest and most troubling, yet it is also the funniest, full of rangy wit, slant asides, knowing winks, and Lock’s characteristic word-play. Lock uses language to undo it, to return its hex three-fold to sender. Hyena! wants a grammar of irrational possibility, to carve a space in and through poetry for a feral commons.