recently i have read much about eating disordered writing -- particularly that anorexic writing is minimalist. i disagree.

baroque. the writing of anorexia is maximalist. anorexia is a disease of constructs, of labyrinthine complexities, gilded passages of perfect mathematical stringency in unwavering discipline and self control. 

when one plays a passage of baroque music there is little room for rubato, for fondling melody and coaxing out and cajoling, for bending. the best players of baroque music play precisely as written, the best anorexic follows the rules.

arguments for anorexic writing as minimalism only take into account the anorexic as body. the anorexic body is simply a symptom of the disease, things are not so stark and simple as a fleshless form, and anorexia does not align itself with the aesthetic doctrine of minimalism -- that of attention to material and texture. anorexia seeks to exceed the material, to overcome the bodily, to achieve a 'holiness' that supercedes physical demands and limitations.

the anorexic is a maximalist.

she is clogged, meticulous, stuffed with food records, hoarded candy, recipe books, calories counted, exercise regimes. ask an anorexic how not to eat and her mouth floods: chew ice, keep an image of something disgusting on the kitchen table, padlock the refrigerator, drink vinegar, write notes on packages of food. this is not a disease of minimalism; anorexia is laid out in an endless script. this is the presentation of the true function of the illness; food, eating, the organization of the day around it and the avoidance of it; these things act as devices to distract from what::

anorexia is not about the body, this is a maddening yet almost universally held misconception. the shift of the surface is only one symptom of an illness deeply entrenched elsewhere. that the body becomes the locus for abuse is only a presentation of the compulsion to change into Other, to become child or alien, to become anyone else. anything else. shit to gold. fat to thin. alchemy

anorexia is as much not about food as it is not about the body. the obsession with foodlessness and tautening is Distraction, and Deceit must become ever more mazelike to keep the focus away from the core, the mind is incessantly fabricating deeper complications for itself, repeating repeating repeating until the person is lost and becomes the instrument that the disease wants to play. hours of exercise and caloric burn and BMI and numbers and numbers and calculations and days onto days and weeks and years and pounds and postulates and structures and structures repeating repeating repeating onto the architecture of  ::

(open a page of bach’s well tempered clavier, note the directions to play pianissimo, note the moment when the fugue motif is repeated precisely 8 measures following its inception in the other hand. note when it appears again in the bass 8 measures following that. no movement of the hand is unaccounted for. The structure is in place, the player has only to fulfill the task)

bach wrote for god, wrote to exceed earthly limitations:: 

stories of oracles who laid in caves for months without food. ascetics purifying, seeking a spirit outside themselves. hunger artists. the body is only a vessel. anorectic writing is writing that strives to escape the body::

yet the argument that anorexia is a ‘disappearing body’ does not hold. the anorexic body occupies the same space as the normal body; occupies, more or less, the same mass and shadowspace, and the same breath of oxygen is needed to fill the anorexic lung. the anorexic body is simply closer to the true anatomy of the human figure. 

i do not believe that the anorexic wishes to become ‘male,’ as seems to be a widely held view. the silhouette of the truly starved is neither male nor female but androgynous. note the body of the concentration camp; try to distinguish between genders when the essence of the physical frame catches in light and shadow.

the nuances of the tendons, the articulation of veins, the curve of the clavicle: the anorexic body is the body made naked and visible; it is not hiding or disappearing, it juts into::

thinness in a woman is glorified. yet the truly emaciated body, as categorized by medical standards, is horrifying to behold. a sixty pound woman is not beautiful by any normative standard nor by any extreme standard, and this is another reason why the truly anorectic shape is not about body. a sixty pound woman knows she is not beautiful, but a sixty pound woman will not stop at sixty -- she is fighting to acquiesce her physical needs, and she is winning.

and so the best anorexic is dead. the best anorexic is she who has a body no longer. and ironically, only when the anorexic is dead is anorexia about the body. with death the host has left a husk and a trophy.

i wanted to bring my BFA thesis here, or at least what could be presented in this screenglow. 

i wrote my thesis about anorexia, about the systems and constraints of the disease; about deprivation, fixation, distortion, consumption, emptiness, control, and perfection. it is also a disease which denies and dances around itself endlessly -- it was my aim to talk about it without ever talking about it.

anorexia is a mathematical disease, and as i tend to contextualize my writing in terms of music, i chose the form of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (Book I) to as a template for the writing. the music of the baroque is the music of Absolute. it is rigid, ornamental, gilded, caged.

i chose to follow the form of Bach's piano pieces based on meter, tempo, and tone. I constructed a syntactical lexicon to fit each piece which i programmed into the texts using various techniques of music theory analysis which was sometimes stringent and sometimes loose. i then smoothed everything out to make each piece melodic/ lyrical/ decorative.

these are some notes about the Bach WTC upon which i based some of my basic methods of textual integration:

prelude 1 – moderato - evenness, meter, repetition
fugue 1 – andante espressivo e molto legato
prelude 2 – allegro  - energico, repetition, homogeny, frenetic
fugue 2 – allegretto – grazioso e tranquillo
prelude 3 – vivace 3/8  - whimsical, whirling, dancing
fugue 3 – allegro – con grazia
prelude 4 – andante 6/4 – very sad, slow, graceful, longing, long line
fugue 4 – molto moderato – largo e maestoso -  excesssively slow.
prelude 5 – vivace – frantic, bouncing
fugue 5 – allegro moderato – risoluto e sempre marcato – stern, sonorous.
prelude 6 –  allegro ma non troppo – repetition, left hand takes melody, like rain
fugue 6 – moderato ¾
prelude 7 – largo – strong, changes in pacing and tone, dissonance
fugue 7 – allegro
prelude 8 – sostenuto 3/2 – the most beautiful, mournful, arpeggiated, singing. 
fugue 8 – andante – tranquillo  slow, quiet, winter stillness. 
prelude 9 – allegretto piacevole 12/8 -  even meter
fugue 9 – allegro – brilliante con fuoco – bright, punchy. 
prelude 10 – andante – long, singing line. 
fugue 10 – allegro capriccioso ¾ - leggiero ma ben accentuato
prelude 11 – allegro 12/8 – quick, brief, light.
fugue 11  - allegretto 3/8 - tranquillo
prelude 12 – andante  - autumnal, sad. 
fugue 12 – molto moderato – largo e pensieroso – dissonant, sad, long. 

Here's a thing i wrote about it at the time:

I saw striking parallels between the complexities of anorexic behavior and the severe architecture and technical perfectionism of baroque musical form. I composed 24 poems derived from dissection of J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Book One. The work as a whole was limited to a textual lexicon culled from months of research into self-starvation and its history. Each of the poems employs a different approach/process, but each is similarly haunted by repetition, rigidity, and ritual. Mathematical systems deduced from meticulous musical theoretical/thematic material analysis were implemented to deconstruct the appropriated preludes and fugues, transcribing the music into text (for example, Prelude 2 in C minor is a thematic analysis in which the left and right hands perform the same material in harmonic counterpoint, thus the upper and lower registers of the text are composed of lists of food pleasure and physical disgust, respectively).

here are some of them. please keep in mind that i wrote these when i was 17-21 years old, and that i sucked and perhaps continue to suck.  

prelude one in c major:  ave maria

i have made you ten years golden
graceful utter, unfurl
my name
my name the tongue my tongue the name

be reverent be tender
O how thick 
your fingers

fugue one in c major: ave maria

dried soprano stuck lung
lumped clay that will not set

O how dark

this body pushing
valves to stutter stumbling
desperate shove from sleep
my fool’s damp head to headboard warped
as blackened oak will warp when damp. 

fugue two in c minor: dogwood

make me pearl. 

incense of the exhumed pulp
scrape my insides with wire
purge the tissues of my belly
cleanse and purify my inner walls
make me pink and


prelude three in c sharp major: the kafka

Keep vigil
with your torch
and see lit
the spine from the gut
that I have swallowed
no secrets
in forty days
forty nights a vigil here

please kiss me
lift your lips to my ear
 use your unslaked throat to beg. 

the sound
knees that knock together.

The gaze of animal the
drowsy wandering eye the
still breath that does not move the breast
pulse restless and visible the
devoted ribs to rise to

fugue three in c sharp major: the kafka

kill me
so that a fine stew
might be made of my flesh

for as I slept the devil robbed me
turned my human shape
to cow.

prelude 4 in c minor: the moth

months come autumn months in gathered mounds as for ten years stacked
twigs of virgin linen, stone, and wood.

and weave your garment veins of pine
come pierce my belly walls with root

blanch my tongue of bitterness wax wound boughs wound between the ribs

satisfy my wants with bark.


Steven Augustine said...

This object is so well-constructed and beautiful that in spots that I don't "understand" it I blame myself and enjoy the ignorance because I trust that my ignorance is under your control. You must either be oblivious to the gap between what you're doing and what is generally "out there" or you must be having a terrible fucking time (sometimes).

kristin hayter said...

Stephen, you are so kind, i am moved and flattered by your comment. thank you.

nandorocker said...

I only saw this now and I'm glad you posted the work, I also like writing in the post itself a lot. Very clear and personal, and feels very honest.

I think it's awesome to post something like this, from your personal perspective. I really like your poetic work as you know, but I also really like when I read things like this.

Also, wow, totally forgot about those hospital pics...

Anonymous said...

Are those you in those pictures? If so someone has used your picture on another site claiming it is them.

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