Who’s Afraid of Kathy Acker?

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Who’s Afraid of Kathy Acker? Everyone apparently: all the edge lords who should embrace a unique voice of pain and punk ethos; all the punk writers who want to champion a rebel voice and a fuck-you attitude; all the sex-positive feminists who want to celebrate our bodies and the right to express our truths however messy; and pretty much anyone else. Why? A big part surely is her in-your-face (sometimes literally) embrace of sex — wild, now, unapologetic — which is bad enough in Western eyes but then there’s the complication of her love of pain, her frank exploration of her early abuse, her own often deeply problematic relationships to power.

I dunno: maybe she should have killed a partner playing William Tell. Then she could be celebrated for not conforming. Or maybe she should have never allowed herself to write about being a victim. Because riding Harley and sporting tattoos and a punk buzz cut just don’t cut it enough. And then dying too soon — not from some overly romanticised suicide or overdose but by cancer as far too many women do.

I just needed some fierceness this week. Some words:

Even a woman who has the soul of a pirate, at least pirate morals, even a woman who prefer loneliness to the bickerings and constraints of heterosexual marriage, even such a woman who is a freak in our society needs a home.
Even freaks needs homes, countries, language, communication.
The only characteristic freaks share is our knowledge that we don’t fit in. Anywhere. Is it for you, freaks, my loves, I am writing and it is about you.

In the total devastation of the heart which is the world, the lands-lords rule. There is no way we can defeat the landslords. But under their reins and their watchful eyes.
I sail as the winds of lusts and emotions bare me. Everywhere and anywhere. I who will never own, whatever and whenever I want, I take.

  • Don Quixote, 1986

It’s all up to you, girls. You have to be strong. These are the days of post-women’s liberation. You have grown up by now and you have to take care of yourself. No one’s going to help you.

  • Blood and Guts in High School, 1984

You create identity, you’re not given identity per se. What became more interesting to me wasn’t the I, it was text because it’s texts that create the identity. That’s how I got interested in plagiarism.

  • Hannibal Lecter, My Father, 1991

We come crawling through these cracks, orphans, lobotomies; if you ask me what I want, I’ll tell you. I want everything.

  • Pussy, King of the Pirates, 1996

Women need to become literary “criminals”, break the literary laws and reinvent their own, because the established laws prevent women from presenting the reality of their lives.

  • Bodies of Work, 1996


On Kathry Acker, Kathleen Hanna, shock, and trauma here’s Anna Ioanes. Here’s to freaks, pirates, wanderers and misfits. Long may we scream our stories.