The Embodiment of Revolutionary Writing

We might have coupled
In the bed-ridden monopoly of a moment
Or broken flesh with one another
At the profane communion table
Where wine is spill’t on promiscuous lips
We might have given birth to a butterfly
With the daily-news
Printed in blood on its wings

— from Mina Loy’s “Songs to Joannes”, Part III

Like Artaud, Mina Loy is interested in the context of skin, of bodily divisions that create power structures. Her works point to these boundaries and then transform them into moments of connection and opportunity. Her “Feminist Manifesto” is political and revolutionary, but it is interesting that it was published posthumously, culled from a letter, and is unfinished. While typography plays an important role in her work, the reproductions available online often note that there is no clear record of Loy’s intended final format. The Modernism Lab at Yale University explores how Loy’s work considers an “embodied identity,” and this division between creation and publication is an important consideration of the writer’s embodiment of their text.

For me, a piece of poetry or fiction is revolutionary when it creates the possibility within the reader’s mind for a breach of common boundaries. Loy plays with physical boundaries in the presentation of her “Feminist Manifesto,” making some words so large that they cannot fit on the typical lines of the page. They push forward, elbowing past smaller words, competing for attention.


Loy also engages with boundary crossing in the content of her manifesto, calling for the possibility (and right) for maternity that is not tied to matrimony. In this way, the dichotomy of roles available to women, mistress or mother, becomes fragmented into a variety of possibilities.

Loy asserts that “the only point at which the interests of the sexes merge – is the sexual embrace” (“Feminist Manifesto”). And in her poem “Songs to Joannes,” Loy describes this merging as a form of generative chaos.

Everlasting    passing    apparent    imperceptible
To you
I bring the nascent virginity of
Myself    for the moment

No love or the other thing
Only the impact of lighted bodies
Knocking sparks off each other
In chaos

— Mina Loy’s “Songs to Joannes,” Part XIV

Again like Artaud, Loy considers the importance of the concept of light, how it bridges the distance between bodies and spreads out into the world. The personal is political, and lovemaking is an act of revolution.

La Maison en papier: drawing and gouache by Mina Loy, 1906

Revolutionary writing provides exercises in alternate pathways, training readers to look for creative solutions to political problems. This does not need to be overt, it can be as simple as re-teaching the reader how to scan a poem through the inventive use of line arrangement:


In this section from “Parturition,” we might read from left to right, or we can also read the right-hand column on its own. This dual reading complicates the poem, and teaches us to look for alternate ways to read situations – collectively and individually.

For writers, our texts become part of our selves, the paper a surrogate skin. True writing, that bridges the divide between writer and reader, occurs when the writer embodies their text. It is a maddening and dangerous process, but when successful, it is the spark that lights the flame of change.

FORGET that you live in houses, that you may live in yourself

— from Mina Loy’s “Aphorisms on Futurism”

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