Skip to main content

Review - "Ballroom Etiqutte" by Maria Brito and Bruno Neiva

Tom Jenks

"Ballroom Etiquette" by Maria Brito and Bruno Neiva
Team Trident Press [https://www.teamtridentpress.com]


Bruno Neiva’s work, which I’ve enjoyed for a number of years, is always intriguing, refusing categorisation, forever disputing the frontier between art and writing.  Ballroom Etiquette, a new collaboration with Maria Brito, published by Team Trident Press, is firmly in these debatable lands, a text and image sequence of blurred boundaries and wonderful incongruity. Brito and Neiva plunder, mix, match, mash, splice and otherwise détourne two apparently incompatible sources: a Victorian etiquette guide (True Politeness: A Hand-book of Etiquette for Ladies) and a combat instruction manual for the military and police from the 1970s (Kill or get Killed). They describe the sequence as ‘both a parody of and a statement against violence and gender prejudice’ and it is indeed just that, but in a way that it is non-didactic and far from po-faced. It’s characterised by sly humour and a refusal to direct the reader towards a particular response though heavy-handed commentary or proscriptive framing. Instead, the juxtapositions, meeting seemingly by chance, like the Comte de Lautréamont’s umbrella and writing desk, do the work.

The images (from the combat manual) are degraded, distressed and isolated, floating in non-historical space. Stripped of their context, they become absurd, surreal: earnest men in suits and turtle necks, with crew cuts or slide rule side partings, grappling with one another at close quarters for no apparent reason. Then, the wry selections from the etiquette guide take the images to another place, of random pantomime or homo-erotic cabaret. One man places another in the beginnings of a choke hold from behind, accompanied by the advice that ‘when a gentleman who has been properly introduced requests the honour of dancing with you, you will not refuse unless you have a previous engagement.’ What appears to be a uniformed police officer holds a thick set, slicked-back assailant close, together with the admonishment ‘do not mistake affectation for refinement: it would be no less an error than confounding vice with virtue.’  A knee to the groin delivered by one figure whose head has been cropped to another, equally headless, is flanked by the warning that ‘the members of an invited family should not be conversing often together at a party’.

Ballroom Etiquette is the best sort of collaboration, one that goes beyond just two people working together and becomes something where it doesn’t really matter who is doing what - the collaboration is its own thing with its own thing going on. It draws a deft parallel between two different ways of asserting authority, through physical combat and through the more subtle, subliminal strictures that govern behaviour through mores, expectations and an enforcement of set roles that is, in its own way, as violent as a headlock or a punch to the windpipe.

 

Need a copy writer? Ethical Business? Contact Rachel Baker.


Copyright © Tom Jenks, 2021

Popular posts from this blog

Review - High and Lonesome: Three Books: Crozier, Prynne, James

Andrew Duncan High and Lonesome : Three Books: John James, Striking the Pavilion of Zero, J.H. Prynne, High Pink on Chrome ; Andrew Crozier, High Zero (Shearsman, 2021; edited Ian Brinton)  The reason why these three books from 1975-6 and 1978 are being republished together is straightforward. Crozier had named a work High Zero , and when I interviewed him in 2003 he conceded that it referred to High Pink and Striking the Pavilion of Zero , and that he had used lines from those two works as keys to develop the High Zero poems from. Publication together allows one to read across and recover a part of the composition process. High Zero was published in 1978, later than the two poems it is a response to. The founding moment is The English Intelligencer , in which all three of these poets took part. This was an attempt to recapitulate the development of Charles Olson, up to about 1950; he was seen as both the continuator of Pound and as having thought profoundly about geography. T

Essay - Whatever Happened to the Poetry Manifesto?

MARTIN STANNARD WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE POETRY MANIFESTO? Recently I tried writing an essay that had the working title 'Why the Meaning of a Poem is the Last Thing You Should Think About'. I felt like I had something to say. It began like this: I can't help but remember what my old angling tutor used to say: “Be careful when you open a can of worms." Of course, he didn’t say any such thing, and I never had an angling tutor, but writers, and perhaps especially poets, can say anything and get away with it, because . . . Actually, I'm not sure why. I'm not even sure if it's true. If it is, it shouldn’t be. And I'm not sure about that, either. I think it's probably best if we accept a certain degree of uncertainty and subjectivity and other words that suggest everything is open to argument and get on with this. Just because something is open to argument doesn't mean it's wrong. Later (about 3000 words later) I decided I was on to a loser.

Review - "Bright Angel Proof" by Nick Power

Charlie Baylis Bright Angel Proof, Nick Power (£10, erbacce press) In the spring of 2016 a writer from the small Northwestern town of Hoylake, Nick Power, took a trip flying around America on budget airlines, soaking in all its big ticket tourist attractions and gaudy glories. The trip, and Power’s poems about the trip, come together to form Bright Angel Proof , a collection which evokes beat generation myths of a mystical America, but behind the lines Power knows that the beat generation era is done and perhaps was never really there to begin with. Power is too late to join the ranks of Ginsburg, Kerouac et al but at least he suggests that he might have something to say, which is more than most contemporary poets. Power attracts attention as a kind of modern Burt Lancaster, an adventurer of compelling (North) West Coast vibes and easy going company who, like Lana Del Rey, has ‘feathers in his hair...c hurning out novels like Beat poetry on Amphetamines.’ Power’s companion on the