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The poems in Sharon Mesmer’s collection Annoying Diabetic Bitch are constructed out of typical bits of found internet language, especially the language of exasperation, irritation, outrage, and collegial raunch. Virtually every poem is a sort of post-human rant (a rant made out of the high points of numerous source rants, with an intensity greater than any single ranter could sustain). Instead of hyper-texts, Mesmer uses the internet to bring us hyper-rants, creating an explosively liberated persona too intoxicated with hir own intensities to slow down or take stock. Another way of thinking of this would be to say that each poem is like a renga, a linked chain of crystallized rant-highlights. What Mesmer is searching for is the explosive stress relief when insecurities and upset transform into an avalanche of verbal freedoms; she gives us an image of stressed-out America explosively decompressing.
Perhaps the collection’s most intense poem is the title piece, “Annoying Diabetic Bitch,” which is also placed first in the book; this single page presents as much potentially offensive material as the entirety of Ginsberg’s “Howl.” The intense concentration of outrageous content produces a surprising effect: one quickly realizes that this voice is not that of a human being ranting (only an incurably insane person could literally rant this way). The excess makes it clear that the voice is not a transcription or an attempt to represent a character, but another type of construct altogether. Mesmer writes:
You dumb annoying talentless diabetic bitch, eat some diabetes,
You and your bitch monster diabetic junkhead father,
and your diabetic cat, your pathetic geriatric diabetic cat that eats birds —
bitch birds —
you fuck-ass body monster, you’re lulling me into a diabetic coma
like that annoying secretary from Ally McBeal, you cold British diabetic bitch-dick.
Look — I’ve played a hooker, a diabetic inmate requiring hormones,
a divorced shit-ass son-of-a-bitch, a kitsch bitch, an idiot, and — oh fuck it,
all this diabetes is making me into a bitch.
There is a surface level of realistic outrage, which the poem frequently exceeds to present linguistic oddities more like the coinages of speculative fiction than anything else. Terms like “bitch birds,” “kitsch bitch,” and “bitch-dick” seem to name previously non-existent concepts, concepts less immediately comprehensible than “phasers” or “positronic brains.” “Bitch-dick,” for instance, suggests multiple possibilities: a dildo, a person who might use or should use a dildo (possibly in order to make up for some deficiency), an impotent man, or perhaps an angry woman whose anger makes her seem somehow phallic.
“Kitsch bitch” is even more suggestive, since it suggests an inferior, tasteless copy of an existing bitch, a bitch that is pretentious to the point of being in bad taste, or a commercially produced bitch that is considered trite or crass. “Kitsch bitch” seems to be a description of the book’s voice, letting us know that this book will not contain real bitching but rather an exaggerated or melodramatic replica of bitching, which, if we like kitsch, will amuse us. Almost all Americans like kitsch in one way or another (either they love it because it is the only type of art they relate to, or they love it because it is an in-joke or guilty pleasure); therefore, this is a book that seeks to amuse all of us except the most elite kitsch-haters.
Why should we be amused by this stew of offensive language and outré coinages? To this reader, the coinages and other implausible surprises are the primary appeal. After they sink in a little bit, phrases like “fuck-ass body monster” are almost magically suggestive and deeply revealing, not of actual attitudes, but rather of potential attitudes and the way that innovative linguistic constructions can give rise to new attitudes. Is a “body monster” a person with a self-image problem, one who sees hirself as a monster, or is it rather a person with a “monster body” (i.e. a body made extraordinary and beautiful by gym activities)? Or is it a person obsessed with other people’s bodies? Are all people, possibly, body monsters — or is it a minority group? Thinking about this seems to raise many interesting considerations about the labels people apply to one another every day, and especially the extent to which these labels are linguistic constructs that produce and reaffirm ideas of difference and hierarchy.
Above all, Mesmer’s poems in Annoying Diabetic Bitch act as speculative fictions that imagine and represent previously nonexistent (or unrecognized) social differences; these speculations operate as implicit critiques of the labels and hierarchies of difference that we do know and recognize. For example, in the brief play “Atomic Bitch Wax” the notorious twins, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, contemplate all the people they would like to rape:
Ashley: I wish I were Ronald McDonald and weighed three hundred pounds. Then I would rape you.
Mary Kate: I don’t believe it is possible for impaired people to rape.
Ashley: Why not? George W. Bush just broke into our backyard and raped our favorite kitty.
Mary Kate: Maybe if we raped him back he’d give it up and stand for something.
If only we could become a corporate icon and rape our twin — that would be living. And if we could rape the president he might get some good sense, some empathy into human feeling and the knowledge of what it’s like to be exploited. Mesmer’s hyperbole explodes the possibility of political allegory, instead delivering deadpan punchlines that demoralize our aesthetic assumptions by tapping into the more kinetic wit of TV “shock jocks” and stock enthusiasts. Newsflash: women can’t rape. But that may be news to Mesmer, who seems to have established herself as the aesthetic equivalent of an impaired rapist. (Whether this impairment is the lack of a penis, or the lack of some penis-shaped part of the brain, is unclear.) Not unlike The Enquirer, Mesmer is willing to rape the subject matter in order to dish the scoop. Ashley would like to rape Bill O’ Reilly “for making me be born white;” Mary Kate would like to rape Scott Baio for hating her because she threatened his baby. Both would like to rape Tyra Banks.
Mesmer’s hyper-rants model a post-human aggression more grandiose than the angst or rage of even the most impassioned person. Her poem “Ass Vagina” climaxes with a huge hairy surge of feminity: “It was the very hairy women of Greenville manufacturing district and our own mature hairy women who 100% fisted my own vagina in a true incest of teen orgies howling three-day free access.” Parodying the come-ons of capitalism, Mesmer surprises us with access to something we hadn’t considered wanting, an arch anger that is surprisingly accepting of the compromises situations push on people, while at the same time smoldering with acidic resentment, as if Mesmer forgave the compromiser only to feel doubly incensed at the leveraged situations prodding us to inauthenticity. Mesmer’s work is post-authentic, as unaccountable as late capitalism and as aggressive as a hungry panhandler or a billboard.
The voice of Annoying Diabetic Bitch “grew up in Cairo with the privileges / of a sex-crazed Chinese Peter Pan, / a secular humanist of the vulva / with special knowledge of the coy wing-flap of willing females.” This special knowledge “turn[s] my coochi-snorcher into a kind of heaven.” In this heaven, free flows of resentment coagulate into baroque ornaments, a lyricism crusted with debilitating labels. Mesmer’s burlesque of traumatic language takes the kid gloves off the normal, compressing vast amounts of awkwardness and victimization into “love boats of rainbow alien barf.” Not at all therapeutic, Annoying Diabetic Bitch exalts the creativity and linguistic inventiveness with which bad vibes and abusive moods are transmitted; sooner or later, post-human and/or alien persons will harness this creativity and use it for good, at which point “the Religious Right can be easily replaced by a baby with a Pez dispenser.” Until that point, “you must learn to live with people always telling you you’re a superficial ugly hemmorhoid,” while doing your best to appreciate the charm and vivacity with which they said it.