TO ISSUE 7 . E R O S / A
N A T O M Y . FEATURING.
CLAYTON T. MICHAELS
Even in this
I have tried to hum mud and feathers and sit peacefully in this foliage
of bones and rain.
- Dionne Brand, No
Language is Neutral
Crooke, early anatomist and physician, published Microcosmographia in 1615,
subtitled A description of the
body of man: together with the controversies thereto belonging.
In it, Crooke was amongst the first to probe the inner depths of the
human anatomy, a controversial undertaking for his time. The skin: “an
unseamed garment covering the whole body” was to Crooke “one of the
greatest beauties that nature hath given to the body of man,” its
epidermis running "upon the surface of the true skinne as if it were a
flowring or creamy production.” It didn't stop at the surface.
Crooke went on to give an early description of the clitoris,
illustrated literally as a kind of heart-shaped penis found "hidden
under the Nymphes and hard
to be felt with curiosity, yet sometimes... growth to such a length
that it hangeth without the cleft like a mans member." Saying as much
about the conceptions of his era as about his proclaimed subject matter
(when is that not the case), Crooke was yet bold to mix beauty and
viscera, to thread the physiological with the prosodic, to bring eros
and anatomy into a mutual, sensual dissection, one which seems these
days either farcically outdated or, somehow, refreshing.
of Dear Sir, reaches
towards Crooke and his Microcosmographia,
as writers such as Michaels and Lefsyk tackle (and here I'm going to be
reductivist) the pathological body, Lewty and Lynch the erotic, Keel
and Levine the depth of the body's memory, experience, Cooper and
Boyker the at-times taboo, absurd or disturbing body and Rose the saccarine, the body of the love poem that always speaks too
much. In hastain's "a lax dress," we find perhaps a modern metonym to
Crooke's "unseamed garment," the skin; we are reminded by all writers
throughout that while a body can be portrayed in uncountable words, the
words themselves are never unaccountable, ever presenting a changing
portrait, a fashionable garment, the imperfect I, a sentiment condensed perhaps
in Čolović's "Difference" and backed by Dionne Brand's
once-upon-the-90s seminal prose poem, No Language is Neutral.
Crooke, he was presenting nothing less than the real, the anatomically correct. Yet Mikrocosmographia stands to
demonstrate not only the biases of dissection but the biases inherent
in the writing of that dissection. The bias being, maybe, the most
beautifully flawed or, let's say, one of writing's hottest features.