Introduction for Marissa Perel

I peered through a steamy window of a Lower East Side gallery last winter, barely able to get in through the door, being in the audience’s non-space. A submissive performer was receiving commands from Marissa Perel’s feather, which moved like an erect wand.

Marissa Perel is always expanding what one might assume queer work to be. She is a defender and an explorer of this word so that it is expanding, untrackable almost. Perel’s instinct is one I trust. I think she is truly up to something. Her performance piece from 2012 Yentl unleashed all the repressed sexploits of Isaac Beshevits Singer and Barbara Streisand’s girl turned yeshiva boy. She has taught me that it’s not what the word queer means but how it is moving presently among us.

Marissa characterizes a persistent multi-part perspective of being involved at all fronts as poet, as a tireless curator and critical writer of all things performative, she is always refusing to give hierarchy to one world over the other as the real work.

Yes, there is a gregariousness to Marissa Perel’s interdisciplinarian engines, but she has also chosen every media that takes on writing as its bone structure. This allows Perel to take the vertebrae of writing and twist it around, to invent prostheses and breathe through them. There is something unselfishly reconstructive, risky and ultimately healing in this.

Perel’s poetic work Angry Ocean, is an infinite sort of text. My re-readings put me on a ship above it. I was trying to reach my hands inside the language where the waters glinted like neon herds of guppies. The poetry resembles baby fish that were damned in their contagion both for being mistaken as a mass and as one destructive individual who can appear everywhere. “My vision comes to meet each glowing thing without tension. Nothing cuts or disrupts the panorama. My body, lithe in its subtle prowess, turns from reef to reef, inlet to algae.”

The waters of this Ocean are difficult. The captain is a little like Moby Dick reborn in the 80s played on a kiddie record player. In Angry Ocean any possible direction will lead to the depth memory can always go, dangerously, without a compass. The depth of the remembering includes “dying with your Hebrew name tattooed on my third eye over a Star of David.” It goes down in a leotard, how the body speaks in unthinkable, relentlessly inventive ways of remaking pain.