Blood and the written word have a long history of association among poets and philosophers. Nietzsche once wrote, “Of all that is written, I love what a man has written with his own blood. […] Write with blood, and you will find that blood is spirit. Whoever writes in blood and proverbs does not want to be read, but to be learned by heart.” In Pablo Neruda’s The Word, the poet begins with the line, “The word was born in the blood…” These literary greats are far from alone in exploring blood and bleeding as metaphors for writing; Dante, Gallico and Nabokov all expressed similar sentiments.
Imagined as a living, breathing, pulsing body of work through which the poetry of blood courses, Visceral is a collection of poems, personal essays, and photographs inspired by blood and what it represents. Divided thematically into chapters—or viscera—the work was conceived in 2015 after the author penned a series of poems using his own blood as ink, in protest of the blood donor ban on men who have sex with men.
With Oulipian constraints and an unconventional use of the cæsura, Arkhipov invites the reader to pause, inhale, and reflect on abjection, ancestry, faith, intimacy, mortality, and stigma. The diversity of the book’s six organs stands as testament to the omnipresent beat of blood in our languages and cultures; Arkhipov’s treatment of the homosexual experience in particular highlights the intersection of blood with sex, love, and shame in the gay community.
A continuation of the legacy of his “father in poetry”, Pablo Neruda, who once exclaimed that, “The word was born in the blood, grew in the dark body, beating, and took flight through the lips and the mouth…”, Arkhipov’s maiden work uses a combination of text and image to bear witness to both the melancholy and eroticism of being gay in the twenty-first century.
Tenebrous, erotic and rich in language, Visceral: The Poetry of Blood is illustrated with powerful and intimate photographs, conceived by RJ Arkhipov and captured by French photographer Maud Maillard.