voices and violence of America’s sinister sweetheart: a review of Yuu Seki’s Serial Kitsch (HWORDE 2014)

According to its publisher, Yuu Seki’s Serial Kitsch (HWORDE 2014), is “an epic poem assembled from the testimony of a slew of serial killers.” I found it akin to a reanimated exquisite corpse–an epic littered with the bodies, voices and violence of America’s sinister sweetheart. The long poem serves as a narrative of obsession and commentary on the domestication of the serial killer. It is mom and dad reading the newspaper while their son kills animals in the backyard; here, Seki plays psychopomp and serves as an interpreter of data, gracefully arranging bodies, testimony, manifestos, murder, death and sexual deviance, into a work that is at times both humorous and gruesome: 

“I said one time I wanted me some ribs, does that make me a cannibal…
did the pregnant ones count as two kills
it can get confusing”

Serial Kitsch is indeed about art, as Johannes Göransson says on the jacket. The book examines the close relationship between art and violence, playing with our fascination of the serial killer by exploring his/her oeuvre and intentions: “I worshipped the art and the act of death…if you love something / let it go / if it doesn’t come back / hunt it down and kill it.” The world is a violent place; its art just as violent in creation and execution. Some shy away from this type of aestheticization of violence but Seki’s epic uses this presupposed aversion as an advantage. From the very beginning of Serial Kitsch, there is a kind of “knowing” playfulness on behalf of the author–the poem is self-aware. In the prologue, and throughout the book, the reader is addressed directly in killer’s commentary, describing “the population at large” which:

“is neither ordinary or normal
they seem to be bound together by a collective
of themselves and what they are
their fascination with types
(rare types)
like myself plagues them with the mystery of why”

Why indeed? This, of course, is conceptual poetry, but it’s important not to let the ideas behind the poem’s creation overshadow its importance and readability; after all, doesn’t the intention to write any poem make it conceptual? I don’t want to detract entirely from the work that Seki has done here–these lines, plucked like flowers, ornate in their intentions and purpose, inform the poem greatly, making it very lyrical at times (the quiet evening / was full of stuffed animals / I became more and more / into myself); at other times, the poem is cynical and tongue-in-cheek (madness as Quixote would say is seeing life as it is and / not as it should be). This epic should be read with multiple lenses in mind, keeping its creation and designs ever-present but not overpowering what’s on the page.

Serial Kitsch is as multi-faceted as the numerous voices that compose it–it is macabre Americana–it’s gaudiness lies in its mimicry, the copying so endemic to the serial killer themselves. The poem speaks to how our elevation of the serial killer to an almost cult-like status informs the way we think about them, and how this also plays into the killer’s psychopathy. It shows us, as readers, how we can have a hand in creating these monsters, however unwittingly, by feeding into this sort of sensationalism that we’re obsessed with. The poem plays with stereotypes, reflecting the way a serial killer chooses his/her victims¾each one has their tastes¾their victim holds a symbolic meaning that they kill again, and again.Serial Kitsch illustrates and elucidates a cyclical feeding frenzy, an engine composed of the killer, the public, media; all these different parts inform each other while simultaneously perpetuating the continuity of the serial killer’s persona, reinforcing it for him/herself and their audience.

“I turn on the TV / I must be in love / with my own dead body…
hope you get raped / scumbags of America”

As the poem progresses, it gains momentum, growing more manic–it becomes harder to tell the voices apart. Graphic details of deviant sexual acts, torture, and the spaces the killers inhabit, are interspersed with “XXXXX”s or grunt-like exclamations of “hm…mhmm…uh…” The reader is invited to join the killer in the creation of his art, and it gets gross and more uncomfortable to read, but after going so far in, it’s hard to turn back. The poem draws us in until we have no choice but to see it out to the gory end. When I lend the book to friends, I hear one of two things, either “I couldn’t get past the first few pages man,” or “I loved it, even though it’s one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever read.” I don’t think I’d be remiss to say that, in some way, we helped create this epic, but Yuu Seki gracefully categorized it into a chilling commentary, something both beautiful and terrifying in its form and substance.

Daniel Beauregard lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he runs a small press called OOMPH! that focuses on contemporary poetry in translation. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The FanzineH_NGM_N, Smoking Glue Gun, NAP, ILK, Poor Claudia, Everday Genius and elsewhere. He has two chapbooks available; Before You Were Born (421 Atlanta, 2013) and HELLO MY MEAT (Lame House Press, 2014). 

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