participant in West Coast language writing, Carla Har-ryman's work incorporates elements of poetry, prose, philosophy, theater, and popular culture. Harryman delves into how consciousness comes into being. Megan Simpson writes that Harryman "has explored narrative transgressions in the Freudian plot, fairytale, pornography, children's stories, and games." For Har-ryman it may be possible to "construct, alter, reawaken cultural practice by picking up threads that have been neglected or underused as well as by charging into the unknown" (Simpson 516).
Harryman was born in orange County, California, and educated at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco State University. In San Francisco she edited the journal Qu and cofounded Poets' Theater (1978-84). She has received awards from the Detroit Arts Fund (2001), the Fund for Poetry (1992, 1994, and 1999), and the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation (1993), among others. Her dramatic work has been performed in a variety of venues, including Memory Play at the LAB, San Francisco (1994), and Performing Objects Stationed in the Sub World at Oxford Brookes University (2001) and Zeitgeist Theater in Detroit (2002). She has taught at Wayne State University.
Through conceptualizing a "bridge" or "middle," Harryman questions the philosophical distinctions between reason and instinct, human and animal, external and internal. Her texts may reveal a comic, ironic, or surreal edge. In "Typical Domains" (1995) she writes, "Of course I think about sex a lot more than I should. / One evening I put one foot in the clear water. A fish rose to the surface and said, / 'Euphoria never lasts.'"
Poetry and prose interweave in a fantasy concerning sexual knowledge and its conventions. When the speaker "tests the water," she is warned of the temporary nature of its pleasure by symbolic fish, which fittingly expires. The speakers subsequent "falling" is associated both with the "swoon" and with acquiring knowledge from the pool. The final line, "A conservative make," contextualizes the act of "making out" with the human-made. While Harryman questions the naturalness of such sexual knowledge, she poses the possibility of an area beyond the social, which might be bridged by writing. Often playfully intertextual and formally adventurous, Harryman's writing challenges the reader to reconsider the boundaries of the poem.
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