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Blue David w_ Insignia (high-res)
Blue David with Insignia (2013), 20 x 16 inches, oil on canvasWayne Koestenbaum

A poem from Wayne Koestenbaum's trance diary

Read an extract from The Pink Trance Notebooks, the New York poet and cultural critic's experiment in diary form

As part of our new summer US project States of Independence we've invited our favourite 30 American curators, magazines, creatives and institutions to takeover Dazed for a day.

Staging a mid-week takeover is prolific genre-bender David Shields – the author of both non-fiction and fiction whose literary collaging constantly eludes classification. We've pinned him down for an exclusive manifesto, as well as curated content from those authors and poets who he believes are breaking all the right rules.

Wayne Koestenbaum may inspire idolatory praise and critical outrage both, but he always inspires something. The NY-based cultural critic and poet's first taste of furore came with the publication of The Queen's Throat, his '93 exploration as to why gay men love opera. Using the high-low pop cultural phenomenons of our times (Jackie Kennedy, Andy Warhol) as a launch pad to theorise pressing questions of selfhood and stereotype, it is in Koestenbaum's poetic output where he can court controversy in the line of all the greatest bards in history. Exploring themes of queer intellectualism and the visual arts, Koestenbaum's predilection for chronicling the emotional biographies of the rich and famous is instead turned towards himself in The Pink Trance Notebooks: his transformation of his daily diary, from 2012, into something more poetic, less predictable and ultimately enthralling for the reader who is allowed within. Koestenbaum introduced one poem from the Notebooks for Dazed, below. 

David Shields: “Wayne’s self-anthropology – exploring the self as a way to understand the culture and the human animal in general – has been a model for me for more than twenty years.”


“The Pink Trance Notebooks is a transformation of my diary; I've kept a diary, writing in it virtually every day, since 1976. Beginning on November 30, 2012, I started keeping instead a series of "Trance Notebooks," as a way to transform my journal into a higher pitch of ceremony, an occasion for intensified, unmoored consciousness. I've distilled the results into a sequence of 34 assemblages.”

Trance Notebook #14



            [cut it up and then project it]





on Mercer

a burst of unnecessary





you are my

guardian angel—

is that a weird thing

to say?




no it’s a nice thing




            ashamed of dirt

patches on white jeans




            shoulder sore from

carrying black and white

gesso tubs—

figure out their weight,

dear nonexistent reader




not many people know

what the inside of a

vagina during sex

looks like she said




Obama and Hillary Clinton

had a top secret

lunch today




if the lunch was top secret

why do I know about it?




nothing to draw without

hair’s filigree

to stabilize the gaze




his face in my ass

even if I don’t

want his face

in my ass even

if I’m supposedly

enjoying it—




tuber-shaped penis

shoved up me though

I said no and made

my eyes go blurry

in honor of his need—




supposedly gargantuan

but then it turned out

to be puny—




psychotic husband

didn’t pamper

the bipolar martyr who

bragged about her

Bakelite as if it were

God's little acre




if your desire to write

dies a natural death,

what happens to residual

urges, The Aeneid,

Roger Federer, crunch

of goy eating chocolate?




tall guy on subway I

disabused of false notion

that I was cruising him




Mr. Baer gave me his

stamp collection but wasn’t

a pervert




we met at a cello concert—




did I adequately

thank Mr. Baer? 




a fat portfolio of rare

stamps to add to my

impoverished collection




how did the news travel

to Mr. Baer that I

collected stamps and wanted

supplements to my horde?




why did Mr. Baer

choose me as

beneficiary of his

enigmatic gift? 





me more about Mr. Baer




was he Jewish

or German or neither

or both?




            was his primary

allegiance to stamps or

cello music?




            or was his

primary allegiance to

little Jewish boys

who collected stamps

and had an unsatisfied

hunger to expand their





the Mr. Baers of the world

never receive adequate

emotional compensation

for their mysterious largesse—




here’s the secret:

cut it up and then

project it





of nonreciprocation’s abyss

although I am prime

among nonreciprocators




if I become “deep”

will newfound depth

be the death of me?




Van Gogh’s sunflowers

are someone else’s cup of tea—

I prefer his ear




pink triangle glut—

too much “gay” in my paintings




I stole five drawings today—

tomorrow, steal ten





disqualifies Romeo

from entering me




lava’s my beldame




Alex’s basket

may become my hand’s condo—

convince him to swerve




write a fashion poem

tomorrow while smoking grass—

use words as bow-ties




sore hand from angle

so I changed

the angle




syntax a baby I know

how to pamper,

syntax a baby

I know how to





20 vigorous or semi-

vigorous minutes

next to a guy with

the droopiest balls

I’ve ever seen




when the pen itself

takes on a mother’s

putative softness




too bloated to eat

grandmother cake




“your book isn’t AIDS-y

enough to qualify

for my blog”




should I reject

figuration (still lives,

crucifixes, saints in flames,

men in jocks, pin-ups

eating each other out)?




bought white miso

and made my first miso-

incorporating dish




bought Creeley’s edition

of selected Whitman

poems on Union Street

in the late ‘70s and

got stuck on the first

poem’s weird word,





in a station wagon

parked on Union

I puzzled over “eidólons”

and rejected it

as if “Eire” or “dreidel”

or “eiderdown”

were buried

in that awkward





            and now

I’m the kind of fool

who uses words like

“eidólon,” unpopular

words with unkempt





I’ve never

once grown a beard

though yesterday

I came close




            give stubble’s

eidólon one more day

to blossom

into a semi-plausible