Pin It
Oscar2 studentrysh

Oscar Pistorius: the Opera

Joyelle McSweeney shares an exclusive preview of her operatic reimagining of the Pistorius trial with Oedipal proportions

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.

Dennis Cooper, the punk pioneer of the written word and Visionaries collaborator, brings his transgressive spirit to Dazed today. There's an interview with the man himself – "America's most dangerous writer" – as well as his curated selection of other writers who go against the grain: including Eugene LimFrank Hinton and Joyelle McSweeney with her Oscar Pistorius opera (no, really).

Joyelle McSweeney, the poet and hybrid-genre novelist behind Nyland, the Sacrographer (2007) and Flet (2007) has brought her magpie aesthetic to bear upon one of the greatest public tragedies of our times: yep, this is Oscar Pistorius, the opera. See also: Joyelle McSweeney is awesome. Need we say more? Read on for Cooper's take on her "thrilling" perspective, and an exclusive extract from the "libretto-in-progress" itself, titled Pistorius Rex. Altogether now: "but why/ but why/ but why...?"

Dennis Cooper: “I've never read anything by Joyelle McSweeney that wasn't totally exciting. She's one of the most interesting people working now in terms of the forms she uses, and she's extremely deft, and playful, and yet the stuff that's going on, content-wise, is really super-smart, and has really good politics and stuff. I just find her a thrilling font of new stuff.” 


Pizstorius is a libretto-in-progress. Like Oedipus, my Pistorius suffers both paranoia and a forensic obsession; he submits to an escalating set of trials-by-ordeal for the murder of his girlfriend, the moon Europa, with Frogs as a Greek chorus.  Sun and moon, day and night, gold wreaths and white skin form shaky binaries as the opera explores fascination and violence, Justice and crime.


FROG CHORUS: a permanent dawn

would stay Justice’s hand

a permanent girl

whipping her hair back and forth

stained with brainmatter

like a GIF in the sky

its lossless compression

its stuttering cosmos

its coma of comets

its stabat mater

its knot of star-matter will

frieze the axe handle and

arrest the plot and

ampersand the plot


but why

but why

but why would the dawn

but why would the dawn

love Pistorius


is it because his hair is gold

is it the way he wears fame

as lightly as a cat wears fur and weilds fame

heavily as a mace and

is it because he runs—like a woman

or a cat—on blades

is it because his mother dipped him

all the way down in the sticks

and hacked away his Achilles tendons

and rebuilt him for her ends

was it for this


Dawn is a woman

with no solidaritee

She is always alone in the sky

she takes her time at her toilet

she takes all the time

and stops the clocks

on the starter’s blocks

and fires her starter’s pistol

and fills the sky with its starry report

and admires her own lustre

diadem of brain matter

seedpearled and seedfunded

and fascinates herself

and blocks Justice’s arrival


what gold balls

what a gold medallion

how halcyon

what a nosejob

what a soi-disant silicon valley

what a gold bustier’d Madonna-manque

what a golden charger

what an instrument of murder

what a blunt instrument

what a hollow core bullet

what a cheap gizmo

what a brain

what a chariot on which the sun rides wild

what a seizure


what a seizure

what foreclosure

what relief from time’s predatory loan

what movement of event into escrow

all the goods out on the lawn

what a scorcher

what a hack’t account

what a padlock

what housebreakers’

tunnel upwards in their hiest

into the height of munificence

the heaven’s gold-stopped vault

shower of


pissy mitzvah

oveny chokehold


gold stopt

gold franked

gold locked

gold shot

gold bolt

gold inlaid

gold stuffed, shunted, stunted

gold straits

gold’s traits

everything stilled and strangled

endless conversation with the sun

channels and runoffs

ditches and canal banks

tabloids and bankstatements

and stopped up backchanneled charnelhouse drains and

floodlit garden walls

where frogs sit on their haunches

as on gold-plated toilets

or certificates of patent and

scream like blondes