Born of German-Jewish stock, Kathy Acker was brought up by her mother and stepfather (her natural father left her mother before Kathy was born) in a prosperous district of NY. At 18, she left home and worked as a stripper. Her involvement in the sex industry helped to make her a hit on the NY art scene, and she was photographed by the newly fashionable Robert Mapplethorpe. Preferring to be known simply as ‘Acker’ (the name she took from her first husband Robert, and which she continued to use even after a short-lived second marriage to composer Peter Gordon), she moved to London in the mid-eighties and stayed in Britain for five years.
Acker’s writing is as difficult to classify into any particular genre as she herself was. She writes fluidly, operating in the borderlands and junkyards of human experience. Her work is experimental, playful, and provocative, engagingly alienating, narratively non sequitur.
Janey lived in the locked room. Twice a day the Persian slave trader came in and taught her to be a whore. Otherwise there was nothing. One day she found a pencil stub and scrap of paper in a forgotten corner of the room. She began to write down her life, starting with “Parents stink” (her father, who is also her boyfriend, has fallen in love with another woman and is about to leave her).
With Blood and Guts in High School, Kathy Acker, whose work has been labeled everything from post-punk porn to post-punk feminism, has created a brilliantly subversive narrative built from conversation, description, conjecture, and moments snatched from history and literature.
Dreams are manifestations of identities.
If you ask me what I want, I’ll tell you. I want everything.
Love goes away when your mind goes away and then you’re someone else.
Everytime you read, you are walking among the dead, and, if you are listening, you just might hear prophecies.
For the poet, the world is word. Words. Not that precisely. Precisely: the world and words fuck each other.