Whale Tongue

Lara Mimosa Montes

September 26, 2022

Commissioned specifically for The Noon Sirens project, Whale Tongue, is a work of ecstatic prose that traces the movements between being and non-being, presence, myth, soliloquy and uncertainty. Lara Mimosa Montes’ writing holds the reader in a liminal zone, feeling for borders and boundaries and exceeding their limits as only language can do.

SIREN (some poetics) observes that in the original Greek of the Odyssey, only a voice was referred to when the sirens sang to Odysseus and his crew. Never a body. The voice, disembodied, was alone a technology of cognition and knowledge. It was in the later tellings of this story that a body was constructed. Each body a projection, emanating from a sympathetic origin to lend legibility to the tale. It is still a constitutive act to build a body around speech. Each body still a projection of the power that shapes it.

The Noon Sirens considers how speech and language arrive online. Our avatars are a construction and a performance determined by the digital contexts that hold us and they are inevitably shaped in the image of the power that plays out in these territories. What would it mean to deny this enforced body? How to resist such inscription? In Lara Mimosa Montes’s text, that resides in the templated architecture of Amant’s website, we read a “transversal speech; sound without origin.” Transversal, from geometry, meaning a line that obliquely intersects - a line that breaks a regular system of lines. Whale Tongue is an experiment in obsession, excess, and arrhythmic self-annihilation.

Dismissive of the body this language is given, Whale Tongue gives shape to the space between bodies. The voice itself as cognition, as something physical, and with shape. Afterall, “This tongue is a sensory organ that sweats something viscous and thixotropic”.

This work was made possible in part with the support of Headlands Center for the Arts.

Image of Humpback Whale, Baja California Sur, Mexico, Michele Roux, Ocean Image Bank.

Lara Mimosa Montes is a writer, editor, and teaching artist whose practice and experiences span the fields of alternative publishing and experimental writing. She is the author of THRESHOLES (Coffee House Press, 2020) and The Somnambulist (Horse Less Press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, BOMB, The Brooklyn Rail, E-flux, Fence, Unbag, The Poetry Project, and elsewhere. In the words of Wayne Koestenbaum, she is “a true heir of Marguerite Duras and Clarice Lispector.”

Lara is the recipient of artist residencies from Marble House Project, Storm King: Shandaken, and Headlands Center for the Arts. In 2018, she was awarded a CantoMundo Fellowship as well as a McKnight Fellowship in Poetry. She holds a PhD in English from The Graduate Center, City University of New York. She has previously led writing workshops through Wendy’s Subway and has also taught courses in poetry and feminist visual cultures at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. 

A former senior editor of Triple Canopy, Lara currently teaches editing and publishing at the University of Minnesota. Most recently, she coedited the artist monograph Darrel Ellis (Visual AIDS, 2021). She divides her time between Minneapolis and New York.