On Ange Mlinko

Paul Franz

Ange Mlinko has long presented herself as an enthusiast, a collector, an exhibitor: of experiences and of lore, especially the histories of words. This sensibility, which also inclines towards eccentric forms of performance, has been on display in her work since the title poem of her first collection, Matinées (1999), in which a bit-part actress or dancer, tired of waiting for her curtain call, slips out to wander the city, eventually finding herself in ‘the back of a Portuguese market’, whose contents (and inhabitants) she feels compelled to ‘inventory’. Versions of this figure in Mlinko’s fifth and latest collection include the ‘puckish curator’ arranging roses in mildly unsettling patterns based on their strange varietal names, and the troubiritz or Occitan female troubador – here imagined as a gardener – for whom making is finding, trobar. The moment in ‘Matinées’ remains exemplary, however, not least in its ambivalence about applause. Declining outward approval in a marginal role, Mlinko’s alter ego seeks out a remoter margin, casting herself in a new drama of which she will be the star – yet one hedged by residual uncertainties. These are captured in what might be called the poem’s burlesque of ethnography: a self-imposed task which is also a game, in which an interest in culture both demands and serves as a pretext for continued detachment.

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