Katy Bohinc



I hate bios. Georgetown. Who cares?  Community college lesser? I worked hard but it didn’t make me. Mathematics & comparative literature, degrees. All my classes in French. Math is beautiful too. My dad taught me algebra when I was four & we always did it around the house. When I was older, I wanted to never again, then I missed it.  Figured everything else I would teach myself but math was worth paying for; it was. Abstract Algebra, the best. Mandarin too, in Beijing. French in France.  Geopolitics & economics in Buenos Aires. Spent 50% of 2001-2006 abroad, by ambition.  Thought that’s how you were a writer: Joycean Departure. In China, activism, it was impossible not to. There are not words I know of in contemporary English. & people doing work there still at risk, not worth it, not worth .0001% chance (my Bush doctrine). I still help whenever, drop everything to do anything. Real heroes are the people all over the world who risk all for a principle, remain nameless. 

When I came back, furious, felt Academia very mainly only appreciates the structured & official & past (& in America “the past” often like “50 to 100 years”).  Everything important to me is beginning, writing its present in a language not yet invented. & then poems all the time. I lived in DC for seven years. Studied poetry at Bridge Street Books with the DC Poetry Community. Now I live in New York City.  

Paid labor in marketing doing data analysis.  They told me I couldn’t; I did.  It’s not sexy to have a non-writerly job, but what can I say- I’m a self-made woman from Northeast, Ohio. & MFAs too expensive and poetry no money and adjunctivitis problemicos. 

When people ask for work, I give it. Now a bunch online. Published Dear Alain excerpts for a while; that book was coming soon. Heard a rumor ‘bout this guy Badiou did set theory.  & he was French & Left.  Was off theory, but figured I “should.”  So I started, started those letters “Dear Badiou, screw you” and read him, wrote as I read to simulate the process of love.  Then this guy Hölderlin & was a history to compete with, so.  Turned out Alain’s rather beautiful.  Who knew?  We don’t remember everything we once knew, and probably more some other time, but now I’ve forgotten or circled back or, but that seems generally like... what has happened.


Photo Credit: Christina Liva/Chris Thurlow (WDC/Pemba, Mozambique)



Author's Note:

Can love, thinking as two, be enough to bond poetry which thinks as "elsewhere" and philosophy which thinks in distinctions? Despite the dramatic metaphor, in the end there is not a mathematic answer to such a question. Each answers their own way. Love the union of singulars.

Now then, is this poetry? If Badiou's conditions are all redoubled here, poetry on philosophy, philosophy on poetry, etc. then is is too much of a Gödel trick to ask? (the Indians wrote their calculus in verse, you know.)

Either transcendental way, and I don't really mind as long as it's transcendental, what I want to say is I think the relationship between philosophy and poetry is like what happens at the real projective plane: various degrees of infinite, like a mobius strip. For when I think back on my own poetic departure, it happened when it happened, and why I'll never know (it wasn't really a choice), but it happened against all "reality" which had conditioned me in my life up until that point. And that was many things, including, fundamentally, definitions which all necessarily have philosophical underpinnings be they from texts or passed through the cultural conversation. That poetry, or writing, or art "reacts against" is true (and in this reaction often critiques!), but a reaction is also itself a relation. One cannot exist without the other. In this sense I think poetry is the fearlessness to depart from the position of the self in relation to all that is present in and up to that moment each poem is born - street wisdom or Alain Badiou of whatever. Poetry is also Robespierre's eyes. Or the sun's, or the moon's. 

Be it a description or logic, this is how I saw it at that moment when the songs began (I also saw it as a sortof affliction, but that's a past sentence, pun intended, and isn't it odd how sometimes the things we hate at first we love later the most?) Perhaps it's a proof, perhaps it's my poetic "elsewhere". I don't really care to designate it, it just is. To smile and laugh utterly naive to each moment's possible meanings whisping into the next moment's forgotten will always be more beautiful to me than the rigid lines of any conclusion. It's not that I (read we, if you prefer) can't, just that my preference is right now. As a way to perceive.

What I really want to say is that philosophy is not sovereign (thank you, Alain). And that poetry is quite good at defining itself! As it has been for thousands of years, regardless of whatever the philosophers have been saying. (What, what was that? Did you hear something?) And even, the practice of reading, interpreting, writing, and if you want to play that way, naming...philosophy?


Something I always knew was it's all Aristotle's fault." - Bernadette Mayer


In some sense, poetry's and philosophy's irresistible urge to discuss each other for thousands of years is like the longest love affair in history since, well, Philosophy was born!

There is perhaps something in all of this of poetry's - and my - disdain for constraint or boundaries. Poetry, I think, is the undefined (and so, everything.) And as writing is different from language in that it is about sex, I'll talk about Badiou's "woman": one who thinks love is what ultimately centers and binds the conditions of us all. If this is the meaning of "woman", then I proudly stand to militantly defend such a view with all my soul.

Love, always,




"One Plus One," Kevin Killian on Dear Alain

An epistolary review, Mat Laporte in Lemonhound

Open Letters Monthly's Maureen Thorson interviews Katy Bohinc


Dear Alain

Can be purchased here