Introduction to Poems, by Zoë Lund
The following four poems were transcribed from typewritten pages found in storage. It is unlikely they were meant to stand alone. Other poems were found, but these four are the only ones to have been logged in 1986 on an old desktop computer. They speak in a singular mysterious voice, that of a young actress, agitator, musician, writer, filmmaker, and cult figure in the making, Zoë Lund (née Tamerlis).
“The Life” was written in 1980, six days after Lund’s eighteenth birthday. “One hundred names,” ends the first line. A few lines down: “Who am I today?” The last line: “Somewhere between the subway and six feet.”
She is unsure of her identity, but hints at certain proclivities: action as the only true form of activism (sustained readiness to strike); a taste for contradictory characters (strength exists where there is also cowardice); romance. The preamble to the poem, after all, reads, “especially for romantics…”
“Fathoms Deep” was likely written shortly thereafter and confronts the reader with burial and a curious taste for units of measurement—an effort to define distances, some otherworldly.
A year later, Lund would become a more public presence as the star of the movie Ms .45. “The Life” was written during its filming. Lund worked closely alongside director Abel Ferrara to hone her character, Thana, a mute seamstress who is raped twice in quick succession, in different circumstances. She decides to take revenge.
Uninterested in mute beauty, Lund wanted to write and produce her own projects. In a news clipping from 1983, titled “Young Political Filmmaker Shooting at Mount Holyoke,” there is a striking picture of Lund “working on a film about the radicalization of a young woman,” per the caption. The article talks of her “uncompromising idealism” and feelings about the naïveté of both American liberals and leftists.
Three years later, in 1986, “Touchstone Levity” was written, and again questions measurement: “When foot is a measure not of inches but of…” And then, the same year, “Opium Wars.” The latter speaks to Lund’s interest in drugs (she had a taste for heroin and would die of heart failure at thirty-seven).
This poem also speaks of “decibels” and of shapeshifting between identities, even bodies:
“She dies in life, I live in death.”
—Stephanie LaCava, 2023
Zoë Lund (née Tamerlis) was an American writer, screenwriter, director, actress, and model, born in New York City in 1962. From a young age, she was a talented musician, composer, and a bright student with an inclination toward political activism. She dropped out of school at the age of 15. She made her acting debut in Abel Ferrara’s cult Ms .45 (1981). From 1980 to 1985, she was the partner and collaborator of the filmmaker, critic, and activist Édouard de Laurot—best known for his film with Malcolm X, Black Liberation (1967). She appeared in several other feature films and television shows in the 1980s, including Larry Cohen’s Special Effects and Miami Vice. She married Robert Lund in 1986. Lund wrote and starred in Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant (1992), in which she addressed her addiction to heroin. Among her many film and television screenplays is the first draft of New Rose Hotel (1998). She wrote and directed the short film Hot Ticket (1993), in which her character’s last line says: “That which is not yet, but ought to be, is more real than that which merely is.” She died in Paris in 1999, at the age of 37, of heart failure due to cocaine use, leaving behind several unpublished novels, short stories, essays, and screenplays that remain unproduced.
Stephanie LaCava is a New York City-based writer. She is the author of two novels, 2020’s The Superrationals (Semiotext(e)) and 2022’s I Fear My Pain Interests You (Verso), and also runs a publishing project called Small Press.
This text is featured as an introduction to the book Poems, by Zoë Lund, published by Small Press and Editions Lutanie in October 2023.
Image: Zoë Lund at 9 E. 10th St. NYC, 1986. Photo: Robert Lund.
© The Estate of Zoë Lund, Robert Lund, 2023.