by Eli Lambe
Timeliness occupies this issue. Reflections on what queer writing has been and what it is now are shown through this collection to be vital, contemporary, and necessarily complex. The readings at the launch were accomplished, and the variety of writing spoke to the talents of the editing team in recognising and celebrating each piece. The pieces were arranged and selected to be complementary, to offer common threads and common goals, while still preserving the singularity of each piece – the queer writing here is collected as moments of solidarity, of community.
Sophie Meyer’s essay, “Hanging Out Beneath Orlando’s Oak Tree”, charts changes in queer British writing, and the analysis offers this writing as activism, it examines the varied approaches and censorship of the straight mainstream to the queer. These themes are captured elsewhere in the collection too, another testament to this issue as a manifestation of solidarity. The observation about “that peculiarly British tolerance that is at once pity, disgust and schadenfreude” is embodied by Sue Borge in “My Mother was a Cat Called Footso”, with the closing sound “of surrender and pity and martyrdom of all the saints.” The criticism of hetero- and cis-normative culture as reducing the intensity of queerness to straight palatability is expressed in Colin Graham’s “After the Opera I Was a Criminal” through the lines:
It’s astonishing. If M says,
‘Dinner is served’, their version
tells you when, and how hot.
The relationship between being queer and being surrounded by the not-queer is this collection, it is the act of collecting and introducing as queer any writing. The context shifts the meaning, assumptions are called into question – the short prose is, in the words of Jo Surzyn, one of the editors and host at Wednesday’s launch, “brilliantly slightly disturbing,” an observation that goes into the multiplicity involved in the word queer. To write queerly, to produce queer writing, to be a queer writer is to disturb and subvert, to make queer the world and “to look with new-fangled eyes at the body.”
The theme brings an opportunity for broadening and examining the scope of what we mean by queer, and what is meant by queer writing, what it does to the world and to us to be queer and be writers. “Love Balloons” by Sophie Robinson moves through the creative and the critical (and helped me understand slightly better what, the fuck, creative-critical actually is) and queers it, makes the blending of self and art seem natural and gay, it reaches into writing and pulls significance through the words into the writer’s life. Megan Crosbie’s “The Kind of Appendages Lost in a Breakup” places the paraphernalia of living into the body, and the idea of loss in the title is complicated by the closeness these appendages still signify, the “tooth brush stands / bristles nuzzled against hers” and “her rebound girls/ look under the sink/ and find our mooncups/ spooning”.
Louis Pigeon-Owens “A Taste of Me” offers the body as sacrifice, the second-person address producing gender neutrality in the offering. This sacrifice reflects Sophie Robinson’s observation that “to be queer and in love is not just to turn away from the rich inheritance of heteropatriarchy but to put your own body in real danger” and “A Taste of Me” honours this through the speaker’s control – the voice asserts “I will not be your leftovers” and gives instructions for its preparation, places conditions and asks permission. To be openly queer, to live queer, is to acknowledge risk. To live queer and love yourself is a challenge; Richard Scott’s “[post sucking them off]” describes the disjuncture between seeing the self and seeing the other, and ends with an affirmation of self and vulnerability – “I’m happy being those things looking to get/ CUM*SLUT/ tattooed on my knuckles and/ will you kiss me then”.
To be openly queer, to live queer, is to acknowledge risk.
This issue is rich, and there are still more pieces here that I want to ramble about and celebrate and theorize over. This issue is intergenerational, it is a conversation. I went to the launch alone and left feeling the opposite, a copy of the journal in my bag (with a couple of back issues to prolong the experience) and a community on my back.
Featured image by Eli Lambe
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