Rage / Making / Love. Trans, working-class, femme Columbian-Puerto Rican poet Morgan Robyn Collado splits her debut collection, Make Love to Rage, into these three sections that, when read alongside the book’s title, prompt essential questions: How does one “make love to rage,” how does one embrace their righteous furor at the injustices of the world and turn it something new, rather than simply explode or burn out? And how can we imagine “rage making love”–anger begetting healing? (more…)
“for I am a dirty bird/no wire cage can save”
-Joan Larkin, “Chicken”
Joan Larkin has been praised extensively for her “ruthless” and self-examining poetry (LA Times, David Ulin), devoid of the trappings of cliché and sentimentality. Writing in the same kind of documentary poetics similar to Carolyn Forche, Larkin has a gift for making the private public, telling and retelling the story, and owing the truth nothing emotive. From Ulin’s review of Blue Hanuman: “For her, poetry is a form of witness; she offers no false hopes, no resolutions, except to reflect, as honestly and directly as she can manage, the complicated, at times uncontrollable, messiness of being alive… this is poetry without pity, in which despair leads not to degradation but to a kind of grace.” (more…)
“We came in here to pretend.” So begins Brian Blanchfield’s “Open House,” a playfully serious poem about a gay couple who, in the course of a spring walk, encounter an up-market house they cannot afford. Their finances do not prevent them from running room to room as they imagine themselves making space for Hart Crane and Eileen Myles in a study or removing awful drapes from a window overlooking the bay. It’s a game couples play all the time, though the queer spin here signals other themes, namely the limits to which the American Dream is available to gay men, whose recent past consigned them to urban rentals in clogged asphalt jungles. That the game turns partially earnest (“we weren’t faking exactly”) suggests the poem’s jaunty veneer masks a darker truth: the dream is seductive—and forever out of reach. Its voice may possess a biting wit that includes references to Diaghilev and Nijinsky, Bouvard and Pecuchet, and the ironic appropriation of legal terminology and Latin phrases, but in the end he must admit he and his lover, who “blew in notional,” imagine a future that is “not us, not any more.” (more…)
The electrifying self-reveal has long been a favorite trick of the gods. An amiable companion on horseback uncloaks himself as Odin, deity of wisdom, poetry, and victory in battle; in Genesis, Jacob rises from a wrestling match to find the challenger was Yahweh in human form. And on The Road to Emmaus, as depicted in a garish postcard in Sister Ann’s office, where Spencer Reece’s speaker remembers his older mentor and would-be lover in the title poem of his latest collection, two travelers from Jerusalem are joined by a third, who listens intently to a description of their savior before revealing himself as Christ. (more…)
“I’ve seen how/brutality becomes the rhythm to a kind of/song”
Saeed Jones may be one of the most necessary poets of our time. Our time, which, as of this moment, is ravaged by news of Ferguson, heartbreak in Gaza, Tina Fontaine, the murders of two transgender women in Detroit, a massive water shortage in California, earthquakes—to name a few things. As I type this, my news feed and inbox are full of letters and articles and tweets and comments and frustrations and fundraisers of all of the folks in my immediate community and their immediate communities and the vast global communities we occupy by sharing the same umbrella of identity, the intersection of race, ability, gender, class, occupation, illness. If it’s true (and I believe it is true) that our movements and traumas are reflected in the art that we consume, or that the art that we consume often tells a better story than any journalist, then Saeed Jones’ Prelude to Bruise is an archive of resistance. (more…)
Etel Adnan is practically an institution. With writing that has been set to music, turned into plays, and used in political protests, her gripping lyrical style coupled with deep philosophical prowess has made her a literary giant for decades. So when her retrospective collection, To look at the sea is to become what one is was announced to be released from Nightboat Books, I was thrilled to get my hands on a review copy. (more…)
When I Was Straight, the newest book from author Julie Marie Wade (Postage Due, Small Fires, and Lambda Award winner Wishbone), is a slim little volume of poems chock full of insight and life. Published as the eleventh volume of A Midsummer Night’s Press’s LGBT-focused Body Language imprint, it offers a look into Wade’s “before and after:” the first half of the book tackles her life before coming out, and the second half details people’s reactions to learning that she’s a lesbian. (more…)
like a tunnel grieves a view of the sky:
all the emptiness between my teeth is a gift.
pray down the mirror our reflection says we
see through. your new lover on one side of the street.
your new bicycle. and then, therefore, you.
pray down a rope around the syllable
that haunts us. the narrative that continually takes
itself too seriously. a symphony of strangulated rests.
- From “On braiding hair already cut away from the scalp”
The opening poem in genderqueer poet TC Tolbert’s first book-length collection, Gephyromania, is a microcosm that, in many ways, captures the wide world of the entire compilation. Also titled “Gephyromania,” — a word which refers to an obsession with bridges, and a title exquisite in how well it captures both the themes and obliqueness of its surrounding offerings — the poem introduces us to the ever-present sound of singing, the wide open stretches of blank page evoking the airy freedom when one “remove[s] from the frame of reference the referent.” (more…)
Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color (being curated by Christopher Soto in collaboration with the Lambda Literary Foundation) will be hosting Journal Launch Readings in NYC, Chicago, and San Francisco this September. Below is information regarding event details (click here for a list of readings taking place in August as part of our Nepantla summer reading series). We hope to see you there! (more…)
This is how it happens: I arrive early at the airport in Greenville-Spartanburg only to learn my flight is delayed. This small, homey airport feels like someone’s living room–with plush carpet and tall windows and lots of cushy chairs for semi-private conversations and prime storm viewing. I am traveling alone and haven’t eaten since breakfast, so I take a seat on a high bar-stool at Windows Restaurant–the diner side. A seasoned waitress, named Sandy, with a fabulous, frosted perm recommends the mushroom-swiss burger with all the trimmings. We get to talking. She grew up in south Florida near where I live now. “Sometimes I miss it,” she says, pouring my refills from waterfall heights. “But then of course, sometimes I don’t.” She seems like a very balanced person. (more…)