October 24, 2014

‘Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter’ by S. Bear Bergman

Posted on 17. Feb, 2014 by in Nonfiction, Reviews

Oh, sweetheart. How can I explain this to you, when you have so little experience of meanness? When your whole frame of reference for the grave injustices of the world is that you are typically restricted to one episode of Muppets at a time and are sometimes, non-consensually, covered with a blanket? How do I talk about the historical impact of reducing a person to an it?

S. Bear Bergman’s third book, Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter (Arsenal Pulp Press) does not begin with the above quote, but the way that Bear implores his son to understand the dynamism of subversion is implicit throughout the entire manuscript. Bergman, who takes on the monumental task of bringing into the world and co-parenting a child named Stanley, has crafted a well-wrought book of essays on parenting, non-traditional families, healing from old wounds, and intimacy that very nearly brought me to tears on several occasions. From Bergman’s essay “Constellation of Intimates,” which delves into the tender-hearted notion of polyamory, lovers, friends, and family as a giant web of never-too-much adoration and solidarity, to his story of how Stanley came into the world, the book rings true and clear in a modern queer world.

The book launches the reader immediately into Bergman’s world. Starting with the essay “The Really True Story, Once and for All, of How We Got Stanley (with Footnotes),” the origin, or genesis of how Stanley came to be in the world of Bergman and his partner Ishai is told in sweet detail: the insemination, the decisions as a couple, the discussions with community, the choosing of a donor, and finally, the gusto with which Stanley enters the world. The story of how Bear and Ishai’s son becomes a person is beautifully juxtaposed with the subsequent essays in the book that range from Bergman’s own disjointed upbringing to educational pieces on how to talk to trans folks.

I was particularly pleased to find the essay “Diesel Femme” among the pages of personal and educational story-telling. It is unfortunately rare for transmasculine or masculine-of-center narratives to pay necessary tribute or homage to femme identities, and here Bergman does a stand-up job. Not only does his essay talk about femmes with reverence, grace, and solidarity, “Diesel Femme” also subtly and yet poignantly acknowledges the colorful umbrella of the queer community—and all of the desires, wants, powers, weaknesses, and multiplicities contained therein.

This umbrella is captured well in the essay mentioned above, “Constellation of Intimates,” in which Bergman rejoices in the ways he is seen and loved by their closest people: “The ways in which the people with whom I have planted and grown great intimacy, whether while naked or dressed or both, make a lie out of the pervasive myth that people like me—fat or queer or trans or unrepentantly nerdy or polyamorous or difficult or some of those things or all of that—that people like me (and maybe people like you too) don’t get to have families.” Not only does Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter acknowledge that these myths are untrue, but they also make space in the world for them to plant and spread like the contagious fire they are.

 

Blood, Marriage, Wine and Glitter
By S. Bear Bergman
Arsenal Pulp Press
Paperback, 978155125112, 240 pp.
October  2013

July Westhale is a Pushcart-nominated poet, activist, and radical archivist with a weakness for botany and hot air balloons. She has been awarded fellowships from the Lambda Literary Foundation, Tin House, Bread Loaf, and the Dairy Hollow Writers Colony. Her poetry has most recently been published in burnt district, WordRiot, 580 Split, and Quarterly West. Her poetry can also be found in the recently released anthologies: Women Write Resistance, and Contemporary Queer Poetry. She was recently nominated as a Best New Poet for 2012 and 2013, for an AWP Intro Award, and a finalist for a Creative Writing Fulbright.

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