Queer Books you may not have read: Part Eight
December 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
Unless you’re one of the lucky people, like myself, who got a review copy- or one of the savvy ones who snapped up a hardback – you definitely won’t have read Poems for the Queer Revolution yet. But trust me on this – get in line for the paperback release. This international, intersectional collection of poems, essays and musical prose is a necessary and timely addition to the queer anthology catalogue.
The collaborative nature of this book goes back to its beginnings – main author and editor Jude Orlando Enjolras started the project after positive feedback on Twitter, and the production has been made possible by crowdfunding. For me, this is Queer Revolution‘s greatest strength – its constant reference to and reliance on solidarity, community and multiplicity. To steal one of the author’s phrases, this volume contains “dissent within dissent” – but there is companionship to be found within that. The multiple voices, multiple viewpoints presented here complicate and call out to each other, presenting a web of relationships built through acknowledgment of difference and the wonder of connection, rather than a supposed unity built upon imaginary/enforced sameness.
Grouped into themes, this is a long work, and I would advise a gradual reading, dipping in and out. Not all of pieces appealed to me in style, but that in itself is a valuable point in Queer Revolution‘s favour – the unique voice of each contributor is not smoothed over, but allowed to stand for itself.
By and large, the subject matter and themes are not easy or light – these are poems about struggle, survival and the costs of each. And, yet, as contributor Hel Gurney says: “I would turn a prison into a playground”. For me, that is one of the most vital elements contained within the word ‘queer’ – an irreverent yet sincere defiance rooted in love, mockery and a giddy awareness of the limitations of rule and order. Poems for the Queer Revolution has that feeling in abundance.
Jude Orlando Enjolras’ poetry, making up around half of this collection, reads (to me) very much as a dialogue with the audience. This is not poetry that ends at the page, but an elastic give and take with the person reading. Poetry here is not some separate thing but a foundational form of communication, parsing thought between thinkers. That slippage between a ‘high art’ form and ‘ordinary’ speech is just one set of dichotomies the poet works with: the stage vs. everyday life, the mundane vs. the extraordinary, dreams vs. waking – all are subject to confusion and cross-contamination. There is a sense of brimming over, a flooding of vitality, of richness, of passionate defiance – hard and tender at the same time.
I must admit my bias – I have worked with several of the writers presented here, and respect their poetry. But it isn’t because of that foreknowledge that I recommend this book – it’s because of the breadth and necessity of talent presented here. It’s not just the way in which these messages are conveyed – as beautifully as they are conveyed, in many cases – it’s because these are messages that must be heard. These are people who, so often told that they are nothing, relegated to a place of nothingness, have created entire worlds. It is a gift to be invited to share them.
Good for: queer libraries of all kinds, people looking to understand intersectional womanist, feminist, and/or trans and queer movements, a life raft.
Bad for: Reading all at once, people who don’t want to leave their comfort zone.
Goes with: Late nights high on coffee, working on your own revolution.
You can pre-order a copy of Poems for the Queer Revolution by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org – see http://judeorlandoenjolras.wordpress.com/ for updates and extracts.