Summer Poetry Fridays: you nasty.
Welcome to the day after Summer Solstice! Now that we're firmly in the season, I’m launching a weekly queer poetry series. Why?
1. I like poetry. Even though I am doomed to labor away perpetually in my adulthood, with only Karl Marx to understand my misery, summer vacation was a sacred time of uninterrupted reading in my youth. I’m still nostalgically reaching for it.
2. There was this Twitter post that said something like, “fuck, marry, kill: fiction, nonfiction, poetry,” and the comments read “kill poetry” straight down.
You guyssss. Poetry today is owned by POC. Poetry today is owned by queer folks. Poetry today belongs wholeheartedly to the marginalized, and when people are like “I don’t read poetry,” what I’m hearing is, “I’ve closed myself off to revolutionary queer voices, to POC voices, to communities centered around empathy and activism.” In the same way that Americans have huge issues about reading fiction in translation, they shut themselves off from poetry because poetry uplifts voices that are different from them.
But! Poetry reading has increased in the US! Unsurprisingly, “the largest increase in poetry readership in the past five years has come from young people ages 18–24 and African American, Asian American, and other non-white readers.” Heck yeah. *air guitar*
3. Maybe you’re not a poetry reader and you’re like, “Gosh, I’ve been out of the loop and had no idea that POC and queer writers rule the poetry scene like majestic rock stars! How do I find them! Help!!” Welcome to Poetry Fridays, my friend! Let’s discover gems together.
I'm gonna start with Rosamond King’s collection Rock-Salt-Stone. Ooooh, baby. It won a Lambda Literary Poetry Award this year. Here’s what Publisher’s Weekly has to say: “[Several defining elements of the collection are] a deep engagement with history and mythology, a sense of play, and formal techniques that require the reader to hear—not just read—the poem. King teases out the tension between poem as print object and performance score, not only through the poems’ music, but also through unconventional uses of the page and typography, extreme lineation, as well as through onomatopoeia, misspellings (“Her genus lies in the fat that her writing perfectualy invects the reeder in”), and the incorporation of other languages, including Wolof and several Caribbean vernaculars. King uses English while writing beyond and against the bounds of its conventions, and also to foreground the speaking, hearing body—and importantly, the black, queer, female body—as the site where language originates and lands.”
I loved this hodgepodge collection, which is even whackier and freer and zestier when you hear King perform it. (You can see King performing her poem "Darling youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu zami" and several others here [skip to 1:00].) I loved lines like "laddies & gentle dykes / the state of the civil union is / strongarming." Snippets like, "Bi the trans / figuration."
I really loved her poem, "I love myself when..."
Ooooooooooh baby. I love poetry. I love this poem. Here's some more of it:
King's bio says, "The goal of her work is to make people feel, wonder, and think, in that order," and I got that vibe from her work. There's a spirituality, a simultaneous lightness and strength to King's poems, that buoys me. Rock-Salt-Stone is fun and sparky and playful. I'm going to leave you with a dirty little lovely poem I quite liked, in its printed completion: