So I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript for a (long) while now. A series of glosas riffing on the poetry of other queer femmes. Femmes get a lot done with a little, draw inspiration and strength from each other, collaborate with each other, and generally lift each other up. I think the poetic form of the glosa – a style where you take four sequential lines of someone else’s poem and write your own four-stanza, forty-line response poem incorporating one of the lines into the same point of each ten-line stanza (usually as the last line of each stanza, but not always) – works really well, in and of itself, as a metaphor for femme solidarity and mutual inspiration.
To that end: A small series talking about the poets and poems that are inspiring my manuscript.
Some Thoughts About This Book: Full disclosure: The author sent me this story in poems for free, as a review copy, which I am finally getting around to actually reviewing.
Meteor Family is a queer science fiction romance that explores the relationship, adventures, and chosen family of two mercenaries: Cameron (a human (or possible half-human?), butch former gladiator) and Azar (a chronically ill(?), genderless reptilian person).
Thematically, these poems are grit and glitter. Fighting, skirmishes, smuggling living cargo, butting up against eye-gazing, hand-holding, love-talk and puppy-dog eyes.
Individual vignettes that almost stand alone, and which I probably would have had an easier time with if they were stand-alone pieces. As it was, I kept trying to feed them into a cohesive narrative with some kind of temporal continuity and… I’m not sure I succeeded.
As individual pieces, I enjoyed “Isah and Mazlee Get Drunk” (which begins with “This is my big gay hypothetical space wedding” and ends with “lavender-glittery cheeks” – so, no surprises there), the sentiments behind “Alien Allies Join The Fight”, and the imagery in “Activists”:
dull gold to a subtle sheen
wrapped not in night, but in snowdrops and leaves
clean elegance like everything she’d seen of spring.
There is a story here. Several stories, if I’m parsing things correctly. A story about getting stranded, about survival, about team work. And another one about tough and tender heroines getting up the guts to confess their feelings for each other. The plot arcs and development are there. But they’re thin on the ground. It felt like diving into Season Three of a series without having watched the first two, or exploring a series of fanfic drabbles without being familiar with the source material. I wish the story part had been more fleshed out, either by making the 28 poems do more narrative work as individual poems, or else by upping the number of pieces in the manuscript. Instead, I was left to sort of blunder my way through the first half+ of the story, trying to sort out whether Isha and Mazlee were just different names for Cameron and Azar (I think maybe they weren’t, but I’m not actually sure…) and having only a vague sense of “troubled childhood, wild escape, somehow we wound up on the same boat…?” for Cameron’s back-story and even less for Azar. (The meet-cute poems from their respective perspectives are sweet as heck, though).
I’ve enjoyed poetry-novels (but that’s a novel written with obvious poetic underpinnings, not a novel-in-verse or a literal epic poem) and concept albums – both musical and literary – before, and I definitely have a taste for the kind of post-cyberpunk themes that I think I’m seeing in this chapbook. As such, you’d think Meteor Family‘s queer romantic science fiction would be right up my alley.
I love the candy-sweet of “Mazlee”, the where have you been all my life longings embedded in the last line of “Cam Meets Azar”. I think if I’d stripped the names and continuous, but hard to grab hold of, narrative out of this collection, I would have enjoy it more. Maybe all that means is that the format isn’t working for me, but I find myself a little frustrated with the thinness of the narrative, and that’s keeping me from whole-heartedly proclaiming that You Must Buy This Book.
Do what you want to do.
Which Poem I Chose to Gloss and Why: In the end, I opted for the shimmering, celestial imagery from “Mazlee” that lends itself to easily to descriptions of femme magic, but also to both the imagery of Magical Girl Anime and the more “science-y” imagery provided by the Hubble telescope.
Here’s a taste:
you fall for her every time
vanishes swift into lavender mist
In the oort-cloud of NRE
her freckles become a nebula