Queer Femme Poets – Adele Barclay

So I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript for a 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.

Cover of Adele Barclay’s “If I Were In A Cage I’d Reach Out For You” (Nightwood Editions, 2016).

Some Thoughts About This Book: If I Were In A Cage I’d Reach Out For You was recommended to me by a friend when I put a note up on Facebook asking for the names of queer femme poets I should be reading. I rattled off a list of the femmes whose work I either already had, or had on order either from a bookstore or through the library. When I looked up the author on twitter, I discovered that she’s the same kind of witchy queer poet that I am (turns out we are mirror witches – I’m a Scorpio with a Cancer moon, and she’s a Cancer with a Scorpio moon – which makes me inordinately happy, for weird, woo reasons that I’m more likely to delve into over at Urban Meliad than here. 😉 ). Being my kind of witch, it’s no surprise that she brings astrology, tarot, and kitchen magic into her work (as well as a delicious mix of explicitly formal and more free-verse styles of writing – which have inspired me to write aubades and other interestingly shaped or themed poems since reading it). It’s also no surprise that I love this book for the way she (re) enchants the urban landscape or, maybe more accurately, makes visible the magic that has always been there. I love the way water – the suit of feeling and healing – comes back again and again and again all through this book.
Which poem I chose to gloss and why: I chose to gloss the poem “Yukon River Breakup”, though there are a LOT of poems to draw on in this book (“Sea Hag”, “Cardinal vs Mutable”, “Last Night”, “Brackish”, the whole “Sara” collection, though “Sara VI” in particular…). I chose it because of the way she asks how a river breaks (“like a day // or like an egg” – hope & possibilities vs irreparable, disastrous damage), and because I also know that a photograph is a spell, and that humans love to make meaning out of everything. I also chose it because it’s position – the first new moon of a new year – is a good one for the kind of poem I wanted to write, about surfacing with wisdom gleaned from your own depths, and stepping towards a new way of being.


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