Queer Femme Poets – Kay Gabriel

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.
 

Kay Gabriel’s “Elegy Department Spring – Candy Sonnets 1” (BOAAT Press, 2017)
A fuzzy/soft-focus image of Candy Darling on the right side of the cover, with the title in white and red all-caps in the top- left.


 
Some Thoughts About This Book: I found Kay Gabriel on twitter, probably because someone on my feed retweeted something she said. Also, my knowledge of sonnets as a form pretty-much drops off just shy of 403 years ago. Which still means I know more about sonnets than I know about actress and Andy-Warhol-muse Candy Darling,who is the subject of this manuscript.
What I’m saying is that it’s not like I can review this chapbook from either an academic, or a pop-cultural, perspective (if you want something more like that, maybe try this review by Evelyn Deshane). I can only take these poems at face-value and maybe scratch my head a little, saying: “Okay, I have no idea how these are sonnets, but I’m just going to go with it”.
So, go with it I did, and mostly let myself be struck by poems like “Pastoral” which I read – maybe in my typical bi-dyke way – as the perennial question “Do I want to be her friend, or do I want to be her lover?”, or “Metonyms for Flesh” which pings a couple of my own experiences as an independent figurative/fetish/soft-core model.
Essentially, I’m only relating to these poems – which are about actual people and actual experiences – though my own, rather than picking up more deeply on, say, the theme of “identity as art” that shows up over and over again in this chap.
…Which, okay, I admit I’m having some feelings (although maybe not all the way into feeeeelings territory) about, since – even knowing that, on some level, a poem is a collaboration between the writer/performer and the reader/listener and what I bring to my reading is part of what makes a given poem meaningful rather than just a stretch of semi-random words on a page. Like, “Clearly I’m missing something here” is a thought that comes up with a fair degree of frequency. Which is probably why I felt the need to be all “Let me reference Dada for a minute” in this write-up, in the first place.
 
Anyway. Moving right along.
 
Which Poem I Chose to Gloss and Why: The poem I chose to gloss was “Better Homes and Gardens iii: les neiges de J/O New Jersey”. A poem that feels a bit like the months I spent, pre-divorce, day-dreaming about Late80s/Early90s-era Annie Lennox, among other celebrities a generation my senior, wanting to have been in parties where everyone was queer, including me, and I didn’t have a hetero-monogamous marriage to keep me from trauma-flirting with all those sad, angular, pretty, art girls I desperately wanted more of in my life.
So maybe it’s not surprising that the opening line, “Wake up in the 90’s like you crashed”, sent me spiraling down the path of an alternate past where my 20s look like something else entirely (but probably still involve bad boundaries, bad decisions, and rushing into romantic relationships, just gay ones this time).

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