Tag Archives: femmes write glosas

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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Meaningful Acceptance

Black and white photo of me (environmental portraiture), with an umbrella, taken by Ramin Izadpahah during a photography class he was running.

Black and white photo of me (environmental portraiture), with an umbrella, taken by Ramin Izadpahah during a photography class he was running.


 
So, I just got the heads-up that two of my poems have been accepted to an anthology. I’m not saying which one yet. I don’t tend to make those announcements until the magazine/anthology/chapbook/etc actually launches and, anyway, the author contracts haven’t been sent out, let alone had time for the ink to dry.
 
But, you guys… Look. I send my poems out to places that are likely to find them relevant and appropriate for what they want to publish. Everybody does this. It’s good sense.
But sometimes the submission process feels a little more vulnerable, y’know?
And this particular anthology is one of those times.
I wasn’t sure I had a chance of getting a Yes from them. They got hundreds of submissions, and can only take so many, right?
It means so much that they found my work worthy. That it was relevant. That it fit.
 
I’ve seriously been sitting here, crying, since I opened the email.
I get to be in a book with one of my heroes.
 
So I’m just going to go be a weepy mess for a little bit.
Oh my gods, you guys,, this is such a big deal. ❤

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Queer Femme Poets – Rasiqra Revulva

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.
 

Rasiqra Revulva’s “Cephelopography” (Words On Pages Press, 2016)
A disembodied hand holds a copy of the chapbook. The chapbook is abut the size of a CD case, with a shimmy champagne-silver cover. The cover image is words typed over each other, some upside down and backwards. The title and author’s name are in small, red type at the bottom of the cover.


 
Some Thoughts About This Book: I picked this book up at VERSeFest. I’d gone to see Kama La Mackerel, and it turned out that Rasiqra Revulva was stepping in at the last minute, because another performer – Di Brandt, Arc’s poet in residence – had needed to cancel. Rasiqra Revulva is a mixed-media artist whose poetry, in performance, includes reverb, looping and other effects. With “Cephelopography“, this means she’s able to make it sound like she’s performing her piece under water. The book itself includes interactive poetry (Ezra’s Final Dive), visual poetry, and poems that play with queerness, race, religion, and gender.
 
Which Poem I Chose to Gloss and Why: I love “Free the Niquabi” and “Mimic: Passing”, but I chose to gloss “Night of Power”. What I got from this poem was a willingness to take a big risk, even though risks don’t always pay off the way you want them to. I also got a lot of “Religious Seeker” from it, maybe because I left one faith for another when I was in my teens. Which is what I wrote about, when glossing this poem. (It worked out better for me than it did for the protagonist in “Night Of Power”).

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Queer Femme Poets – Avery M. Guess

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 Avery M. Guess’ chapbook
“The Patient Admits”
An out-of-focus image of a white person with shoulder-length hair who is wearing a black tank top and a veil(?) over their (her?) head.
Title and author’s name appear to the right of the image.


 
Some Thoughts About This Book: First off, I won this book in a draw. The author did a give-away and I was the lucky recipient. It felt pretty great to win a thing. 😉
Second, like a lot of poetry written by femmes – or maybe like a lot of poetry written by queers – this is poetry about trauma survival. About incest survival. So, y’know, there’s a content warning for the whole chapbook.
There’s a repeating form that moves through the collection, a series of poems with titles that go “In Therapy, The Patient Is Asked To Define: []” and the [] is a particular word. The poems consist of a definition coined by the author, the use of the word in a sentence, and then an acrostic on the word that relates to the definition and/or experience described in the sentence.
I really like them.
The way the definitions are so personal. They way they do or don’t dovetail with the sentence the words are used in. How the author has embedded a poetic form – one that typically gets taught to kids in primary school – into this new structure that, I think, gives it a much sharper form while also linking the whole poem through the inclusion of this specific form, and its content, to the reality of “this is something a child had to endure”. It’s like the poems, themselves, are having body flashbacks.
They’re fucking brilliant.
 
Which poem I chose to gloss and why: So maybe it’ll come as a surprise to you that I didn’t choose to gloss one of the “In Therapy” definition poems. Instead I chose to gloss “The Patient Attempts to Explain Cutting”, which is a series of couplets each one building on the last. I chose it because of how well the imagery conveys the building pressure under the skin.
I took two of the couplets and built (or tried to build) a poem about how I have used self-harm to center myself or to cope with feelings and experiences around un/worthiness.
I have to admit, the poem I wrote feels like it might be two different poems that have been haphazardly sutured together. A finished draft that might need to be split and started again. We’ll see.
 
 
Cheers,
A.

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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.
 
 
Cheers,
A.

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Queer Femme Poets – Amber Dawn

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. So 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. It’s also, of course, the form used in Amber Dawn’s Where the words end and my body begins, and her influence on my own writing has been pretty significant.
 
So, to the surprise of nobody, I’m starting this little blog series with that very same book.
 

Cover of Amber Dawn’s “Where the Words End and My Body Begins” (Arsenal Pulp, 2015).


 
Some Thoughts About This Book: This book was the beginning of it all, even before I decided that I could write glosas as a project, as a chapbook let alone a full-length manuscript, because reading it gave me the push to try using formal poetry as a way to unlock my writer’s brain and trick myself into creating Actual Poetry (as opposed to “paragraphs with funny line breaks”, which free verse – or at least MY free verse – can stumble into). Because, in Amber Dawn’s use of the form, she’s not afraid to mess with it, to move things around a little. It felt like permission to do the same – to divvy those quatrains up into the second or sixth or eighth line of each stanza, rather than the first or last, or to stick to the form hard, and then cheat it just a little in the last stanza.
But I also chose to work with poetry from this book, rather than from, say, How Poetry Saved My Life, because I want to incorporate something like a cascade effect into my poems: the four lines I chose from “The Revered Femme Bottom” include a line from the original Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha poem onto-which Amber Dawn built her own piece, and the title of her book echos a poem (“Summer : or, I want the rage of poets to bleed guns, speechless with words”) by femme poet Anurima Banerji. I love this book because it’s a story, told in stand-alone poems, about lineage. Lineage in Kathryn Payne’s “Whores and Bitches Who Sleep With Women”[3] sense of the word; in the “What kind of ancestor do you want to be?”[2] sense of the word. One more map showing where we came from, helping us chart where we go.
 
Which poem I chose to gloss and why: So far, I’ve written glosas riffing on both “Dirt Bag Love Affair” and “The Revered Femme Bottom”, though the one I wrote for Dirt Bag doesn’t really count – I don’t think – because it’s not actually a response to the poem, just a poem of mine written around the bones of four lines from hers. I love that poem because it is, itself, a gloss of another femme’s poem (Chandra Mayor’s “Winter Night”, from August Witch, iirc), and for it’s putting on and taking off of city & university layered over rural & poor, neither of those identities false or complete on their own. I love the other – and my gloss of “Femme Bottom” is a response, as a sometimes-stone femme top dreaming her way[3] back into her body and her desires – because it speaks to learning to recognize and name desire, and for the truth of “no-one could have told you the dearest souls roll rough trade”. My dearest souls so often do. I don’t know which, if either, of the poems I wrote on these pieces will end up in the final manuscript. Solid chance I’ll write at least one more on Amber Dawn’s work. But here we are.
 
 
Cheers,
A.
 
 
[1] You can find this essay, and Anurima Banerji’s above-mentioned poem, in Brazen Femme (Arsenal Pulp, 2002).
 
[2] Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Bodymap (Mawenzi House, 2015).
 
[3] As Amber L Hollibaugh and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha would both say, and have.

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Femme Dykes Write Glosas (Apparently)

So, apparently, when you’re a femme-dyke poet, you write Glosas. (Thanks, Amber Dawn. 😉 )
 
Dorothy Chan has a poem featured at Matrix Magazine, written from the (theoretical) perspective of a Playboy Centrefold.
 
I find poems like this Interesting because, while there is a tonne of overlap between women who do sexwork and women who write poetry, as a professional naked person who has done plenty of this kind of modeling (albeit definitely not for those kind of excellent rates), I find myself wondering if Dorothy Chan has worked in this particular industry.
Maybe.
Maybe not.
(I admit to a suspicion of Not, but I’ve been wrong before, so hey).
 
So I decided to write a glosa using the last four lines of her featured poem.
I’d originally thought it would be one for “We Are All Jezebel” (a manuscript that I work on intermittently which looks at the intersection of femme, slut, and ho – as per Kathryn Payne’s essay in Brazen Femme) and talk about my own experience as a model doing glam nudes and boudoir shoots.
But that’s not how it worked out at all.
I actually wound up talking about hunger – hunger for food, hunger for sex, how food and sex and bound up together in my head andmy body in a way that has nothing to do with whipped cream and chocolate body paint and everything to do with being nurtured and fed on an emotional/heart level – about asexuality and eating disorders and needing to relearn “healthy eating habits” in my skin.
So it’s going to end up in “How to Cook a Heart” – the manuscript I work on much more frequently that explores queer polyamourous love & desire and the building of chosen family through the lens of local-seasonal food (growing it, cooking it, preserving it, sharing it, you name it…).
 
Here’s a sample of what I wrote today:
 

can almost taste her
the edge of memory burns
my tongue on her hip bone I sob
at a kiss
I’m allowed to crave
or am I? This sheath shows every flaw
I want to shrug off
let you have me like this
open
straps falling down, breasts out, bending my body over,

 
It’s a work in progress, as they say. 😉
 
 
TTFN,
A.

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