Shift in submissions evokes depth

This year’s Outwrite publication pulls at heartstrings while taking on a variety of issues

Essays, visual art, poetry and prose make up this year’s offering of Outwrite.
Essays, visual art, poetry and prose make up this year’s offering of Outwrite.
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It’s the dark and alluring Outwrite cover art that will draw you into the publication’s fourth volume. It’s the exploration, at times conversely subtle and overt, of themes old, new, political and emotional that will hold your attention and urge you to delve deeper into the work.

Co-editor Alexandra Howard’s note describes the publication’s renewed focus on queer-positive work as opposed to specifically queer content.

“So often, a call for queer content results in submissions that stick to recognizably queer motifs: narratives about coming out, about marginalization and about the need for equality,” Howard writes.

This shift in submission requirements has brought forth a collection of poetry, prose and artwork that’s less overtly political than in years past, but carries with it a breadth of emotional experiences that are, for the most part, eloquently expressed.

The first prose piece in the publication, “Cornelian Rhapsody” by Carolyn Lamb, tells a heart-wrenching tale of a young woman who’s not yet out of the closet but in love with a fellow student, and how she projects her emotions onto stories about an imaginary world, Cornelia, she has conjured up in her notebook. The piece jarringly conveys the speaker’s shame and confusion when she denies her sexuality in clear, provocative language: “Lesbianism was a lot like Cornelia. It only really happened in her head.”

Benjamin Tollestrup’s “A Different Approval” is a refreshingly overt request for a different dialogue in which to express desire. Lines such as “or ask me to strap it on/and give it to him in both holes/or say you’re my only one baby/while I make out with everyone” bring a more realistic discussion of transgender issues to the fore with plays on the use of he and she and straightforward sexual language. Tollestrup’s “Tonight” offers an equally enjoyable and no less realistic read, detailing a night of getting ready to perform in drag.

Lara Szabo Greisman’s poetry, scattered throughout the collection, examines queer issues more philosophically, and plays less overtly with sexuality and more with identity and societal boundaries. Her poem “Role-play” reads as though she’s speaking it aloud, and her analogy describing a child’s toy teaching children to put certain shapes and colours in certain slots powerfully gets her point across by exclaiming, “but in the circle slot, I am a jammed heart block bright green.”

Some of the works in the publication seem to pass up literary style in favour of trying to deliver a political message. The simplistic rhyme scheme of “She Can’t” by A.R. comes off sounding trite, and lines such as “she can’t tell you why she doesn’t like to shop/she can’t tell you why on her fingernails/there is no nail polish, not a drop” lessens the seriousness of the issues the poet tries and fails to raise.

“Thirty-Eight Reasons” by S. Davies is a very open, and very redundant, list of reasons why a woman loves her best friend, who’s straight. Again, although the message is relevant, the poem doesn’t generate an emotional reaction amidst the clunky language and cliché dramatizations of love: “I love how time stops when our eyes lock.”

On the whole, the collection’s works flow well together, and it falters only at the end by placing three of the four prose pieces in close proximity, threatening to lose the reader before reaching “Naming Myself,” a short story on the emotional impacts of having a sex-change operation, and “Chasing an Infinite Rainbow,” an essay on where queer disability theory fits into the sphere of Autism that’s too brief to properly address its subject matter, but thought-provoking nonetheless.

Talia Radcliffe’s explanation in her essay excerpts “Baby Steps Toward Counter-Hegemony” regarding her use of the term LGBT instead of queer—“the term LGBT, at the very least, makes the effort in title to distinguish between very different groupings of people”—seems apt: even the term queer seems to blanket the diverse experiences presented in this publication.

The publication’s design work is stunning, with wallpaper-like prints and non-descript smudges fading in and out of each page’s corners. The consistent black-and-white borders, even on colour pages, provide cohesiveness and artwork such as Amy Uyeda’s “Coloured Rubbers” and the back cover’s rainbow flag stands out even more prominently amid the shadowy motif.

Although the collection would have benefited from more artwork, and the artwork it displays doesn’t make too strong a statement, the design makes up for the aesthetic content the artwork lacks.

Outwrite does a decent job of grabbing the reader by the heartstrings or the mind, but where it falters, it certainly grabs the reader by the eyes. Outwrite’s writers and artists present their politics of emotion and philosophical musings with sincerity, depth and, on the whole, literary prowess.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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