The fourth issue of Plenitude is both a little new and what I’ve come to expect from this high-quality, diverse collection of writing by queer people. What’s new, you ask? Plenitude now comes in a print version! I was so excited to get mine in the mail, and then get to parade it around on BC ferries while I was reading it. Look everyone, at this awesome queer literary magazine! Did you know it’s your queer literary magazine? There’s just something about having a text in tangible, print form that just doesn’t compare to electronic versions. Fine, call me a luddite if you want to.
So, what about that what-I’ve-come-to-expect part? Let’s have a look!
The first story that really caught my attention was a cute bisexual first kiss story by Edmonton-based Caitlin Crawshaw. There were a few phrases that really captured the difficulty of not fitting into the homonormative narrative of identity, like “I am trapped in that awkward space between the breeders and the queers.” Having just finished Shiri Eisner’s book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution, this first made me think: embrace the contradictory, radical in-betweenness that is being bi! Then I remembered that being in that position can be isolating, scary, and just plain shitty. Anyway, more on those bi topics some other time.
Crawshaw’s character trying to look back and locate that so-called authentic queerness really resonated for me too:
People often look to childhood for an explanation. But in mine, I see none. Pink was my favourite colour; lacy little-girl dresses with ribbon and flowers made my little-girl knees weak. I was a stereotype of a middle-class, blond-haired girl. I was a talking doll. For the record, I hated sports. … At five, the rules were lost to me. At twenty-three, I’m still unsure what team I’m playing for.
Vancouver-based poet Rachel Rose’s poem “Flood” was a pleasure to read, especially these gorgeous, sexy (also bisexual!) Sappho-inspired last lines:
Why let husbands come between us
when your hair, bright as saffron, fills my hands?
You were so stone
An important, really well-written story that was hard to read at times was Faye Guenther’s “Opened Fire,” about a woman who served with the Canadian army in Afghanistan and has come back with PTSD. Carmen’s current life, having returned to small-town Ontario with not much to do to keep herself busy, is interspersed with flashbacks to some really awful shit in Afghanistan. There’s a romance in this story too, although it’s dwarfed by the other issues in the story. Also, the woman Carmen meets has some of her own stuff to deal with:
Aurora had noticed Carmen earlier, the slight hunch of her shoulders and her upper body boxed tightly like a wound-up spring as if she were getting ready to throw a punch. Lately, the days had been sliding by for Aurora, long but hardly memorable. She felt like she’d fallen into their flat rhythm, losing track of herself along the way. Suddenly here was this woman whose wary presence threw everything back into relief. There was something dishevelled, too, in this stranger, something submerged.
Nat Marshik’s “First Poem for my Mother” is a really beautiful tribute that appealed to my nerdy interest in linguistics and language:
My mother’s world crackles with facts.
The smallest things salt themselves into words that twist
On the tongue, words that walk
On the legs of dead languages. She revels
In the shape of a sound and its memories
Of ancient mouths, how history is woven
Through prefixes or pulled through
The narrow opening of a vowel. She knows life
Can dance all winter inside a crocus bulb.
She keeps a dictionary by her elbow at dinner.
Amal Rana’s “Insisting on Socks” (okay too bad about the title) was otherwise a moving poem investigating racism in the immigration system:
knowing you might be deported
knowing we might never again
fight over fried chicken, the last aloo paratha
knowing you were about to leave my arms
perhaps for the last time
you suddenly mentioned you forgot to wear socks
and remembered that in prison floors are always cold
I offered you mine but didn’t insist
I didn’t insist
I should have insisted
I often find it difficult to talk about why I enjoy certain poems and not others, and these two were no exception, but there you go. I liked them. Check them out.
Oh yeah, and a shout-out to Shawn Syms’s story, which contains this awesome sentence about a gay guy in the 90s thinking about a butch lesbian: “Erik was actually a bit aroused by her macho looks, but wasn’t sure if it was politically correct to admit this.” This made me laugh out loud! I also appreciated how this story tackled biphobia by describing a lesbian organization that would rather hire a gay guy to do media coverage for them than a woman who “was booted out once it became known she also slept with men.”
These are just some snippets from the latest Plenitude issue. You can get your copy (print and digital!) here.