Wanna lick some lit while in queerantine? Fringe! writers assemble
by Adam Zmith
Sometimes all the lights go out, writes Bonnie Hancell. Like many poets, she shares her poems online. So in these dark days of coronachaos, at least we have the illumination of writers like Bonnie. Outside may be “an avenue for ghosts” (another line from Bonnie), but online we can still find and explore each other.
As the literature programmer for Fringe!, I’ve put together a list of queer words that may bring the community into your home as you self-isolate. As Bonnie writes, “everything hurts and nothing is okay”, but I hope these recommendations can make these strange days easier. The lit below is from the writers who appeared at the Fringe! festival in November 2019, and it’s a mix of their own work and their recommendations.
“Maybe the words of Bonnie Hancell will cheer you during this mad time,” says Richard, who performed his own work during Fringe! last year. You can find Bonnie’s poems on her Instagram, where they combine sex and violence and tenderness and love.
And I recommend Richard’s poem Crocodile, which sends a tingle down the spine every time I hear it. Here’s a video of Richard performing it:
Imagine working on a book for years, and the release date coinciding with a huge social shutdown. That’s the situation for Golnoosh, whose exquisite and provocative words form a new book due out in April. It’s called The Ministry of Guidance and Other Stories, and it's a collection of short stories about the lives of Iranian queers both within and outside Iran. If you enjoyed Golnoosh’s performance at Fringe! last year or just want to support a queer writer, you can pre-order the book now.
If you can’t wait for that, here’s one of those short stories by Golnoosh featuring a lovely lesbian sex scene. And if you want more steam, check out her sapphic poems, for example The Eye of the Storm.
When I asked Golnoosh for recommendations of others’ contemporary queer works, she could barely stop:
Fiction: Guapa by Saleem Haddad, Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jerdowski, My Education by Susan Choi, Women by Chloe Caldwell (£1.99 on Kindle right now!), and The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst.
Poetry: The Tradition by Jericho Brown, Insert [Boy] by Danez Smith, English Breakfast by Jay Bernard, Selah by Keith Jarrett, Songs my Enemies Taught Me by Joelle Taylor, Contains Mild Peril by Fran Lock, Death of a Clown by Tom Bland, and Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong.
Here’s something which, by the author’s own admission is “very fluffy and a bit silly”. It’s perfect for keeping the light in a queerantine. Chris appeared on a panel discussion at Fringe! last year about gender and sexuality in science fiction. So here’s his episodic short story following sentient breadmaker Pamasonic Teffal on a new adventure.
Iona Datt Sharma
Cat knows when she’s finished speaking that she must be flushed with emotion – it’s a practised spiel that nevertheless works its way through her body every time, like a form through canvas. But she looks up and Talitha is smiling at her, tentative, luminous.
“We could do this again,” Cat says, suddenly. “I mean, it’s nice to have company at lunchtimes. It’s been lonely since everyone up at the base started to leave.”
A Barbican Young Poet, Annie performed at Fringe! last year and here she is performing a powerful piece about sexual abuse and denial:
And here’s a poem of beauty, from Annie, about boobs:
D is for demon destroyer! That’s Keith for you. Here’s his poem, They Call Me D, featuring a hundred voices that made him and how he made himself:
I programmed Keith at Fringe! in November, and one of the many gems he brought to us was A Gay Poem, which is about being boxed as an artist — and a way to resist:
Photo of Golnoosh by Vasco Vieira. Photo featuring Chris and Iona by Samuel Davies.