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Queering Language: Editor's Statement

Erica Kaufman

Thinking about a selection of writers who I feel are “queering language” is a daunting task. I am interested in how one uses language and grammar to disguise or reveal desire (to quote Sina Queyras, “writing is thinking made visible”), as well as how one dictionary definition of the word queer is “unusually different.” So, I approached this project with the term “difference” very much in the forefront of my mind. Additionally, I’ve been rereading Kaja Silverman’s The Subject of Semiotics and had her idea of texts as “made available as discourse instead of as a transparent poetic, novelistic, or cinematic fiction,” circling through my mind.
It was a lot of fun to track down writers whose work I adore because of its “unusual difference” (translate this to mean: spunk, zest, danger, humor, sentiment, gusto, unpredictability, genre and gender-crossing, etc.). It was also interesting to think about writers whose work I’d like to see alongside each others’, simply because it would represent a new camaraderie or contextualization.
What I found once I assembled a selection of these works is that not only was I faced with an unbelievable level of energetic writing, but also an inherent conversation of difference that seemed to emanate from this joining of writers, many of whom I’d not seen in the same space or book before. Many of these voices seemed to be kindred discourse spirits—exactly what I’d been hoping for—in the face of the strange, the minority, the diverse, emerges community.
As Abigail Child writes in “An Experiment in Autobiography,” “Read forward, sharp reds. The words take off. Think. It starts.” Language itself has the power to propel someone, to identify the new. Or, as Martha Oatis writes in “Untitled,” “few voices/ distinguish/ themselves/in the attic-corner/ of this/room/ as yours did,” raising the relevant question of the identity/ omnipotence of voice itself, or what Nicole Brossard refers to in “Napes” as, “the great picture of pronouns.”
Within this “great picture of pronouns,” I also found language as filled with intuition as it is with semiotics. For example: “I just want to talk to my boy” (Filip Marinovich) or “keep yr back to the sun/ if you want a memorable souvenir” (John Tyson) or “if I could remain in this trucker state, everyone/ would be beautiful everywhere, or a license plate, at some point.” (Amy King) These expressions of ardor are complex, in the veil they lightly lay between speaker and poet, and the enticing beauty of the language itself. To quote Camille Roy, “spasm as lyricism.”
Through this exposition of “queering language,” I hope to “snap a photograph/ of the splash” (David Trinidad), discover, “the voice the hand the story it is a new body part” (Akilah Oliver).