“A subtle, devastating mix of cuteness and embarrassment”

by Kitty Drake in January 2021
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Art & design LGBTQI+

A literary journal by Richard Porter, A Queer Anthology of Healing is printed by Pilot Press, which Porter founded in 2017 to publish anthologies of queer art, writing and activism, from the 1980s AIDS crisis to present. This journal begins with a poem about the very specific horror of getting a Kylie lyric wrong. Kevin Kellian’s speaker has confused “angelic motion” for “genital emotion”. To do this terrible thing is:

“the bourne from which no traveller returns,
there’s a line here, separating sheep from goats, men from boys, pumas from cougars
Called genital emotion,
You know it if you got it,

It is the most embarrassing thing that could
happen, outside of death”

There’s an endorsement from Chris Kraus on the back-cover that pin-points something peculiar about this anthology; its tendency to flit, easily, from the light and delightful (misremembered Kylie lyrics), to more difficult pieces. The Queer Anthology of Healing is a “subtle, devastating mix of cuteness and embarrassment, beauty and confession, magic tricks and pain. The artworks and writings suggest that healing can be achieved through revelation, invocation, observation and disclosure. It’s a much-needed gift right now.”

Beauty and confession collide in a micro-essay by Olivia Laing, who writes about nearly dying in a Portland hospital, and racking up a bill of $25,000 — which didn’t matter as she was a foreigner with travel insurance, “encased in privilege”. Reflecting on the pandemic, and the NHS, Laing writes about a cultural shift towards a new kind of selfishness, born out of our brief exercise in self-denial. We are unable to acknowledge that we are:

“… just bits of each other, breathing together, I’m not saying that figuratively, we really are. We go in and out of each other’s bodies by way of many holes, we aren’t bounded by our skin but by an interpenetrating cloud of microorganisms we can’t see and don’t much like to think about.”

There is no contents page, which forces you to flick through organically, rather than skipping straight to a writer you already know. Interrupting the text are pieces of art, which are bright and mysterious. Each image appears without introduction or explanation, as though by magic; a kind of conjuring trick. My favourite is a photograph by Hyacinth Schukis, of disembodied hands snaking out of a star-spangled curtain, to light a brilliant yellow candle.


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