Poet Roz Kaveney tells DIVA about being involved in a new inclusive anthology and writing a love poem to her trans body
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE BY KEITH BARNES
Pulling together queer voices that have spanned the ages, award-winning writer Frank Wynne’s latest work, Queer, represents all queer identities.
Bursting at the seams with inclusivity and honesty, this is part of Frank’s mission to “inspire other LGBTQI artists to share their voice” so that those who are struggling can find comfort.
Combining poetry, stories and extracts with specific cultural scenes from various countries, this anthology opens up so many crucial conversations and amplifies the voices of the LGBTQI community that we don’t hear as often. This is your one-stop-shop for some of the best LGBTQI literature out there.
Writer, critic and poet Roz Kaveney, has made her mark on the book with three of her own poems inside and translations of three poems written by Catullus: Sonnets 15, 80 and 99. We caught up with Roz to find out more about her love for writing on queer topics and her connection to this groundbreaking collection.
How does it feel to be included in such an inclusive anthology?
Roz Kaveney: Incredibly gratifying. I abandoned poetry for so many years and a decade into writing again I find myself in such company, drawn from many centuries and countries. I feel heard.
Why is it so important that an anthology like this exists?
Because for so long our voices were silenced, or misrepresented, or treated as niche… I say “were”, but in many countries we still are. Even in this country, we had Clause 28. LGBTQI voices are important and culture loses so much if we are suppressed. We are passionate, erotic, articulate, poised and witty: the straight world needs us.
Why do you think now is the right time for Queer?
Because these are the best of times and the worst of times. We have a moment of grace when this can happen, but fascism and authoritarianism are on the march again. A book like this is an act of resistance. And, as Hillel said, “If not now, when?”
Tell us a bit about the pieces you worked on for the anthology and why you think they deserve a place inside it.
I have three poems of my own here and three of my translations of Catullus. The three poems Frank selected are all in a sense polemics, but I hope they’re something more.
My poem, Cunt, was a response to very unpleasant abuse online from a transphobic feminist who tried to tell me that my post-surgical genitals are a disgusting mess. As if she’d know. So I turned the fear and disgust back at her and talked graphically about the problems I endured and celebrated the result. It’s a love poem to my trans body. I’d claim doing so is a feminist act, a glorification of the imperfect.
Similarly, To My Transdyke Sisters was a rebuke to all the voices that assume we find trans bodies abject and second rate. I wanted to celebrate sex between trans women, as graphically as possible.
There’s often a reluctance to talk about how sexual violence affects trans people: Me Too was an attempt to exorcise an episode from my past and express solidarity, as un-melodramatically as possible. All of these poems are pretty formal with radical content – I’m all about queering the canon.
How did you go about choosing the particular poems you translated?
I didn’t – I’ve translated every single poem of Catullus because he fascinates me. Bisexual provincial charming his way into high society in the last days of the Republic. Bitchy smart aggressive misanthropic tender – often pretty horrid. Also, funny – my versions may not be all that accurate but I do justice to the jokes.
What can readers expect from this book?
A cornucopia of stuff – something for every taste. I’ve been dipping in for days.
What advice would you give to young queer writers just starting out in the industry?
I’m the worst person to ask. It took me almost 30 years to get my first novel published – it came out as my 11th book and then got a Lambda. I guess, never be discouraged.
Where do you find the inspiration for writing your poetry?
When my Selected Poems comes out from Team Angelica in May, it’s split into sections about love and sex, art, being trans, politics and death. The usual stuff poets write about. What inspires me? Blind terror that it’s over and I’ll never write another good poem.
Who are the queer writers that have inspired you the most?
Marilyn Hacker, Tom Disch, Samuel Delany, John Rechy, Edna St Vincent Millay, Rachel Pollack. Currently Stephanie Burt, HJ Giles, Cat Fitzpatrick and Imogen Binney.
What’s the best creative advice you’ve been given?
Write formal verse because it does half my thinking for me. That’s the advice I listened to. The best advice is write every day, which I should and don’t.
Queer: A Collection Of LGBTQ Writing From Ancient Times To Yesterday is available to buy here.
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