posted 2011-03-23 13:00:33

Kissing Queer Poetics

Kissing Queer Poetics

Tendencies: Poetics and Practice explores queer writing and poetics

Madina Wahab

Contributing Writer

Under the glass ceiling of the Skylight Room on Mar. 9 at the CUNY Graduate Center, Ana Bozicevic, Gregory Laynor, Astrid Lorange and Christopher Nealon contributed to a discussion regarding queer theory.

“I kissed queer poetics and I liked it,” proclaimed Ana Bozicevic, while reading a piece entitled “Same Difference.” She continued to read her other poems, “Born” and “A Poem for You,” alluding to non-heterosexuality with a similar air of urgency and directness.

Lorange’s readings from her online-published book, Pussy Pussy Pussy What What or Au Lait Day Au Lait Day, were just as emphatic.

The Skylight Room was the setting for Tendencies: Poetics and Practice, a series of discussions regarding queer poetics sponsored by The Center for the Humanities and co-sponsored by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies, The Ph. D. program in English and the GC Poetics group. Tim “Trace” Peterson was the curator for the night’s discussions and readings, which interwove poetics, poetic manifestos and queer theory through the poems and essays of the event’s contributors.

The language of homophobia has long been problematic for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. During the discussion, Peterson made note of the disinterest in queer literature and queer initiatives to an audience that didn’t fill even half of the room’s seats.

Despite the small crowd, the contributors displayed their dedication towards amplifying the voices of non-heterosexuals in a culture that has historically marginalized the voice of GLBTQ individuals. Contributors spent their time examining the interrelationship between queer theory, practice and education.

In the 1990s, queer theory arose as a relatively new discourse within the realm of literary theory. Vocal gay and lesbian liberation movements, often stemming from feminist and gender studies, confronted similar identity politics. Tending to perceptions of gender, sexuality and identity, queer theory aims to abandon stable definitions of sexuality and to create a platform for GLBTQ individuals.

Tendencies: Poetics and Practice was titled in honor of the late Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, a pioneer in queer theory and a distinguished English professor at the CUNY Graduate Center from 1998 until her death in 2009. The night’s discussion did not go without mention of her.

In addition, modernist author Gertrude Stein was a hot topic of conversation. Her relationship with Alice B. Toklas as well as her refusal to identify as male or female, but instead as “genius,” reveal her opposition towards strict gender binaries that remain prevalent in today’s society.

Efforts such as Tendencies: Poetics and Practice offer a positive outlet that supports “queering,” a process that Laynor describes as an “intervention” occurring within our culture. Contributors displayed their support for anti-essentialism and anti-homophobia with pride.

Tendencies: Poetics and Practice is free and open to the public. All events take place in the CUNY Graduate Center’s Skylight Room at 7 p.m., with the next event featuring Barbara Hammer, Maggie Nelson and Janlori Goldman on Mar. 28.