Stone Telling 7: Bridging
Edited by Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan
Reviewed by Erik Amundsen
Stone Telling’s seventh issue, called Bridging, has as its frontispiece, the painting of a horse and rider jumping a chasm, and for some reason, this image keeps coming back to me as I read the poems collected here. I almost wrote contained, but that seems like the worst possible word for the poems themselves and the purpose of this issue (as well as being generally wrong for the publication and its mission).
This is the queer issue, and it makes no attempt to constrain the definition simply or solely to same-sex desire or the stories of the people made thus. Make no mistake, it’s not neglected, that desire, those longings and fears and challenges that crowd around those people who are of them, but there is a broader net cast here, and what comes out of this net, the catch, is a strong theme that makes me think of the horse and rider. “Bridging” is the name of this issue, but it’s clear that the bridge is one that each person must make for themselves, and, more importantly, of themselves.
Michele Bannister begins with “Seamstress,” an elegant three-way bridging of SF, tailoring and desire, piecing together orbital mechanics, a garment, and the body of the one for whom the garment (and presumably the orbit) were created. It works; the needed care and technique of the work described match well with the technique and the language of the poem.
Sergio Ortiz’s “Rain and Sound” is a less tricky affair, more an observation and a statement of longing to be heard, listened to, and it has hibiscus, which I think are cool flowers:
yet the hibiscus have been censored
like men trying to show their affection
for each other.
Nancy Sheng introduces us to the mechanical Turk, a luminal character out of history, and getting points off the bat for teaching me something about history, she goes deep into identity with “Inner Workings;” man or woman, human or machine, and the identity of a stage persona; again three different elements all skillfully woven.
Next, we reach Jack Marr’s “Lunectomy,” which, true to its subject matter, is a powerfully visceral, and movingly witchy account of the Bridging as transition.
Okay, we should be clear on where I stand with Sonya Taaffe’s poetry, and that’s in the fanboy choir. “The Clock House,” a coda for Alan Turing and Christopher Morcom, which, again, my thing for being let in on history I didn’t know. Then the language, the story, and the tragedy of what might have been. Breaks the heart, along the best possible fault-lines.
Peter Milne Greiner’s “The Earth Has Rings” does lovely things with language. At first, I thought “This is my favorite closing line of any of the poems here:”
we murmur like stamina into each other
But then I notice the opening line is killer, and starts with “Hey” and then pulls it off! And then the stuff in between is cool too. I like this one.
“Ardat-lilî” by Jeannelle Ferreira brings a dose of myth and wild to the issue. Hel Gurney goes on a deep exploration of the meaning of hair as it intersects with culture, narrative and self, particularly in gendered expression in “Hair.” Adrienne J Odasso likens gender identity and expression to being at the cusp of Sagittarius and Capricorn in “Parallax.” Each of these is effective, moving; I can groove on them, but I can’t find a place to comment.
Dominik Parisien in “In His Eighty-Second Year” tells the story of an elder who lived a life different than what might have been, about to transition from life to death. It is sad, but I can’t feel as though it’s a tragedy, for it seems clear to me that he has found, made, been his bridge, if only for his final hours.
This brings us to Lisa M. Bradley’s “we come together, we fall apart.” What can I say? It’s epic, it’s human, and harrowing.
Amal El-Mohtar brings us “Asteres Planetai,” which, traces identity, bridges what is, what changes and what does not fit into the minds of onlookers in the night sky. This one is full of heat and movement:
I have no fixed abode.
I make my home of motion—
I cannot stand still.
But rests in the liminal spaces, the horse still in motion, the rider still guiding the jump over the chasm. It’s a poem that tells a story, but does not give an answer.
Bogi Takács bridges back along the past and through identity as an oracle in “The Handcrafted Motions of Flight.” Like so many of the poems in this issue, this one draws together many elements, not just speaking in analogy, but in nested metaphors, and it’s around this time that I start to understand, that while the horse and rider is apt, it is not the whole story. There are gaps and precipices that cannot be readily apparent to the outsider, and that to bridge them is to move in many directions and many subtle ways at once.
Peer G. Dudda finishes the issue with “Sister Dragons,” a celebratory acknowledgement that though these gaps and chasms are deep and in places hard to see, that one who must cross them is forever going to be held back by those who don’t or can’t or won’t, there is no time too late, that there is no way to keep one from bridging the gap between what they seem to be and what they were born to be.
I’ve been back over this issue of Stone Telling many times, and I believe that this one must have been the most difficult, both in terms of the technical skill of putting it together and the emotional toll it must have taken on editor and poet alike. It’s a complex one, and I think if I were to wait another month and read it again (and I want to), I would have entirely different things to say and new things to see.
That impresses me. Inspires.