the sound is high and loud pitched. i am the sound. the sound belongs to the speakers. i am not the speaker. my butt on the speaker, vibrating to the sound. i have sweat all over my butt cheeks from the speaker heat, all over my chest in binder compress, 30 degree weather. i want to show you something. the woman with the voice emits a high pitch scream in indistinguishable arabic over the DJ set, over the crowd. the woman is in the speakers. the woman makes noises impossible in english. and i am watching her. the lights are dim at this party. the man with the too loud and too vocal voice walks by. there is only one of him in this venue, thank dog. there are two of us. i am sipping a beer, talking about representing literature in me through my beer soaked happiness and you follow me around the room. we are easily circulating, despite the thick crowd. in this smushed sweat basin. my ears fill to the brim with your voice despite small ear canals. because we are close enough. i lean in so i don’t say “what” so much. i am as sober as i want to be, and feeling as attractive as my beer soaked tongue can convince me of. i still feel insecure. when i have no more secure to hold me, i let you hold for a bit. the air is sweat and beer. the air is thick and indistinguishable arabic. i am fucked. the message is good luck. i am the good. I remind myself. you are the luck. I can’t find the message hidden under her speakers. the woman is now screeching. the woman is in arabic. the woman is piercing. you ask me, what is the woman saying? i tell you, the woman is saying she’s fucked.
What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?
I feel both excited by the title emerging poet and a little indifferent. I feel as though the word emerging is interesting to me because it implies a beginning, something more to come, a start, a launching, all ideas that really appeal to me. I’m also indifferent or unimpressed because emerging also means working twice as hard as an established writer to get “recognition” in order to access things like readings or funding or book deals or publications. It often means struggling for a long time.
Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?
For the same reasons listed above, I do and do not consider myself an emerging writer. I think in practise, I’m definitely not an established writer and if we’re working with this binary (lol) then I guess I am. But honestly, while I do think about the politics of the poetry world and how I have to navigate it, I’m not necessarily “identifying” as an emerging writer because other identifications feel more important.
What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?
I think it takes a few things to be recognized in the poetry community: hard work, luck, finding your space/your groove, lots of readings, lots of socialization. Sometimes, this also (sadly) includes tokenization in a way that looks like someone using your identity in order to create interest in your work. I’ve had quite a few convos with my friend Cason about understanding where we might be tokenized for being POC or trans or queer or poor, etc., and how to say no to things that make us feel uncomfortable, or often, how to take advantage of what we can despite tokenization in order to give ourselves space in literary communities. This decision making feels empowering, reclaiming our bodies as more than tokens. I think it’s maybe a little naive to say that all it takes to succeed is hard work. This idea reminds me too much “The American Dream” and pulling yourself up from your bootstraps. That’s definitely not how it always works for poor and queer POC.
How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?
Power politics definitely shape the poetry community. I started talking about this in my other answers but I think so often there’s a quota of how many QPOC are allowed into the “poetry limelight” or into a journal or in a reading line up. Kama La Mackerel and Kai Cheng Thom, two trans women of colour writers in Montreal, recently talked about how they often won’t be asked to read on the same bill, organizers often only asking one of them, placing them in competition with each other (even though they are married!). I think the poetry scene is so much about who you know and whether you’re charming and good at schmoozing and talking to people. It becomes a lot about social interactions and people skills. Of course there are different kinds of poetry communities that fall outside of this. Creating positive literary community is so important to me, and so healing and nourishing but when the gate keepers are most often cis white men and women, it becomes a little harder to find your place in these journals/spaces when you’re none of the above. Certainly, it becomes even more important for writers of colour and trans writers to create journals and reading series, creating space for themselves and uplifting themselves as the authorities and talented people that they are.
What does community mean to you?
Community is so important to me. I had a hard time towards the end of my creative writing degree because I became so disillusioned by how straight and white and cis the whole program was, imagining that the whole poetry world functioned in this way. Finding other queers and POC in the program felt so important to my growth and to my writing and helped uplift me and improve my writing. Once I met these great people, we were able to create so much and continue to do so and this feels like the most important thing that I got out of my degree. I think there are all kinds of community, and finding your place can drastically change the way you think about writing and the way you are able to move through more privileged circles and weird power politics.
ELI TAREQ LYNCH is a poet working in Montreal. They have work upcoming in THEM, Prism International, and in Frog Hollow Press' City Series Chapbook (MTL edition). They were one of the organizers of the Off the Page 2016 literary festival and they are part of the Spectra Journal Collective.