(FEATURE) Parel Joy: Ten Things
In the latest instalment of our Ten Things series, spotlighting the influences of SPAM poets, Season 6 pamphleteer Parel Joy gives us ten things that bring them joy, inspiration and energy - from the queer havens of Aberdeen to emotional cuisine.
1. That one vegan mattar paneer recipe that I don’t know but she does (and other meals) The best dish to break up with your lesbian lover over is vegan mattar paneer with tofu instead of paneer. The best vegan protein to win your lesbian ex-lover back with is seitan. The best place to run into your lesbian ex-lover after your winning-back-with-seitan attempt failed, ever since the late seventies, is the vegan food co-op. Vegan matter paneer, a North Indian and Punjabi dish, often soothed the stressful lockdown nights I spent writing this pamphlet and finishing an English degree, with no other human contact aside from my former lesbian lover flatmate in our small Aberdonian apartment. I really missed sharing food with loved ones during isolation; I celebrated my twenty-first birthday in November lockdown as four of us, me and three friends, gathered around a bonfire in our backyard and shared a hot lasagna that we brought down into the cold from our top floor apartment. (‘Making lasagna’, incidentally, is also a great euphemism for lesbian sex, which I am still hoping will catch on. Did you… y’know… make lasagna with her?)
2. Hysteria I have a great deal of hysteria, which has inspired lots of poems. Aside from my own hysteria, Hysteria Aberdeen was also a great inspiration for many of my poems. Hysteria is an Aberdonian collective of gender marginalised poets and artists that organises regular performance nights. Along with recently-returned-from-hiatus Fruit Salad, it might be the gayest (and best!) event in this grey city up north. My favourite poem I heard there, ever, was 'The Queen of Clubs', by Nick Bagshaw, who is an incredible Aberdonian poet and comedian.
Hysteria is hosted at cool record store–annex–pub Spin on what is probably Aberdeen’s steepest street Littlejohn Street. It’s a place to fall in love. With Doric queers, with poetry, with Aberdeen.
3. The Poetry of Modern Urban Hope by Joshua Baumgarten I met Joshua Baumgarten when I, nine or so years ago, set foot into his shop The Irrational Library, which he used to run in my Dutch hometown Haarlem. It was one of the very few punk places the city had to offer, its position right between the villas of Bloemendaal and the busy capital, Amsterdam. The city centre is mostly known for its yuppie coffee bars selling overpriced lattes, and The Irrational Library was a welcome escape from that. It broke my heart when Joshua decided to close its doors in early 2019. The owner is aside from generally-cool-guy also a poet. Joshua grew up in New York, and has, that way, made about the opposite linguistic move from me: Dutch is his second language, English is mine. Joshua mixes American English and Dutch to create an authentic voice, exploring in his poetry not only cultural difference, but also linguistic, and making use of the treasures of the two languages he writes in.
4. Fantabulosa! A dictionary of Polari and Gay Slang by Paul Baker; Lesbiaans Lexicon (lexicon van de lesbotaal) by Hanneke Kunst and Xandra Schutte; Homoerotisch Woordenboek by Arendo Joustra These three books are all gay dictionaries, in one form or another. The first one consists of the words linguist Paul Baker found while researching Polari, a secret language spoken among queer people (mainly camp gay men, according to Baker) between 1920 and 1960. The other two dictionaries map the slang spoken among, respectively, lesbians and gay men in the Netherlands, mainly in the late 80s and early 90s (they do include some older words, but usually not older than the 1910s). I think language is fascinating. Especially the slang words these dictionaries map teach us a lot about what words were needed during a certain time (check for example the amount of Polari words for Lily law, Jennifer justice, or the police). Another fascinating example is the old Rotterdam lesbian word ‘toverlantaarn’ (magic lantern), meaning two women living together of whom it was suspected, but never proven, that they were a couple. Learning about queer history, to me, feels like a very precious, important thing to do, because our community had to hide for so long — and language is a big part of that history. And my favourite gay slang word? Dutch girl, of course. Meaning lesbian.
5. The Faggots and their Friends Between Revolutions by Larry Mitchell A gem from the seventies that was forgotten for a long time, The F*ggots have now made their way into more mainstream queer literary spaces, with even celebrities like Hunter Schafer recommending it. Rightfully so, because this book is different from any other you’ll ever read. The F*ggots and their Friends Between Revolutions is a phenomenal fairytale-like story, imagining queer utopias and celebrating community. It’s technically prose, but basically poetry, and supported by beautiful illustrations by Ned Asta. I think this book was fundamental to my understanding of queerness as something spiritual—as finding people who are like yourself, when you’re not used to that, almost always is.
6. A ten-kilo tin of cashews I don’t know, I just think cashews are really neat! I bought this with my flatmate right before we moved into a new flat in September 2020. We’d been through months of pandemic, and Aberdeen was just coming out of its own local lockdown, so we were used to stocking up, unsure of what was yet to come. We spent the following months using the kilos of cashews to make our own vegan cheeses and vegan cream sauces. When our pipes froze during a particularly cold winter day, we gathered snow in the backyard of our tenement to melt and flush the toilet with, and the cottagecore fantasy was complete.
7. Hal Fischer: Gay Semiotics and Other Works, Gallery of Modern Art Glasgow, 15 November 2019–31 May 2020 This was the last exhibition I saw before lockdown, a very gay and great one during a very gay and great visit to Glasgow with a very gay and great friend.
Hal Fischer’s works are set in San Francisco, where he lived in the seventies. One of his photo projects was based around him sitting on a bench on Castro Street and taking a photo every hour for 24 hours. His work Gay Semiotics documents some common cruising signifiers among gay men. We went during the weekend the Lana Del Rey was supposed to perform, and when the gig got cancelled we ended up at a gay club where we were promised Summertime Sadness remixes, but didn’t get any. My friend danced until her legs were sore anyway, and ripped the crotch of her brand-new vintage cords. Which I guess is the butchest thing to wear to a club. Which brings me to:
8. Butches If The Queen of Cups and Other Poems is a love letter to anyone, it’s a love letter to butches. There are very few activities I would rather do at a party than to homoerotically arm wrestle a butch and/or masc lesbian. Lately I’ve been enjoying going to the pub to play pool and drink whisky like old lesbian men with my lesbian friends. Every butch I’ve talked to during a poetry event can slide into my DMs, also.
9. Sourdough I raised a sourdough starter two months before the pandemic hit, and boy, has she been through a lot, most importantly the flour shortage of 2020. Some people bought a pet during lockdown, but it was my starter that gave me a routine not unlike the routine of walking a dog. There I was, in lockdown, with my ten kilos of cashews and my sourdough starter, trying to create a queer rural fantasy life for myself in an urban neighbourhood of the city of oil and gas. Interestingly, Aberdeen has now introduced a low emissions zone around the city centre – the LEZ.
10. George Street, Aberdeen Contrary to what any guidebook will tell you, this is the best place in Aberdeen. George Street is filled with great Eastern and Central European shops, and charity shops, and it seems that most of the barbershops and tattoo artists have gathered there as well. Many people believe Union Street is Aberdeen’s main street, and it is, but in many ways, George Street is the better, cooler, beating heart of the Deen. Case in point: it doesn’t have a Primark, but it does have Thain’s Bakery. So!
Parel's pamphlet The Queen of Cups & Other Poems was published by SPAM Press in May 2022. You can pick up a copy here.
Text: Parel Joy Image: unsplash.com