In Dyke Love (Dykehouse Press, 2023), edited by Parel Joy, Marguerite Carson finds a beautiful riso printed book object and a forming of community, filled with poems of queerness and dykedom, basking in ‘the glorious simple ease of intimacy’.
I have been carrying a slim, pink, riso printed zine around with me for a while, it's been in my bag and is now a little creased, there is one faint coffee stain and one faint blue ink stain. On occasion, I bring it out and place it in someone else’s hands and leave them curled in a chair to read it. Small fragments float and swim amongst my fast beating heart, holding me tight, squeezing my breath. I send them to lovers and loved ones, a fragment, a parchment piece, for you, because you might enjoy it, for you because this made me feel things, for you because you may feel them too. In these ways a community is formed, around a small pink printed zine, on picking it up once more I fall down down again inside it, swallowed, chewed, chewing.
Dyke Love, a poetry anthology, is a collection of poems by dykes and about dykes compiled and edited by Parel Joy and published by Dyke House Press, the first in a series of three - Dyke Love, Dyke Magic and Dyke Rage.
The collection opens with River MacAskill’s 'Dear', the title operating as an entryway; an address, dear one, and object, things held dear. Easing us into the themes, it looks backward as if to say, see how far we’ve come, a glance and an acknowledgement. We’re not beginning at the beginning, but halfway or further in after heartbreak, after love. The first lines;
Things have got lighter/ Everyday I speak to my new or forever God Not the one the Kirk lied to us about, the one in the hills and in you /
There is something very tender in this invocation of god claimed from the jaws of an oppressive past iteration, the Kirk that imposes upon bodies and souls its lies. As the poem unfurls, so does the tension of a love letter written to a love that has passed, the lines heavy with memory returned to after distance. The address, the second person, is a theme throughout these poems - something about love lies in it, perhaps something about how you can’t write about a love without including the person that is or has been loved. You, tender, heavy, accused and you, the reader, the audience, the one looking into the window these lines open out.
Teasing meaning from fleeting encounters, we imagine the broader, entangled contexts of these loves we receive only a momentary glimpse of. There is something wonderfully present about the poems in this collection, while as a whole they offer up a reflective lingering feeling. As if each on its own is a pocket of immediate intensity with no outside sewn into the garment in pink riso and we the reader slip our arms through sleeves and feel the nuance of tailoring and the accumulated weight of small gestures. The beauty of an anthology is the meaning that arises almost unwittingly from proximity. A new context cast. Speaking through pages to one another, raging and porous, sticky, and later, River comes back to us, as if to say we’re in the thick of it now.
my lizard brain like water
Basking in the glorious simple ease of intimacy, inhabiting heartbeats, here is the dyke desire to just be one, climb into each other and dissolve, taking me on a journey of your heartbreak.
I dropped my heart in your chest and it is still falling
Camille Cornu’s 'stranded (heartbeats)' is an elegy to the intensity of this love and its heartbreak, and perhaps to the specific kind of invisibility that haunts queer, especially dyke love. The trope of just best friends, just a phase hangs in the wings. There is a familiarity that doesn’t need to be named. Cornu utilises the voice in translation, one of transparency which is also in itself a theme throughout. The word returns like an echo.
Pepites de beautes
I had to look it up, but not before I notice the similarity to pepitas printed across cellophane packets of pumpkin seeds. Seeds of beauty, nuggets of beauty… it’s not such a stretch.
Parel Joy also utilises translation, flicking between Dutch and English playing with footnotes for the English equivalent. 'Wertheimpark defined as a small dyke cruising ground in Amsterdam in the 1990s' has the clenched lines
(met haar nagels
n mijn biceps)
(met haar armen
om m’n nek)
And later, as though being let in on a neologism that goes unexplained:
ben ji misschien
zo’n luis-, tuin-
Provided to us in English as ‘Are you perhaps / one of those eight-to- / half-past-ten-women / one of those house-, garden-, / and kitchen dykes?’
What a kitchen dyke or an eight-to-half-past-ten woman is, we are left to ponder. I like to think that there are often gaps in our understanding of one another, contexts that we don’t know, and despite that, we can still love and be loved. Joy leads us down rabbit holes with their mining and fragmenting of the archive, texts gleaned and pieced together from lesbian magazines of the nineties - a kind of palimpsest, a kind of amplification:
butch hands on hips with her mouth slightly open
Our mouths make the shapes of the dykes who cam before, there is an intimacy in this call and return. There is something so delicately moving and viciously emotive about reading queerness, reading the love of dykes. A specific tenderness, the curl that falls across a forehead, all rendered in a succulent language that is coded and codified, our movements expanding to a choreography still under construction but charged with a weight of desire and tenderness. In lines such as:
the smoothness of your shoulder against my hips
From Hannah George’s 'figments' and,
When I eat with you I have seconds Your hands around my waist / Hunger can taste sweet
From Aislinn Evan’s 'Every woman I love… ' which begins;
Every woman I love is weird about food
going on to explore in a beautiful refracted narrative of a flow chart the joy, pain and tenderness of feeding and being fed, loving and communicating through food, and struggling with it, being understood in that difficulty - perhaps the most tender thing of all.
I recently read a reference to the ephemera of queerness, the traces of it. Dyke Love is full of the everyday of our lives, the foods we make each other, the flats we inhabit, the bikes we ride, the cigarettes outside clubs, the tables we fossick from pavements. The objects and spaces bear witness to the loves that come and go, that ignite with an intensity that winds or burn slowly and beautifully, the hot sex and verdant breakfasts, saying yes this is love it was here and it marked us and it will not be forgotten.
Dyke Love (Dykehouse Press, 2023) can be bought here!
Text: Marguerite Carson
Image: Parel Joy