Review: Here, We Cross
Updated: Jan 8, 2019
Here, We Cross: A Collection of Queer and Genderfluid Poetry from Stone Telling 1-7
Edited by Rose Lemberg
Stone Bird Press, 2012.
Whether for a theoretical course on Literature of Gender Identity or standard composition course with embellishments, I like to present art objects for students to analyze related to gender identity. I entered into Here, We Cross to find a valuable addition to any unit plan.
I appreciate the DIY aesthetic of Here, We Cross. As a conversation primer/teachable moment, I could see this text offering a segue into the logistics of publishing. Since 2014 I have been publishing compilations independently, so I have an eye for the work involved in the curation of voices, attention to design, and crafting the introduction to the volume. Lemberg’s Stone Bird Press, as an independent publication, is not just a piece of exceptional literature, then, but an exercise in tenacious dedication to publishing diverse voices. Reviewing the volume I am compelled to use it in a classroom on the basis cultivating conversations on the nature of publishing in all forms, especially DIY publishing, but of course there is more to be enthused about in Here, We Cross.
In the introduction to this collection, Lemberg indicates she has often despaired at the lack of queer poetry. Circa 2012, when Here, We Cross was released, as well as the time leading up to its inception, publishers, by my estimation, did not value queer voices as much as they are trying to do 5 years later. Now, I am always seeing calls for poetry with a preference for queer people (as well as people of color). This is a needed shift societally, especially in the publishing world, and certainly pedagogically as many students of a college age need affirmation of their identities. Queer Theory was a part of our course this past spring in my composition course and a student thanked me at the end of our time together: she was heartened to have the language to use when thinking about, having discussions surrounding her gay mothers. Being exposed to relevant dialogue had affirmed her and made her subject position easier to articulate.
Structurally, the poems in the volume are varied from the mix of 22 contributors of assorted genders and experience levels. All of the authors would have been featured in Lemberg’s Stone Telling, a poetry magazine with print and online versions. The theory behind Stone Telling is based on a character conceptualized by Ursula K. LeGuin’s Always Coming Home who crosses the borders of matriarchy and patriarchy (Stone Telling). Lemberg’s vision has attracted a winsome collection of individuals for Stone Telling’s publishing tapestry. In this printed rarity, Here, We Cross, there are long forms like Lisa M. Bradley’s “we come together we fall apart,” arranged epically in seven sections, distinguished with Roman Numerals, with interludes and an epilogue. “Asteres Planetai” by Amal El-Mohtar is also sets up vignettes for us, 6 total. In between there are medium-length forms like Hel Gurney’s “Hair,” a poem in stream-of-consciousness free verse. Samantha Henderson’s “The Gabriel Hound” blends forms, playing with visual organization, as does Dominik Parisien play with the visual for “In His Eighty-Second Year,” observing what “he” “sees,” “hears,” “says,” and “does.” All forms used point to the nuances of the queer community, another conversational primer for the classroom.
The symbols are rich with depth, plenty for students to explore, certainly enough material if I wanted to use a poem for each two day a week class in a month-long unit.
Lemberg details the choice of title in the introduction; her rationale:
This chapbook’s title is Here, We Cross, but it is, perhaps not enough to cross only once. Though the bridge may be a static thing, the act of crossing changes us[...]Crossing, we transform ourselves, we celebrate and acknowledge the fluid nature of identity, including but not limited to gender and sexual expression. (iv)
This reminds of Gloria Anzaldúas affinity for bridging language in her foreward to the fourth edition of the seminal anthology This Bridge Called My Back: “Voyager there are no bridges. One builds one as one walks.” There is something decidedly new wave feminist about the recognition of queerness and the need for queer spaces. Lemberg includes “lesbian, gay, bisexual, genderqueer, trans, asexual, and neutrois” poets, but Lemberg is quick to clarify the poems are also written by allies and those who wish not to disclose or even obscure their queerness. This compilation offers an example for students who want to create their own narratives of identity, whether overtly or obscurely. Even the independent publishing of the volume fits the theme of queerness, again, another element that breeds potential for fertile discussion.
A final thought on the collection’s justification: if the title were removed, some of the poetry would not necessitate the designation of “queer poetry.” I can imagine some students will reflect on the volume with the thought: what makes some of this poetry “queer”? This will open up discussion about what “queer” is exactly? Where do we find it? How do we look? There are poems simply referring to the subtleties of everyday life: the drama along with the flânerie, sometimes using ornate language, but at times abrupt. In sum, Here, We Cross is, respectfully, purely human. This makes the text a great candidate inclusion in the writing classroom as we need to humanize others in our pedagogy.
Lemberg, Rose. “About Stone Telling.” Stone Telling. Stone Telling Magazine,
www.stonetelling.com/about.html, ND. Accessed 17 June 2017.
Anzaldúa, Gloria E. and Cherrie Moraga, eds. This Bridge Called My Back: Fourth Edition,
Writings of Radical Women of Color. State University of New York Press, 2015.
Lemberg, Rose, ed. Here, We Cross: A Collection of Queer and Genderfluid Poetry from Stone
Telling 1-7. Stone Bird Press, 2012.