Introduction to /Slant/Sex/
- …to find in the body
a safehouse where all your monsters
get to be raucous, bring the audience
to their feet calling what. what.
dig at the shame places. your gutter
of a cunt. your crowbar of a cock.
say the words, say fuck and wheelbarrow
and voluptuary until it all sounds
like amen, amen, amen, amen, amen,
amen, amen, amen
—Marty McConnell’s “World’s Guide to Beginning”
When we put out the call for this folio, I wasn’t sure what would come our way. All I knew was that I wanted to bring together a collection of writings about sex by women and transfolks that was different from other collections I had come across.
Writings by women about sex are often separated by sexuality (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not), and transfolks are frequently left out of the mix altogether. I wondered what would happen if we opened up a space for (cis and trans) women, transgender men, and genderqueer folks to bring writings that admitted the full spectrum of what it means to be a sexual being right now, right here.
In a word, I am thrilled with the range and strength of pieces that we have gathered together as our /Slant/Sex/ folio. We had so many great submissions that we decided to split up the folio into poetry (this issue) and prose and art (next issue).
Rejecting the gender binary—yet understanding that being perceived, read, or performing as a “woman” in this society results experiences (sexual and not) that are explicitly different from experiences by people who are perceived, are read, and perform as “men”—I wanted to open up the folio as broadly as possible while keeping the focus on works by/about/speaking to the former experience. As always, gender is a slippery thing, and the poems here speak to many kinds of trans and genderqueer experiences, with sex weaving through—sometimes more insistently than others.
If it is impossible to address sex without talking about gender, we found that love/loss/heartache, too, inevitably comes into play. Marty McConnell’s moving and ambitious poem, “The Chariot in Love” is by far one of the best poems I’ve read about loving a partner who is transitioning.
In reading through the collection again, I was struck by how many of the poems have or claim equal access to both male and female sexual organs. That is, while the focus mostly stays on various iterations of women’s sexualities, anatomy and body parts slip fluidly across gender. In these poems there is a claiming of the phallus and its pleasure that does not raise it above the sexual power/pleasure of the cunt, but claims both as possibilities for expressions of female and trans sexualities.
The writing of the previous sentence brings me to the issue of naming of the female sexual organ and its metaphoric significance. Why is there not a common term like “phallus” for the vagina? Martha Silano’s poems wonderfully addresses the problems and delights of naming.
While joy and pleasure abound in /Slant/Sex/, many poems exist in the space between violence—that intensification of sensation—and sex. As well, several poems explore stimulating forms of power play that sex often calls forth. There are poems that do not diminish the traumatization that many of our female and trans bodies experience, but also acknowledge the ability of these bodies to give and experience pleasure.
In addition to the outwardly transgressive poems in this folio, there is also the quiet harmony of poems that are perhaps not as “slanted” but just as exciting. Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s lovely celebration of a sexuality mediated but undiminished by motherhood and Susan Lilley’s unabashed assertion of an older woman’s sexuality, are just a few examples.
Natasha Saje’s sensual “Tinguage” is one of several poems that explore the eros of language. In “on what I didn’t hear you say” by Meg Day, scientific and clinical language that is often used on/about people with disabilities, is claimed, transgressed and eroticized “when i bilabial your plosives, you /fric frica fricative alveolar coronal my laminal & post-uvular-epiglottal.”
I could go on—there are so many pieces to love in this folio. You will find a wide spectrum of poetic modes and aesthetics, and, as I hope I’ve made evident, diverse explorations and understandings of sex, sexiness, sensuality, gender, and love. I hope you get as much pleasure exploring this folio as much as we’ve gotten putting it together.
A final, sad note. We recently learned that Laura Hershey, contributor to the next /Slant/Sext/ folio, passed away on November 26, 2010. A 2010 Lambda Fellow in Poetry, Hershey was a writer, disability activist, and consultant, who, as one contributor to her memorial page notes, was not afraid to write frankly about sex. We are honored to feature her story in the next issue, and we dedicate this folio to her. May we be as fearless, loving, and committed to changing the world as she was.
And we are still taking submissions for prose and artwork for the next installment. We especially invite pieces that respond to or are inspired by the poems here.