Voices: Pride Launch Evening At Espressini

Voices. Boundaries. Oppositions. Binaries: where do they lie? 

The third edition of the Voices project Voices: Pride makes it undeniably clear that our society is screaming for a review or full abolition of imposed boundaries, as well as the subsequent oppression and ostracisation which accompanies them. The edition covers the negative and at some points shocking human effects of such boundaries, namely identification issues, shame, repression, fear, the process of ‘coming out’, peripheries, bullying, violence, limitations on healthcare and accessibility, confusion, homophobia. All these are symptoms of a labelling process which places shackles on the Pride community as a whole, which, as noted by Chris Slesser in his foreword, should not be put into ‘boxes’, but centered on inclusivity. What speaks over these categories within and without the volume is the power in Pride: the sense of community, family, creativity, acceptance, responsibility, love and vitality. I am not qualified to even attempt to encapsulate the reality that the imposition of boundaries places on individuals in the Pride community, but the powerful stories in the Pride edition should be a compulsory read for everyone (accessible via this link), and have inspired me to become more well-versed in Gender and Queer Studies, beyond the foundational understanding delivered as part of my English Literature degree. I can say one thing, though: there is power in Pride. 

The opening and closing speeches at Tuesday’s launch event at Espressini café in Falmouth, and everything in between, made it clear, to borrow the words from one of the evening’s talented poets, that ‘there is an infinity between 0 and 1’, and that binary oppositions should simply not exist in society in the way that they still do today in terms of the labelling, outcasting and restricting of the LGBTQ+ community. The event itself acted as a platform for the Pride poet community who delivered hard-hitting spoken word poetry, which brought further life and feeling to the stories captured in the pages of the third edition of the anthology. Two of these wonderful poems, written by Dorian Shire, are transcribed below:

“Coming of Age":

 We are those who must stifle and shiver,

Smuggling Wilde and Whitman under our pillows

And carving their words into our hearts under wavering torchlight.

We may burn low and scratch our skin and camouflage till the ends of our days,

But we can kiss those words and know that we are brave, 

We can hold our heads high as the twirling dance of stars and mist eyed clouds,

High as the gods as they watch with fondest indifference.

We must tread on the tail of night as it scurries away,

Bundling on our clothes and squaring our jaws,

Because our parents can never know. 

They can never know of our clandestine lovers,

Or those pickpocketed kisses hidden under shimmering, glimmering

Broken-faced lights -

Lights we must cry under when the very idea of love becomes just another suicide note,

That we crumple in a sweating fist as voices are heard on the stairs.

See the similarity?

Deadening the sound of a whispered finale

Just as our love letters are smothered,

Their words lost to all but the eavesdropping stars.

Because we are the poisoned haunted lovers

Because our parents can never know.

Welcome to your coming of age,

We look like death but we're all f*cking beautiful.

 

"Planning Revolutions" :

Come ye, come all, this is a call to arms:

Follow a tiptoeing dawn over the soft awakenings of a city -

Queens, New York is a pulsing mess of morning smells, coffee and cigarettes winding

their waltzing smoke signals into the cold and teaching us something hopeful.

We were always just tangled bodies in the dawn - boys, sweet-mouthed lovers,

thrown together on these broken pavestones.

The city watches us - we are in love we are the passers-through, the l journeymen,

the tasters of all the delicate kisses inside this tumbledown bar, 

The city holds us tight and pushes us through autumn, like the scuttling leaves that

lie in heaps on its street corners.

If you are those who want to stare at the stars and mourn their celestial, light

drowned deaths in emptying skies,

Kneel at our altar, pray with us for change.

We vow never to grow tired and old and jaded,

Never to forget our plans, never to forget the feeling of marching down long roads

yelling at everyone who doesn't want to listen.

We are the waifs, naifs and motley-crewmen, thrown together - poet boys who don't

notice the holes in our shoes or the burns on our fingertips or anything really, but each other.

We wandered in from all compass points, found each other here, called it our resting place, called it home.

Hear ye: castaways and outlaws, hear ye: lost boys and wandering souls,

Whether it end in victory or glorious defeat,

Come make desperate poetry and build a barricade with us.

 

Beyond creating the need for a re-evaluation of our societies’ sense (on a global scale) of institutionalised homophobia, transphobia and prevalent air of judgment, and making the notion of labelling and misunderstanding of the LGBTQ+ community alarmingly clear, the evenings’ conversation raised some important questions on the nature of the Voices project in relation to the nature of protest. 

In his opening speech at the launch, Harry Bishop, FXU President of Community and Welfare, made a distinction between placards, and their immediate association with protest and the potentiality of violence, and the perhaps more peaceful act of storytelling. 

So where is the distinction between Placards and Poetry? 

Placards make words and truths a material reality: a silent inscription of a call to arms accompanied by an indistinguishable roar of passion, a familiar sign of solidarity or protest. When we think of gender politics and the power of the placard, we see the people who hold them and think of the words being held up, proudly, for all to see. 

Spoken Word Poetry: the oral performative art where both inflection and intonation are resonant with pain, passion, identity and life, ultimately performs the same radical action as placards and protests. Whether the speaker delivers their words quietly, fluidly, sonorously, aggressively, clipped or melodiously, rhythmically or scattered, the act of performing the art of poetry is above all a vehicle for a voice that needs to be heard and understood. 

Due to the publication’s beautifully aesthetic form, it would not be a complete shock to attribute it a quietness, which - although powerful - is very different to the loud nature of a march or rally which are often what is thought of when one thinks of the word ‘protest’. However, as the night unfolded, it became undeniably clear that the Voices project isn’t quiet, nor is it fair to deny it the status of "protest". A protest isn’t just a march, complete with placards and shouting; it can take any form. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, protest can be defined as ‘any action, act, or statement expressing (emphatic) objection to or dissent from something.’ The Voices project, then, is perhaps best described as a protest against marginalization, oppression and subjugation within our student community.

The Voices, Volume Three: Pride launch event made it very clear that voices roused from positions of imposed silence are the most profound, and they emerge with a power which laughs in the face of boundaries. The slippery and unjustified nature of imposed social boundaries becomes undeniably apparent when such powerful, real voices are given a platform. It is the aim of the Voices project not only to do this but to produce from it a community of liberation and freedom of voice and speech. The Pride community in Falmouth is vibrant, strong and evidently brimming with flipping good poets that are in need of recognition. 

To access any of the published volumes, follow this link to the FXU Voices website, or pick up one of the printed volumes in the Falmouth or Penryn campus libraries. 

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