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Rerun: Three Queer Poets Write About Love

Saturday Review: “Love and Death in North Carolina Poetry”: a review by Catherine Carter

Jessica Jacobs. Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going 2019.
Wayne Johns. Antipsalm 2018.
Eric Tran. The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer 2020.

Over the summer, we’re sharing some reruns of older book reviews.

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn / is just to love and be loved in return” -eden ahbez. The three books in this review all are testament to how true that is for any and every human, regardless of who they love.

Carter writes, “The three books position love, loss, and fear of loss in context of disparate experiences of and beliefs about the sacred or holy; all three pose more questions than answers, as is only appropriate
when what is asked is ultimately unanswerable in human terms.”

“Of the three, Wayne Johns’s Antipsalm most explicitly and consistently employs the language and framework of the holy. The book deconstructs conventional Christian imagery, iconography, and art to grapple with the loss of the poet’s partner to suicide.” Carter calls out this imagery from several of the poems, including “Hope” and “Faith.”

Eric Tran’s The Gutter Spread Guide to Prayer “also foreshadows the intertextuality of the allusions that shape the book, through which the poet and speaker seek both escape from and ways to articulate and interrogate grief and love through a queer lens.” Carter describes how the poems are categorized and titled with references to comic book/movie characters. She remarks, “This… illustrates some of the ways in which so-called pop culture and nerd culture, too often sneered-at as lowbrow, can indeed become divine readings.”

Jessica Jacobs’s memoir-in-verse, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going, explores the
trajectories, tensions, and labor that underpin a marriage,” writes Carter. “It may initially feel like an easier book to enjoy than Johns’s or Tran’s because this poet’s current experience of love and marriage is generative; the connection is ongoing, the poems passionate, romantic, glorious. But this book too brims with the knowledge that all unions must in the end prove temporary…” Carter highlights several of the poems which serve to describe the poet’s relationship with her wife.

If your looking to add some Queer NC books to your reading list for June, these three would fit right in.

Read the rest of the review in the ’21 Online issue.