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Bridging: The Queer Issue

by Rose Lemberg and Shweta Narayan

Bows by Nicholas.

A bridge is built. A bridge is built over turbulent water. A bridge is built over emptiness. Even if the bridge falls down, the memory of that bridge remains: here, we once crossed. Here we stood, looking down into wordlessness, and gave it a name.

A bridge is a rainbow we can touch. We did not invent it. It is not the first such bridge, nor the grandest, nor, we hope, the last; nevertheless, it is here. The very possibility of this bridge, here, is tremendous for us.

In a recent essay on growing up queer in the Soviet Union, Rose wrote,

Silence is not about choosing not to speak out, silence is the lack of language in which to speak out, the impossibility of even rudimentary understanding of the self — understanding that must come before action, before reconciliation, before everything. The first issue of Stone Telling, Silence to Speech, was addressing that in part — a recognition that not just me, but many other people move in silences, are erased, are gathering courage to speak — and poetry is such a powerful vehicle for this.

This issue has been a long time coming.

Since the inception of Stone Telling, we have been looking for queer poetry — asking for it, reaching out to poets, jumping for joy when such submissions landed in the inbox.  We're proud of the queer work we published before this issue, but we've been concerned by how little of it there was — both in Stone Telling and in the field in general, especially given how many speculative poets identify as queer. Clearly, the issue wasn't that of overt homophobia, but rather that of silence, a lack of discourse that translated into a scarcity of works in which the queer element was overtly expressed. To counter that, we wanted to pull together a queer issue featuring a variety — a rainbow of experiences, voices, and viewpoints — that would help to jump-start the dialogue that we wanted so much to see in the field.

Here you will find poems with speakers or protagonists who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, genderqueer, trans*, asexual, and neutrois. These poems have been written by both queer-identified people and allies, and this is as it should be: we strongly felt that limiting the issue to only openly/publicly queer poets would turn away some powerful and important work by allies and people who are, for a variety of reasons, not ready to openly speak of their queerness. On the other hand, we also strongly felt the need to feature and highlight work by queer-identified writers.

As always, there is a variety of genres in the issue, including fantasy, science fiction, steampunk, magic realism, surrealism/slipstream, and even a non-speculative poem ('Hair') that we felt important to include. There are short and long poems in this issue, as well as our first epic-length feature, Lisa Bradley's tremendous and difficult 'we come together we fall apart'.

The non-fiction and roundtable responses in this issue are wonderful; columnists and poets address a variety of issues, including a discussion of how translations of queer material can help speakers grapple with the words and concepts that might not exist, or might not be readily available, in their own languages, and how queer people may be othered through images and words that position them as inhuman.

Bridging is not a static thing. It is an action — an ongoing, continuous reaching out from silence into a spoken space, and from self to other. Bridging is the transformation of the self from one state to the next, the celebration and acknowledgment of the fluid nature of one's self and identity, including but not limited to gender and sexual expression. We hope that the poems in this issue will inspire and empower others to write what is in their hearts and to know that in this work, they are not alone.

We are immensely proud of this issue, and of the brave and raw voices that speak their stories of love, pain, transformation, and triumph. While this is a special issue focusing on queerness, we will always be open to queer work — please send it to us! Our next issue is open-themed, and as always, we are looking forward to being amazed.

A note from Rose: I am putting together a queer chapbook which will include queer poems from this issue, as well as from other issues of Stone Telling; please watch out for updates!