To fight aloud is endlessly brave,
to shudder, extraordinary—
-July Westhale, in “Question of Ecstasy”
On July 20th, poet, teacher, and activist Meg Day released DANGEROUS SWEETNESS, “an online collection of poems by queer & trans* poets responding with love & rage to the violence committed against those in their queer & trans* communities.” Day’s introduction to the collection highlights the formation of the collection, stemming from “an up-swell in publicized violence against queer & trans* folks around the country” and the shooting of Mollie Olgin & Mary Kristene Chapa in Portland, Texas on June 24, 2012. What began as poems posted to Facebook in response to the shooting turned into a national email dialogue in which Day “reached out to queer & trans* poets across the country, asking them to join [them] in writing poems responding to the ongoing violence against our queer & trans* kin.” In DANGEROUS SWEETNESS, these exchanges come together in a publication that acts as a site of mourning for the abused and deceased and celebration of queer and trans* identities and communities.
What’s especially laudable about this project is the trajectory of reading, writing, and activism that it proposes. In their introduction, Day encourages a variety of textual, social engagements offered to empower folks in reading the texts and confronting discrimination and violence. Their offerings are considerate and ambitious:
I want to encourage you to read these poems in a place that makes you feel supported & safe. Many of these poems directly mention (some with more detail than others) violent crimes, while others evoke different kinds of force & power. Please do what you need to do to take care of yourself & be sure to offer trigger warnings when reading these poems to others.
I also want to encourage you to read these poems in whatever way feels most empowering for you. Read them alone. Read them with a friend. Read them to your kids at the dinner table. Grieve. Celebrate. Rally. Heal. Share these poems with your students or your teachers or your landlord. Read one into a parent’s voicemail or email one to a sibling. Read them while you hold each other. Read them as a way to hold each other up. Gather friends together to light candles & talk about the violence your community endures as well as the violence your community perpetuates. Talk about partner violence & the violence of misogyny in queer & trans* communities. Talk about police violence in your town or city & the way both the medical industrial complex & the prison industrial complex heft their weight against us. Gather community together to write your own poems & create your own responses in whatever language or medium feels most real to your experience.
Readers are even invited to share their stories and responses to these texts by emailing email@example.com.
Since DANGEROUS SWEETNESS was released eleven days ago, we’ve seen yet another atrocious act committed against a lesbian in Nebraska, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and this family’s declared abandonment of their lesbian daughter in South Carolina. Writing about, through, or against such acts can prove to be quite a difficult task; the written word can seem frail, even reductive, in the face of such violence. Yet the texts of DANGEROUS SWEETNESS stand strong together and as individual works, enabling a spectra of possibility through their calls and staggering rhythms. Their strength is further supported by the reading suggestions offered in Day’s introduction. Their calls are heart-shattering; their demands are both grand and feasible; their solutions range from simple to ambivalent to process-driven (keeping the flux fluxing) to undecided. If beauty is to be found here, it abandons the Hallmark card and is reclaimed as the possibility of possibility (more on this definition of beauty can be found here). Or, in the words of Monica/Nico Jane Peck, maybe the collection offers to its publics simply a chance to recognize that “some folks have glitter; some folks/ have freckles.” And that’s not just fine; it’s fabulous.