A Poetry Squawk
By B.B.P. Hosmillo
Whose work appears in a recent issue of Sundog Lit
Once an American scholar in Japanese Studies shared a Japanese folktale with me:
A woman fell in love with a man and suddenly the year was about the passing of things. Soon her shoulders slowly fell off her body like withered twigs. Not too long after, her entire body dissipated like the sand gathered in the palm somebody finally releases and devoured inevitably by the ever hungry air.
Perhaps one would say this is a way of defining love: self-destructive and heavily controlled by time. Although fundamental in the folktale, love does not invite me to see it for it is not experienced. What I find so visibly arresting here is defiance, the acceptance to lose oneself, to be something else, and only through its altitude I’m enabled to think that love is believable, even if it is not at all actual. In fact, I would like to think that love is the strongest only when it is imagined. Among other things, love imagined as defiance informs my writing.
In 2012, in Singapore, I committed to writing poetry. I began without any idea what I would produce. What I knew exactly was I can only speak through my queerness, what constantly made me feel unrecognizable, illegible. The blank page welcomed me, no matter what. Writing was a way to be fully aware that queerness is an interior structure, something that puts my body and imagination together for collaborative work. It was also a way to discover that queerness is a means to develop an [ins]urgent kind of intimacy. In “Visiting the Island of the Goddess of Democracy,” poet Henry Wei Leung writes, “Did holding hands in the rain change the nature of rain?”
This question suggests the possibility of intimacy in unusual circumstance. Holding hands in the rain is romantic! But far more than this, the question forwards that such possibility when made public is a kind of protest. When I write about two men kissing, I do not just commit to the human lips supposing goodness, but more to the unsettling transformative protocol of intimacy when enacted against the powers which have established the oppressive regimes contradicting queerness. Writing an (ins)urgent intimacy then is most of all a critique of democracy since, as a political framework, democracy is largely a heteropatriarchal (white Anglo-European male-dominated) project.
When asked, once, why I continue writing given that protest is most visible if brought to the street, I said there’s no way I could underestimate the capacity of writing. As I surrender to the promise in/of arranging words, I’m blessed with the spirit of contemplation. Writing is a time when I can be intimate with myself and it is the most meaningful experience I could escort my body and mind to. Born in a postcolonial world where language is multiple and weirdly inflected, I may sound new but I’m already hurt. In addition, whenever I think of my queerness, my illegitimate difference, I think that my body doesn’t belong to me, that my body will never be at peace. This is certainly a perceptual mistake and most probably all those whose bodies are perceived as cultural signs of otherness are victimized by this mental error. But writing is such a liberating choice! Not only that writing sharpens my senses to discern and overcome the failures of heteronormative social reality, it also cleanses, widens my mind to the extent that I could generate inspiration from death or deadly desire, that I could celebrate even loss. I’d like to think that poetry is not only a curator of torment; it also is a school where we learn we are and can be beautiful in spite of ourselves.
B.B.P. Hosmillo is a queer poet of color. Pushcart Prize & two-time Best of the Net nominee, he is the author of The Essential Ruin (forthcoming) & Breed Me: a sentence without a subject (AJAR Press, 2016) with Vietnamese translation by Hanoi-based poets Nha Thuyen & Kaitlin Rees. His writing is anthologized in Bettering American Poetry (2016) & has recently appeared in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, SAND: Berlin’s English Literary Journal, Transnational Literature, & minor literature[s], amongst others. With Cyril Wong, Hendri Yulius, J. Pilapil Jacobo, & Pang Khee Teik, he co-edits Queer Southeast Asia: A Literary Journal of Transgressive Art. He is also a guest poetry editor at Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, a Hong Kong-based English publication co-founded by Tammy Ho Lai-Ming & Jeff Zroback. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.