Cynthia Sailers' Introduction to Stacy Szymaszek

Julian Brolaski writes of Stacy’s Szymaszek’s Emptied of All Ships (Litmus 2005), Stacy’s work “combines the homo and the piratical to make outlaw speech in a place which has traditionally been outside the law.” Stacy’s “narrative” centers around her protagonist “James” (inspired by Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse “James”), “a robot armed sailor-siren with Protean shoulders, sailing on a bonhomie sea.” Julian continues, “Queers have always been fond of adventures “at sea”—the sea is a notoriously good place for outlaw behaviors—where kitsch, chaos and rum rule and James is inevitably “queer”—an adjective of doubtful origin but possibly in the sense of the German “quer” or “oblique”— oblique, perverse, not going straight to the point; roundabout, indirect.”

Interestingly, Julian’s review was rejected by the poetry publication it was intended for because of its quote “fun, in-the-know approach to the subject,” and because it was too “tied to a specifically queer vocabulary for our magazine, which has a readership that might find some of the references confusing.” (And he was redirected to an explicitly queer publication).

Stacy’s writing as a whole is also inevitably queer in the sense of not going “straight,” through her use of doubles, male doppelgangers, ambisexual “wonders,” masculine signifiers, and dramatis personae. She creates a fantasy, a Gay Male Pantheon out of my favorite literati: Melville, Hart Crane, Pasolini, Whitman, and Genet. Stacy says to her Pasolini: “I think how we are almost brothers Mafioso bandit homo whore.” There seems to be a continuum between male relations from fraternity to criminal to homo to whore which speaks something of her relationship to Pasolini, in this case, but also of a pivotal devolvement in differing subjective positions that splinter and multiply as constitutions of a self. I’m reminded of Roland Barthes question, “Who is the I who writes itself,” or in Stacy’s words “to be both more than I what I am or less than what I am.”

There is much to say about Stacy’s writing (and her love of the long poem!), the close attention to word, line, page, an aesthetically conscious and analytic lyric mode; however, I think one cannot ‘read’ the work without appreciation for the slippage between the invisibility of queerness and queerness as a sign/turn of visibility. Maybe in a sense, it’s one route to asking larger questions about one’s community and who are we writing for? Stacy keeps us tense, does not separate out ‘poetic / perverse’, and is extremely generous in producing frames/ content and at the same time, is able to slip in and out of them.

In Hyperglossia: we’re in the world of the anatomical text, or what I think might be the speaking phallus (over, beyond, tongue, hyperglossia, “excited tongue?). On the opening page, Eustace (“Eustace” a male given name for “steadfast”) appears immediately as the anagram “sea cute” and a subsequent pattern of anagrams appear like code. Having the phallus, being the phallus, speech itself, we also find coded the criminal, the marked one, the writer—and as we think back to her nom de plumes, the multiple and colliding subjectivities—Stacy writes, “All my work is about the itch of desire that can never be scratched,” which is both about the nature of desire and the compulsory, the blocking out, the use of persona, i.e. these longing figures who identify themselves with the criminal (but are still sane, do not hystericize the incident). She is much more straightforward about her loss: “I was once a private person before this” or “how my jaw is never to be disengaged again.”… Desire is desire.

I was looking at Stacy’s photographs this week on flickr and found one of my favorites. It’s a cardboard cutout of Stacy, I think with a woman with her arm around her, and the title is “[Stacy] makes an excellent transference device! I don’t think I could say it any better.

And so I am very excited to have Stacy here and Hyperglossia soon in my (criminal) hands.

Hyperglossia is forthcoming in 2009 from Litmus Press.

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