By Brittany Billmeyer-Finn
I offer a tarot reading as one possible source for discovering a queer poetics. Using The Collective Tarot as a guide allows for chance while being implicitly queer in its manifestation. I use each position in the spread to delve into discovering a queer poetics that includes the personal, political, and poetic. This series will consist of four blog posts and a five card spread starting with the Heart of the Matter.
This thinking requires tenderness and feeling (bottles). I am attempting an engagement of a queer poetics as active and multiple (feathers). To show this as a poem journey (keys) and something else, something material (bones).
What I reference when I say queerness is a politicized identity that puts up active resistant to heteronormativity and actively tries to build a non-oppressive world.
I am thinking about a “revolutionary tenderness” a la Francesca Lisette and notions of sincerity as a part of developing and discovering a queer poetics. I use their manifesto, What I want: A Manifesto for a Revolutionary Tenderness which you can find here as a grounding source.
Lisette calls for an active revaluing of the gendered position of tenderness, for a tenderness that escapes its patriarchal value. Lisette’s revolutionary tenderness is queer in its reimagining. A queer tenderness that is subversive and messy, in progress but self aware and valued. It is a call to actively listen, read, and question our families, communities, selves in the quest for radical change under the oppressive regime of capitalism.
As I shuffle the Collective Tarot deck I think about the opening statement from Lisette, “If critique is going to be total – if it is going to be worth doing without falling back into the reified position of self-satisfaction – it must be directed towards ourselves.”
I cut the deck and pull from the top revealing the Seven of Keys.
The Keys suit is part of the minor arcana. The Collective Tarot describes the minor arcana as offering, “the tough lessons, the memorable experiences and the joyous encounters- the magical objects found along our many paths.”
The Keys are represented in more traditional decks as Wands (creativity). The number seven represents imagining and experimentation. The Keys element is fire.
Rachel Pollock in Tarot Wisdom writes of the Seven of Wands, “With fire, we bring Above and Below together by becoming one with the energy.”
From the Collective Tarot we learn, “This is the card of assertion and of being true to yourself by knowing who you are and what you need. It is about giving yourself visibility, vocalizing your needs, and making sure your presence is known when necessary. […] It can be intimidating to speak out. Experiencing resistance to what you say is scary. Very real risks can come with speaking up, and it is important for you to decide whether being assertive or remaining silent is the best option for that moment.”
The Seven of Keys offers a perspective on the tension of queer visibility. Who must wear the cloak of protection and when? This is a psychological, embodied, and emotional labor. There are stakes in navigating visibility. The stakes vary depending on the intersectional circumstances of one’s visibility. The labor of passing/hiding, speaking up or out, navigating; cities, homes, buildings that are not accessible and the various ways difference is reflected back either through micro-aggression, good intentions, or violence.
The Heart of the Matter position places us here: as Lisette does, “So, I’m interested in the genius of the space that hovers below identity, solidarity and ego.”
This is the poetic site.
Where the Seven of Keys places us in our discovery of a queer poetics is in the tension of visibility and invisibility. A movement through various sites of empowerment and oppression. The entanglement of gender, race, class, and ability.
It is from here we move forward.
Meanings: protest, labor, empowerment, possibility, tension, conflict, action.
Brittany Billmeyer-Finn is a poet and playwright living in Oakland, CA. She is the author of the full length title, the meshes (Black Radish Books, 2016). During her 2015 residency at SAFEhouse Arts in SF she directed her first play, the meshes an iteration in 2 acts. Her work has been published locally in Where Eagles Dare, Elderly, in the anthology; It is Night in San Francisco but It’s Sunny in Oakland, 580 Split, Hold: A Journal & her chapbook geraniums is published by Mondo Bummer. She has a forthcoming chapbook, Slabs coming out with the TRACT Series from Timeless Infinite Light. More of her work can be found online at The Poetic Labor Project & Dusie #15.