Out Here: An anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writers from Aotearoa
edited by Chris Tse and Emma Barnes
(Auckland University Press, $50)
The tiresomeness of heteronormativity (that is, being assumed to be straight) is a diffuse, nagging burden. The Same Same But Different NZ queer writers' festival is one place this burden disappears; Out Here is another.
Edited by Chris Tse and Emma Barnes, Out Here is a new anthology of queer and takatāpui writing from Aotearoa. As the vivid cover designed by Kalee Jackson suggests, it's a medley of disparate colour and texture. Out Here comprises the mahi of around 70 queer kaituhi and the result defies easy description. There are poems, essays, short stories, play scripts, monologues, academic writing, comics, typographical art, and extracts from novels. They are not linked by any particular theme because, just as there is no one way to be queer, so too there is no single queer writing style or subject. Instead the variety of works jostle companionably against one another, sorted alphabetically with pleasing informality by the author's first name.
As always, I'm on the lookout for fellow kaituhi whaikaha (disabled writers) and sure enough, here we are. In their toikupu "Vaka-tokatoka (Pasifiqueeredisabled)" Luka Leleiga Lim-Cowley writes: "they say it's all the same love … but i don't know anymore / about space (between us) / or time (between us) … we rehearse waiata, pese, fatele held together / on belts of you telling me how beautiful / i am".
Later, Pelenakeke Brown presents her typographical artwork "A Travelling Practice" that uses all the keys on the keyboard to create not just words but also lines, shapes and symbols. "As a disabled artist working within crisp time … each movement, each tap, no matter how small, is a powerful propelling forward through time (tā) and space (vā) … many of the characters in the keyboard reflect many of the symbols of the Samoan tatau (tattoo); specifically, the malu, traditionally worn by women … in this modern technology there is this ancestral knowledge in plain sight."
I read Out Here cover to cover but you don't have to: try opening it at random and reading whatever catches your eye. Don't let the splendidly heavy hardback-ness put you off treating this pukapuka lightly. Let it lie around your home, its beautiful cover glowing the place up. Read bits and bobs as they take your fancy. Let it accumulate bookmarks and dog-eared pages.
Out Here is a warm anchor – a glittering signpost – a chance to eavesdrop on the mother of all Same Same But Different after-parties. Everyone is invited.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Heritage