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Queer & Celtic

by Jim Piechota
Monday Dec 16, 2013
Queer & Celtic

Published by Minneapolis, MN-based Squares and Rebels Press, which primarily promotes literary works by LGBT poets and writers "who have a strong connection to the Midwest," "Queer & Celtic," a new collection of Irish memories, poetry, essays, plays, and short stories, is a powerful reflection on family, community, and Celtic culture.

Among the 12 writers featured are well-known names from the LGBT literary community as well as some newer scribes making their debut within this anthology. Each piece artfully and beautifully represents what it means to be gay and Irish, and as editor Wesley Koster, an Irish Gaelic instructor, comments in his introduction, they signify the "coterie of traditional expression, not taking lightly any additions to its recipe."

Seasoned gay writer, Lambda Award winner, and self-admitted "Byronic posturer" Jeff Mann generously contributes pages of pitch-perfect poetry and a series of imaginatively impressive travel essays, the best of which includes "Ireland," where he laments the imminent departure of a six-month secret lover who is leaving with another man, both more than likely never to be reunited again. Mann also wrote the longer, more sensually realized piece "Dublin," where he has chosen his lodging accommodations with "lust in mind, for in the basement of my hotel is Incognito, a gay bath."

Elsewhere, Galway writer Micheal O Conghaile offers a beautiful piece of memory-driven short fiction entitled "Father," directly followed by its translation into Gaelic, "Athair." Prolific playwright Carolyn Gage's stage adaptation of "The Countess and the Lesbians" is a passionate melodrama between period-history, outspoken Irish women. Michigan native Arthur Durkee writes crisp, provocative verse on the magnified vision of a male bather whose body was "as long and awkward and powerful and restless as a new-born colt's," and who possessed a grin with the "radiance of forest mornings, the river's promise to the rocks it breaks."

Representing "the friction between parochial tradition and the LGBT community as it gains traction in Irish society" is Minneapolis writer Trisha Collopy's "21 Meditations on the Catholic Body," a bullet-point list of thoughts on the church's claustrophobically insular intentions. Along the same lines is the majestic stage artistry found in Brian Merriman's contributions, which include the closing piece, a play called "The Gentleman Caller," where "Little Martin" is eulogized by a lover and a community at odds with its own homosexuality and the Catholic Church.

Significant and moving, this Celtic anthology resonates with tradition, prideful heritage, and the spirit of the orange and the green.

Queer & Celtic: On the Irish LGBT Experience, edited by Wesley J. Koster
Handtype Press (Squares & Rebels)

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