Sublingual, Lucy A. Evans
Eyewear Lorgnette, 2017 £6.00
The truth beneath the burlesque
This meditation on a lesbian love affair summons wide-ranging references with confidence and ease. But though at times the poems range into ‘difficult’ territory, with provocative — almost exhibitionist imagery — the dominant tone is insistent, urgent, pleading. The human heart is at the heart of the pamphlet and the poems aren’t lightly made.
I was more than once (for example in ‘Sweetbread’ and in ‘The Golden Age’) reminded of the seventeenth century metaphysical poets. I savoured the metrical patterning of some pieces, while missing the intricacy of fully formal constraints.
But the language itself is certainly intricate. ‘Participatory anthropic principle’ required me to look up its defining term before I could engage. That, and a glance at the ‘Sapphic succubae’ in line 10 of that same poem suggested the sexual interaction was as subversive as the language, and frankly out of my comfort zone.
And yet whether the talk is of demons, sadism, witchcraft or chastisement, the performer comes back to the simple and the personal. The last line of ‘I, Jane Dee’ is ‘I love you too much to inflict this witchcraft on you’.
Lucy A. Evans is founder of the world’s first lesbian burlesque troupe, Lesburlesque. That idea of caricature and parody explains much of the elaborate posturing. In this pamphlet performance she is larger than life, with a serious subtext I would not underestimate. Some aspects of the intricacy, however, left me unmoved. For example, in ‘The Rush’:
Folded by tenebrosity,
your venous temple is azure.
Plaintiff eyes kidnap witless
colours that still find me.
This curiously detailed description does not draw me in, nor does the rhythm satisfy. And yet after six quatrains in that mode, Lucy Evans concludes:
The rush of light confused by your beauty, will miss my breast.
The plodding null of your flaws are purposeful and piercing.
Arriving first in my heart, they will be the last to leave.
There’s confusion there (what does this actually mean?), and over-writing (deliberate, I think), and ‘the plodding null of your flaws’ is singular whereas ‘they will be’ is plural.
And yet — that last line has a lovely cadence. It is poetry.