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This review is taken from PN Review 266, Volume 48 Number 6, July - August 2022.

Cover of The Sun is Open
Dominic LeonardJoelle Taylor, C+nto: & Othered Poems (The Westbourne Press) £10.99; Gail McConnell, The Sun is Open (Penned in the Margins) £9.99
As the epigraph of Joelle Taylor’s T.S. Eliot Prize-winning book points out, cuntare means, in Latin, ‘to sing’ or recount a story. The ‘+’, if pronounced and, turns the title from a censored word to a canto, a poetic term ultimately tied to Dante’s journey of self-discovery, also from the same Latin root of song. This plus, too, simultaneously reminds the reader of the multiplicity of sexual identity that open-endedly punctuates the acronym LGBTQ+. Before we reach the first page of C+nto, then, the directions this book will take us in are clear: a pilgrimage of sex, song, and the growth of a personal identity.

Taylor is interested in how cultures and groups change and adapt, particularly how older generations of queer pariahs find themselves interacting with newer generations who, perhaps, take their freedoms for granted: ‘we display our dead our old / ways our bedroom bunkers // the presence of absence’. There are lacunae in the fabric of contemporary queer spaces, and Taylor’s project is to sound the depths and plumb ‘the archaeology of the dancefloor’. Lived queerness is fashioned out of rejection: ‘you cut your first suit out of the thick silence when you enter a room,’ this excellent metaphor summarising both how much clothing matters in a very literal sense, but also in the sense of how signifiers and cultural codes can both help and hinder the queer experience (butchness, in this particular case): ‘the descent of (out)laws…they fear you.’ Lesbians are ‘sterile and barren     an un-useful female    empty as church pews’; the body is a ‘political placard’, as ...

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