In 2012, tomboy-femme, Lucy A. Evans (under the stage name Pixie Truffle) and her lesbian burlesque outfit, Lesburlesque, performed a show in a former church and consequently gained brief infamy amid the U.K. tabloids for having the audacity to express themselves artistically in….well… Britain.
Any time you pick up a collection of poetry written by a lesbian burlesque pioneer responsible for causing mass outrage from Britain’s most right wing and oh-so-grumpy news rag (how many people can say they endured the Daily Mail’s wrath unscathed?), it’s a safe bet to say any expectations are peeled off with the stockings and kicked into the nosebleeds.Sublingual is a dissection of not only being lost in love but what it means to know the anatomy of love. It’s an inner search for life’s existential concepts, therapists sessions spent obsessively reading the interior labels of the couch, searching for a sense of self.
Paradigms of authority, both social and sexual, whistle and spin across the peripherals; ballroom masks vast and colourful, become infallibly human and slip under the sweat of the spotlights, yet through it all the carnival barker pushes much needed fresh breath into a well-worn, and established form.
“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.”
(excerpt from THE RUSH).
A recurring theme of this collection is distance, not only in age and perceptions, but in separation and space – consistently fluctuating between constrictive, airless pockets of stilted room or barely decipherable frequencies, lost tides and the unquenchable thirst that arrives with the broad, unstoppable emptiness and confusion of what was once so deeply pressed against the skin.
At its most dizzying, Sublingual is a broken satellite of communication with the body, the disregard of social and sexual pre-set norms, yet always against the backdrop of repressed emotion. This dichotomy remains a fascinating footnote to the unstable and faltering relationship it broadcasts, mirroring the dual nature of Evans’ style, both deftly vintage in poetic cadence, adhering to rigid structures whilst piercing her own brand of dry wit and self-deprecation with a stiletto heel into the dirt.
“When the universe stops bothering with me,
and the duvet den we made is unearthed,
I will be found ossified, clutching a tiny straw”.
(excerpt from WAGER).
If the intangible elements of this collection are miles above us, attempting mutual contact, the blood and guts of it all weigh heavily on symbols, elements and actions of status. There is restraint and precision to each line. Even sensual pieces here remain methodical, almost surgical.
The most rewarding part of this is when the pulsing grey matter develops a taste for the theatrical and the two worlds are sewn (or perhaps cuffed) together at the wrist. The deceptively sweet burns of BDSM “Rope opera” poem Participatory Anthropic Principle flows effortlessly into a montage of Adam Ant post-punk romanticism, whilst Subling could grace the stage of many a dimly lit cabaret club or speakeasy.
Moments of Ian Dury-esque witticisms chew into the scenery of a slapstick doctor’s operating desk. You feel the shredding of old love letters, sinew and a wry, cathartic reckless abandon of sexual restraint (quite literally, in some cases), left and right brain tearing off metaphors and perfumed words like clothing, climaxing breathlessly in a pile of soiled monologues.
Cause and effect crash and willingly erode throughout, never losing the unique, whimsical freshness of the carnival. For every lesion, there is a laced kiss of a newton’s cradle, waiting at the encore to stitch up the wound.
For each punch, there is a Judy, wet from the torture rack and drying contently on blackpool pier. For every unwrapping of its layers, we reach closer to the soft centre that thuds gently under the floorboards, waiting of its third act reveal.
It is a great testament to the quality of writing in this brash but delicate debut that once the curtain falls, and the lights fade, you truly feel that you have earned that soft centre of Lucy.
Review by Dean Rhetoric.