META POST:WHAT I WANT FROM WRITING IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN.BY STEVEN BENSON.

Why/for whom (but myself) do I write?  If it were JUST to be for myself, I would write in a private notebook; not on a public blog(however sparsely read!)………

This thought has been brought to a head, recently, by the publication of 2 of my pieces in an Anthology, “Made Up:An Anthology of new LGBTQ+ Writing from Liverpool and Merseyside” {available here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Made-Up-anthology-Liverpool-Merseyside/dp/1542462959/ref=sr_1_1? and https://www.amazon.co.uk/Made-Up-anthology-Liverpool-Merseyside-ebook/dp/B078XRT94P/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1518643390&sr=1-1&keywords=made+up+lgbt+kindle

ie=UTF8&qid=1516655579&sr=8-1&keywords=made+up+lgbt }.

This was produced by eight writers in our local, Merseyside LGBT Creative Writing Group; produced by the group facilitator; and edited by him and others (of the published writers). I am the Organiser of the network of groups of which the Creative Writing Group is part. These are the 2 pieces of mine  published in that anthology: https://decayetude.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/the-hotel-and-the-guest-a-story-of-sebaldian-malaise-and-an-essay-in-psychogeography/ and https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2015/05/22/terra-incognita-by-steven-benson/

I had already had another piece-memoir dressed up as (performative) third person (called “Steps to Freedom”)- in “What’s Your World Pride Story” (2017): https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/for-pride-story-writing-group-steps-to-freedompauls-gay-start-in-life-reflections-by-steven-benson/

In 2016, I had my first (hard copy) publication: a cyclostyled Liverpool 2016 Biennial workshop zine called “If these Walls Could Talk:Writing from ABC Cinema”. Any copies of extant are probably very few(it was a small print run); but versions of this piece are here https://decayetude.wordpress.com/2016/07/18/the-smell-of-mildew-in-movie-theaterseugenides-middlesex2002-an-odeelegy-to-the-abc-cinema-lime-street-by-steven-benson/

and here https://decayetude.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/biennial-2016-part-1-what-has-been-formerabc-cinema-lime-street-by-steven-benson/

My very need to advertise these pieces, again, on this, in effect, reblog, testifies to some need to get my writing public!

So what is social construction and/or status angst; and what is genuine self-motivated internal need? Or, is the ACT of publishing -blog/hard copy/whatever- ITSELF a non-binary manifestation of the fact that it is neither EXternal forces nor INternal ones; but, BOTH.

Well, firstly, as an out gay man in a predominantly heterosexist and heteronormative society/context, the need for {“words are slippery, Eliot} self-promulgation (remember Thathcher’s evil “promotion{of homosexuality} line?) is there to tell the world who I am/I am here; in a structurally different way to the fashion in which non lgbt people announce{Oh dear, I used the “announce” it word:P} their heterosexuality by dint of their constant references to (obviously opposite sex) partners/spouses/children; because we are often hidden, we have to “promulgate” (yeah, LET US promote it !!!:):)). So, I want it out (or “out”!) there, including my writing (by a gay man, lgbt content or not; it is a BIG-yes, big{deal with it!} part of me). That said, exhibiting myself thus, as a gay man, CAN, sometimes (oftimes?) be dangerous, in physical or psychological ways {another post or 100} so a safe space/forum is needed to express myself, sans fear/reality of judgement, marginalisaton or-every gay man ‘s fave!- being accused of “shoving it{sic} down their/our throats”{!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!}. Hence, my friend and I set up the LGBT Creative Writing Group as just such a (successful!) safe space https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/freedom-written-on-forming-an-lgbtq-creative-writing-group-a-sort-of-poem-by-steven-benson/

 

In other words, writing in a jotter is lonely; as an lgbt person, in the closet, or in the wrong gender, it is, well: beyond words: annihilating. So, definitely, an extra need and urge in a member of a marginalized/invisibilized group, to publish… ” I am here; I am queer/gay; so I WILL publish(myself and my writings)”.

 

So, this is ANOTHER parallel thread in the tapestry of social construction/status angst versus(or, more accurately-and queerly- ATHWART) personal catharsis or self-expression.

There is something POWERFUL and reclamatory(of self and voice) in reading aloud in a supportive (but not without constructive feedback!) group :). Actually, even the lgbt safe space issue cannot be taken for granted: in a group co-run by an lgbt organisation and a non-specifically-lgbt one, the editor (from the non-lgbt-specific) organisation recommended I strike out my word “hetero-normative”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I figure they worked out the layers of (homophobic) irony because they upheld my complaint and let me leave it in the published text (“Steps to Freedom”).


Of course, there is the stab against mortality thesis/argument: the privileging of writing (particularly getting it, in some form, published) over speaking/reading; like a relic , or, more positively, a trace or inheritance: sort of metaphorical reproductive futurism. I get this; and I FEEL some of it, personally.



The above has been quite freeform/freefall; and in that (anti}structure, there is a kind of effective  setting down of one’s complex, often contradictory thoughts/positionalities.

Freeform/”freeform” gives me a rhizome: the importance( or not) of “clear”/clear language, correct/”correct” punctuation; how much this matters to the reader and how much to the writer… which leads me, by a circular route, to:… getting it out there(or not), viz{archaically parlous useage} who is this, and my other writings, written FOR; is the style/format a barrier? It certainly isn’t to me, but then I am consuming my OWN creations; does it matter for the reader? which reader?Do I care? NO………

 

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STRAIGHT (HERMENEUTICS) AND BEYOND. (SOME OF THIS IS IRONY).BY STEVEN BENSON.

{Catalyst: “Heterosexuality” (ed Hanscombe and Humphries, GMP, 1987).}

Imagine the following world:

  1. the dominant, prevalent sexual orientation was lesbian, gay and bisexual
  2. NON lgb people had to occlude their orientation because it was illegal/discriminated against/socially frowned upon.
  3. Straight people had to dig deep to find their own world hidden amongst the dominant homo/bi sexual discourse, be it in the world at large, literature, art et al.
  4. LGB people said that straight people’s need to, “repeatedly bang on about” their sexual orientation was tedious/(even) oppressive to them; it marginalised THEM. I hope you get the point…. If not, think carefully, long and hard….To say the above four points is neither more nor less oppressive than to say it,as has historically and societally occurred, to lgb people(A separate piece on trans people will follow because the issues are of gender identity; and cis as hegemony as opposed to trans as minoritarian. But there are some parallels.)

I  have written , here, about Queer/Gay hermeneutics https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/gayqueer-hermeneutics-barriers-and-transformations-by-steven-benson/

Though the latter post tries to wrest positives out of the difficulties and oppression, it is written, primarily, from a defensive position of constantly having to unearth queer/gay/trans subtexts from APPARENTLY(used advisedly!) heterosexual/cis texts.

Again, I won’t point out, overtly-thrust it in your face:P{irony!}- what this CURRENT/NOW post is doing/trying to do……. If you don’t receive the message , via irony(and, ok, some light sarcasm:P), then, again, you need to examine yourself…..

“Their can’t POSSIBLY{outraged emphasis!} be a straight sub/parallel text in this very definitely and categorically lgb(ONLY) novel/poem; “you are always imposing your agenda”(straight rights); “class is the most important oppression not straight rights”. Again, I hope you get my drift…..

Of course, you don’t fight oppression by utilising (reversed) oppression: I am aware of that I, like the old GMP book, am trying to walk a very narrow tightrope… but the point needs making: to make non lgbt people think; SOME of them anyway(not our fabulous allies). And,as detailed in previous posts on this blog: I, Steve, have PERSONALLY been on the receiving end of   at least two of the above three aggressive remarks.(The “Philosophy” group, the Continuing Education class et al).

I am trying to construct and inhabit a world were I have more chance of being FREE from these types of comments: impossible in a homophobic/transphobic(to varying degrees) world, I know. But I don’t want the latter anymore. I want a level playing field for lgbt people: level with that of straight people. So, then, in that scenario,an ironic, slightly snarky double-take exercise in reversal would NOT be necessary. But I aver, as things still(largely) stand, it is…

________________________________________________________________

Regarding hermeneutics(principally, interpretation of texts), in particular: I really cannot be bothered to do an exegesis on, eg, a work of literature, for a queer meta/parallel/”sub”{how that word says it all: cf subaltern=inferior} take. Well, that’s me making this very point: I actually ENJOY it, usually; it is not unanalogous to detective work (currently reading “Magpie Murders”!); it is necessary, from a historicist and reparative (in true, non-bastardized sense of recuperative) sense; as I have also often written. It is rewarding to re-gay and re-queer and re-trans these works, dug in the deep earth of compulsory heterosexuality and cis-normativity. It is also tiring. Interestingly-and there is a segue here- someone said to me, after attending a wonderful LGBT History day, that, whilst they really enjoyed it, it left them with a sense of being overwhelmed because of the constant struggle for lgbt recognition and rights . LGBT history is notoriously difficult to garner the wider community of lgbt people’s interest: for complex psychological and identarianism reasons around internalised homo/transphobia and the need to re-invent-and dwell in a (more) equal world. The aporia is that the (lgbt)past MADE our present and future; and, if we are not vigilant, things will return to former horrors{Trump’s U.S being a current scary exemplar).


So, just for now, I should like to put on one side the valiant and necessary work of lgbt historians/literary critics and Queer Theorists, and pretend we ARE in an equal world, where “debates”, like tonight’s on “Newsnight”(ineffably ironically chaired by a gay man), do NOT happen: disingenuous arguments that liberal identity politics has been a “strategic” mistake(at least arguably so); because, in their terms, it has led to the resurgence of, at worst, the “alt-right”, and, at best, a re-alignment to class-politics-should-be back-at- the-top-of-the -oppression ladder (it most definitely should be there; but EQUAL to-rather than obscuring/conquering sexism ,racism, ableism and homo/trans probia; cf with Corbyn’s intersectional rainbow coalition of marginalised/oppressed groups working together; cf Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners). So we gays and women- by their “argument”- should be less “self-obsessed” and have sublimated our struggles to the greater good(whatever that is….)…..

Nor, of course, should lgbt struggles trump{no pun intended} everyone else’s : just be equally recognised…..

So, thank you to those GMP writers of 30 years ago, for planting this seed… and to my friend who is writing on Queer hermeneutics,as do I sometimes:). Here is to a world of TRUE equality, where we do not jostle; but we WORK TOGETHER….

 

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HOTEL:WHAT IS IT? A FREE EXTEMPORIZATION. BY STEVEN BENSON.

CATALYST: WAYNE KOESTENBAUM: HOTEL THEORY(2007)

Hotel liminal

Hotel du Lac

Hotel de la Spinster

Hotel Brookner.

Anita Brookner’s protagonists LIVE in hotels; women (occasionally men) of “private means”, they can afford to, economically that is. Psychologically, they inhabit the inner (psychogeographically mirrored by the OUTER{hotel} carapace) space of the spectral self, wandering and waiting… what for?: the man {IS it a man; or is it a woman?}to rescue them from their liminal “spinster” state… he/she comes but he/she goes. This is their self-fulfilling melancholic fate.

Visually, I think “Last Year at Marienbad”(Resnais); the invisibilized gay couple, Ambros and Cosmo(Sebald “The Emmigrants”), the Flying Dutchmen, fated to linger, forever, in the interminable hinterlands of (semi) desuetudinous (spa) hotels, gambling their selves and lives away, as society (as it does with the Brookner women) invisibilizes and chameleonizes them (as the abject subjects which were homosexual men of the era); the Deauville hotel(Sebald, again; semi-defunct hotels are a recurring, dark motif) sinking gradually into the sand, “transformed” into apartments (cf Zetland hotel at the eerie half-built Durham “resort” of Saltburn-by -the- Sea);the former Great Eastern hotel (now Almaz) at Liverpool St station, where both the sebaldian narrator and myself sojourned, when it was half shut off, and next to the empty shell of the remnants of Broad St station.

Dereliction, a sort of antique subtopia; a motorway through (a) life which is unstable, unfixed, in-between and apart(and thus queer, in its wider sense, of difference/non-hegemonic); a world where you move BETWEEN identities, you MEDIATE your selfhood, at odds with society’s straightjacketing norms and policing (cf a a hospital in this sense).


Conversely, hotels can be safe(r) spaces, from the hotel of the body we temporarily inhabit (if it is problematic); from the systemic longeurs of the NHS {I write this in the middle of the worst January crisis yet, and as a user of crumbling, overstretched and under-resourced services}; from the incompetences of Sanctuary{sic} housing association. My bookshop stories, obviously, to an extent, inhabit these places and spaces, eg https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/04/20/bookshop-stories-part-2-re-invention-a-meditation-by-steven-benson/

They are a place APART from place, inner and outer; they are sanctuaries in the true (not the bastardized, bankrupt “sanctuary” housing association) sense; retreats; havens. Cafés (“Café”))have/has always been metaphorical hotels and sanctums for me; though, like the actual hotel, they can be insecure and transitory (“Greendays” got new owners and was not the same again). My (current ) favourite café becomes a gay/queer café (space) once a month for 90 minutes, hewn out of the hard rock of heteronormativity.

Ryder, in Ishiguro’s mesmeric “The Unconsoled”(1997, a classic spectre of a book about many things, including dementia, alienation, lostness, a hotel space in itself; he also LIVES in hotels) constantly chases himself and others’ expectations of himself(as we all do, looking for meanings and self-definitions in this absurdist existence). Fritz-a scary, unlikeable character (not that that matters; it is fiction)-in Reve’s absurdist, dark work “The Evenings”(translation), 1947, is in a peripatetic wander around a Dutch city, aimlessly attempting to fill the evenings(the days do not exist as he has a meaningless job where he LITERALLY pushes paper about!); his life is a hotel, as he briefly and repeatedly(in that merry-go-round that is insecure hotel life, and existence itself) sojourns with friends, is unpleasant for the sake of it, and comments, phlegmatically, on his parents’ moribund relationship. His temporal body disgusts him (especially his anus). In fact, the whole absurdist/existential lit tradition of Camus et al is a development of the hotel (life is transitory and meaningless, so let us create our OWN individual/collective meanings, even if they are sublimated, recherché hotel/”hotel” life).

This subject, like the ailing Grand Hotel in Scarborough, (https://decayetude.wordpress.com/2012/05/05/a-photo-collection-of-abandoned-and-decaying-buildings/)

is endless in its labyrinthine passageways, its metaphorical arcades of faded glitz (of language, as much as of hotel content);so much so that Koestenbaum(as do I, in this fragment)relates the hotel symbol to more or less tout le monde……

 

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THE CLUB AND THE CLOAKROOM ATTENDANT. A SHORT STORY/MEMOIR.BY STEVEN BENSON.

He cycled, wearily,  towards the Club, unaware/undiagnosed. He felt like willpower(alone) was forcing the pedals around. (One night he just could not hack it, and sat in a surreal subtopian McDonalds near Ancoats, throwing a sickie; the carapace of the artificial bubble of the fast food outlet gave some sort of {fake} security).

The Club was starting to fail. After being one of Manchester’s premier trendy gay clubs, the levers of capitalism were sinking it towards a state of semi-desuetude; and- to mix metaphors-the metronome of the pink market economy was ticking remorselessly on, in its constant searching to move on, from minims to quavers. Boy George coming.. and charging the earth( for two songs!) didn’t help . (He remembered  always parking his bike in the tiny “dressingroom” and being-summarily-asked to remove it for the jumped-up singer)

When he first got a job in the club( after an endless tramp round Manchester, for work, which would have done the protagonist of Butor’s “Passing Time proud),he was, uncharacteristically, cocky: he announced to the queans that he had been a barman,thereby instantly raising their hackles and he was relegated to humble glasses-collector; and later: what was perceived(at least) as the lowliest of the lowly: cloakroom attendant.

He had undiagnosed M.E; and was drinking vast quantities of Lucozade(cheap Superdrug variety) just (barely) to function. Short-term memory loss, caused by prolonged exhaustion, caused him, one night, to mix up two punters’ coats(one was expensive leather!). He was nearly sacked, being warned he was lucky to be kept on as this wasn’t “Social Services”.

The Club was frequented(often) by attitude-ridden types( he lived with one of them, a supercilious pretty boy). Gosh, it made the Liverpool scene (Sadie’s, Jody’s et al) seem a hot-bed of friendliness and kindness. There was one single perk: the only decent bar staffer was the kindest AND the cutest(sadly, he had a bf!)….

He thought back: how DID he work in the Casa (erstwhile {in}famous Casablanca Club) and this so-called premier club in Mancs?. What a different world to civilised lgbt groups, now, back in Liverpool. It felt unreal; another world…It had seemed depersonalisation incarnate even at the time he did it…


He felt bored of this subject and era (Manchester September 1989 to March 1991); it was horrific. I{stress} felt bored. I CAN write in the third person; but don’t really enjoy it. What is “creative writing”? what is “fiction”; what is “life” but-to some degree or other-inventing our own tales about ourselves?{Discuss:P}Third person insulates you from painful memories.

_________________________________________________________________________________

There is little to be gained by escaping a painful present into a (differently) painful past…but part of me WANTS to re-capture the oddness and surreality of this nasty life-phase……

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PROLEGOMENON TO :”THE CLUB AND THE CLOAKROOM ATTENDANT.A SHORT STORY.” BY STEVEN BENSON

3 a.m: Anson Road, Manchester, 1990: all night (taxi) café…comfort chips…. making flapjacks till 5 am.

“Get off that floor to collect some glasses. Why did you give the wrong coat out?Your heart is in the right place but you have no common sense”……

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NEW BEGINNINGS AND SELF-REINVENTION.BY STEVEN BENSON.

New beginnings can be at ANY time not just January. I like to space self re-invention over the year(sometimes I physiologically NEED to!).

Poem? Steam-of-consciousness? ok: mixed genre…

Here are my self re-alignments(in historical order); then some future ones…And, perhaps, this is of limited interest to others but yet, I hope, it may serve as some kind of (adaptable) template…


TECHTONIC PLATES( the interfaces and shifts of self-reinvention):

  1. health (issues)
  2. Coming to terms with the world coming to terms with me being an openly gay man (mainly). Cf this https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/gayqueer-hermeneutics-barriers-and-transformations-by-steven-benson/ and this: https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/09/08/the-lgbt-diaspora-by-steven-benson/ and this: https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/institutions-for-merseyside-lgbt-creative-writing-group-mixed-genre-by-steven-benson/ You get the gist.
  3. Money: aka living in a predominantly failing/scapegoating -the poor-capitalist society.
  4. Politics: micro and macro. see 3.
  5. Mediating my love of Corbyn and his policies with people who cannot stand him. see 4.
  6. Housing. “Sanctuary{sic} Housing”.

LIFE TRAJECTORY:

1.Tortured, repressed gay teenager

2. (Sublimated) partial self re-invention: talk like a Radio 3 Announcer: even posh is more acceptable than being gay in this school. A re-directed way of expressing difference

3. More sublimation and self-occlusion (self UNre-invention) at Uni: into academia, this time; 12 hours per day unremitting study. Result:nervous breakdown, vallium addiction. Thanks, heterosexist society….

4. temporarily breaking free, in last year at Aber: painful love for (repressed gay? NOT ANOTHER ONE) Catholic man; then back to the closet for two years then

5. FREEDOM FOR REAL in tail-end of 1984 (Your own place is crucial   https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/06/28/for-pride-story-writing-group-steps-to-freedompauls-gay-start-in-life-reflections-by-steven-benson/

So I transformed into an out gay man, with a strong network of gay male (and straight female) friends, a father figure:Armistead’s “Logical Family”:( I would have struggled to do it sans them!); a more-than-accepting(after a short while) fab mum; all in an era of AIDS (untreatable-with concomitant massive stigma- and, shortly afterwards, Thatcher’s evil Section 28). Oh how we NEED this supportive role-model lgbt culture, failings and all; it is rich, nourishing and essential (deny it as “stereotyping” tho we sometimes do). Oh and a Gay Centre (could do with that now).

6. Career:Flew too high too soon; didn’t see the whole of the moon. Yuk. Manager. Victim of Victim Support scheme: closet queans x 2. Shite job anyway. The only gay in the village at Liverpool Age Concern… “I am Steve and I am gay” at the Greenbank Project…I like to call it my “Jeremy phase”, helping others, though, like him (and my lovely mum) I did not always help myself; middle class philanthropism is frowned on nowadays, but I am proud I WAS a middleclass philanthropist.

7. M.E plus second nervous breakdown.. amidst moving to and living in Manchester, a mainly unpleasant experience (of which some fictional renditions later:)).

8. Back to Liverpool and (re) settling amongst nice friends; and my felt-right PROPER career (albeit unpaid) at the Citizens Advice Bureau in Toxteth: Advisor, Guidance Tutor, Guidance Co-Ordinator, eventually prototype regional trainer. Proud of that: it felt right:). I miss the C.A.B (:

{I haven’t even got to the present and the future!….} You get the picture, however: be it conscious, semi-conscious or UNconscious, this changing of the skin, into a new creature that can survive (and sometimes thrive) pace the exigencies of poor health and other factors is re-born and re-born and re-born….


So, what OF the FUTURE: a medical interregnum(I hope shortlived) hies upon me; but that is a mere hiatus:

financial survival

Maintenance (and growth) of the lgbt groups I set up nearly 6 years ago(well, two of them anyway; the third-for which I write this piece- is of recenter provenance but proving no less successful)

Living in my stylish(if I say it myself:P), and selfstyled flat- social housing, dear!-beautiful as it is, despite the “issues” (polite word) around “Sanctuary Housing Association), a flat with a view (currently mediated by scaffolding!)

Maintaining and developing current friendships and adding new ones

Working on my relationship

Continuing archiving my gay/queer library

Continuing to visit bookshop havens; and to read and write


 

 

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HAPPINESS.THE OTHER BOOKSHOP:TANGENTS AND EXPLORATIONS. BY STEVEN BENSON.

It is Sunday time; it is liminal time. The man in the coffee-tasting emporium ( a rather-aporically-pleasant bastion of {bourgeois}capitalism):- he liked Kafka:) He REALLY liked Kakka; he really did. A serendipity, on the ramparts of the bastion. He was affable: I recommended Sebald {he has now read “Vertigo”, including the inspired-by-Kafka “Doctor K takes the Waters at Riva”!)…………………………

Anyway, I am now seated in the other book shop (the big one, begins with a W :P) looking out on a vista of joy{sarcasm}:capitalism unbounded: a kitsch (no, just naff!) garish silver Christmas appendage (aspiring to be a tree), peppered with heart symbols. MMMM…..

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

You need to buy, at least, a coffee (later told, you don’t : you just ask, but the subtle pressure is there) to get a toilet code on a receipt (when you actually prise your way into them, they are filthy: no soap; I complained, politely yet ballistically). Things are going wrong, in minor or major way with this entity for which we commonly use the shorthand “capitalism”/unfettered  free market et al. Dirt, inability to have a meaningful conversation because an endless stream of customers/”customers” are testing various coffees they may well not even intend to buy. Money upon money… funding with tickbox restrictions… money  makes the world go round….   Well, I am no economist (and could probably make a stronger argument for kind/responsible;/watered-down capitalist Keynsianism if I were {I shall have to trust Jeremy and his famous economic advisors for that}) ; but something is well wrong… and never mind/mention the May “government”, which is itself (Tory) having to justify market-lead economies because Jeremy Corbyn is now setting the economic agenda… Wow! Jezzy setting the economic agenda( well, it MIGHT be a disaster; but I think metered municipalism and partial statism and old-fashioned investment in infrastructure are worth a go; and he loves the gays and trans people:)). Co-incidentally(?) I concomitantly bought a book on the theme of the collapse of the USSR; no-one is advocating command economy Communism (well, there are a few:); but I vaguely think of Dubcek and “Communism with a human face” or perhaps something in-between… Well, you are going to have to read Paul Mason or some economist on the Left for more details. (not Owen Jones; he abandoned Jeremy at key moments then jumped back on the {winning} bandwagon)


TEASE OUT THE LINKS(I would do it for YOU):
1. Repressed sexual identity (invariably a non-hegemonic, ie non straight one), eg Kafka/Dr. K, brought on by :

2 Market commodification of women’s and lgbt peoples’ bodies; a control/compulsory heterosexuality  through out mainstream society’s many streams: established churches, political establishments etc etc. Until 1967, in the UK, the state OWNED the bodies of men who had sex with other men: to ensure reproductive futurism’s well, future was guaranteed; you couldn’t use your OWN body’s penis to do what you liked (consensually, of course). Gay men were useful for the military-arms complex (mum liked that phrase), ie canon fodder; then they were illegal in the Armed Services. There is some link between endemic unfettered capitalism and gay mens’ bodies and pre-Woolfenden that I am not quite getting; it is sort, but not at all wholly, like women (and THEIR bodies) having been chattels of men; marriage, of course, perpetuates that… Marriage props up capitalism by neatly dividing people into twos and families, who buy stuff. But then, we hit a contradiction: the Pink Pound,(which even existed, clandestinely, pre 1967)as it is known. THAT compounds  free markets flourishment. MMMMM….

Come on Jeremy and voters… get in power: Jeremy with his love of things BEYOND money and its self-devouring need for renewal:

African poetry

Shelley (“for the many not the few”)

Radio 3

allotments

Nuclear disarmament (did you know he has a shadow minister for Peace and Disarmament?; no-one to shadow, of course)

The Right Honourable Jeremy Corbyn.. from allotment to (excruciatingly; apparently a few thousand votes away from a minority government because of SCORES of tiny Tory marginal; suspicious: SO MANY tiny marginals??) near power. Tick the realpolitik boxes so that you can actualise your dreams (and OUR dreams: the faithful) and sort it all out(or, at least, make a start!)


We need something FAR better than this masculinist, hetero-patriarchal troubled capitalist charade(if its ramifications weren’t so serious): I DO see alternatives (Laurieston Hall, for example; housing co-ownership schemes); but they are very patchy and not joined up. Or the LGBT groups I run, successfully; ok, they use capitalist (non-chain) venues but they are not built on the shaky foundations of funding nor are they profit-making or businesses: they are myself, a couple of helpers, my computer and a lot of time advertising. “News from Nowhere” is another outpost/outlier: it, like the rest of us, as the world is currently constituted, NEEDS capitalism, but it weaves its way in and out of it, and is a hub, to an extent, for activism, lgbt rights, womens’ rights, BAME rights, working class rights, disability rights. Utopia means “Nowhere”: is the pun/uncertainty knowing?; ARE we nowhere… or are we getting SOME where (over the rainbow…P).

Soz, this was meant to be about happiness; the attempt at arriving at a microcosmic (personal) happiness is, naturally, unentanglable from macrocosmic(societal/world) happiness or the lack of … and political ideologies are, at one and the same time, manifested in PERSONAL ideologies..

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

But, meanwhile, back at the base (and superstructure) happiness, currently is, to me :

  1. Jeremy Corbyn and his (limited?) potential to change society, tame capitalism around the edges and his manifold plans to increase the rights of lgb people, and, particularly, those of trans people(read the 2017 manifesto).
  2. Bookshops and managed joyful, purchasing: after uninhibited browsamania(and a good quality espresso; see my “The {other/the proper} Bookshop series), outposts, still(just!) there, enmired in the marshes of the internet.

 

Deeper shoots of happiness

Kind and intellectually-stimulating friends (they know who they are!), sharing feelings and critical thinking about books, music and the world; sitting in my eyrie, watching the wild parrots and squirrels from my new espresso table and stool, Oryx Lps playing behind me, the village-green-in-the-city in front of me.

Ultimately, we have to GRAB happiness; it is ours (if we are lucky enough to live in a country where we are not persecuted/killed for being who we are, as lgbt people): this happiness, a compound of capitalist-driven quick-fixes and stronger, deeper stuff.. more enduring.

 

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WATCHING YOUR GAY PAST IN PUBLIC VIEW. THE MUSEUM OF LIVERPOOL’S “TALES FROM THE CITY” EXHIBITION.MY PERSONAL TAKE.BY STEVEN BENSON

IMG_8327

What mixed feelings I have about this exhibition! Positive, first: To have this, at all, even is 2017, is still pretty ground-breaking (sadly and disgustingly), so credit to National Museums Liverpool (and for their-more artistically based-_”Coming Out” exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery). Secondly, it is in a PUBLIC arena; when I came out as gay, from 1984, there was much societal pressure to heavily compartmentalise your life; and the gay and lesbian (the then nomenclature) venues there were: all up stairs or downstairs, still subject to Police raids, ie, HIDDEN. Now, in the UK anyway, we are not (so ) hidden: making your sexual orientation or gender identity public, if you are lgbt, is always complex. So, walking round this space-full of glorious artefacts- made me feel I was 1. walking around my own past (Anti Clause 28 involvement and gay clubs of yore); but I was doing it MORE publically than I had when I was actually in those clubs( though the Anti Section 28 campaign was VERY public https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2015/09/05/section-28-the-fight-against-it-in-merseyside-reportagelgbt-archiveunwritten-histories-by-steven-benson/  )

2. made me see my own, lesbian and gay activist past, through one remove: my memories were unearthed via an EXTERNAL process( the exhibition and mementoes). This had been compounded by being the Organiser of the community group chosen for an NML consultation fairly recently on the content of the net collection, “Pride and Prejudice”, from which some of the artefacts were drawn. In the displayed list of acknowledgements/thanks, there was no mention of our group; so, ironically, the Museum was obliterating and invisibilizing(and thus mimicking and replicating) the very process of societal lgbt marginalisation. This made me angry; though I still appreciated the work of the Museum and the contributors of stories and physical remembrances.

So, as I said, complex feelings.

There was our banner IMG_8379there were posters for the erstwhile 80s bars, Sadie’s and Scarletts, scenes of former adventures(of multiform sorts:P)

IMG_8339IMG_8338

Most poignantly of all was a picture (?mid 80s) of the second incarnation of the radical bookshop, “News from Nowhere” in its Whitechapel home (all now demolished), where I had bought all my Gay Mens Press and other gay fiction and political books; the verisimilitude of these memories, initiated by the madeleine of the materials in this exhibition, was hard to inhabit…IMG_8350

There it is….. somewhere in there is my 25 year old self: burrowing, assiduously, through the three gay mens fiction shelves, keenly (if not desperately) seeking mirror images of my own self and life, as a (young, then)gay man, to re-inforce that shaky selfhood, because of what heterosexist, hegemonic “society” had done to me: not feeling like a  victim but re-grafting my life back onto my self, via literary representations of people like me…https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/the-role-of-gay-mens-fiction-in-identity-formation-of-a-gay-man-by-steven-benson/

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I shall be back at the exhibition to listen to the audios of lgbtq people and their life histories… and to write some post-it note comments…………………………………

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CORNWALL RAMBLINGS(PART 3):ENTRAPMENT AND FREEDOM. BY STEVEN BENSON.

IMG_7950Yes, I remember Liskeard,

The land of lost content,

For, on an October day,

The branch train

Terminated there

Wontedly.


Bad hommages (or postmodern collages?:P) aside:-it is, again, a day of porous time boundaries: 2005/2006??. Somewhere around then… THEN… and NOW(October 2017).

I felt as if I had(mainly) re-emerged from a year of illness, back to the land of Network Rail trains (after two successful sojourns on Merseyrail as a warm-up). The 3-day Rail Rover of then (doing the Cornish and Devon branchlines :)); the one day epic, 6 trains-there-and-back- St Ives to Looe(via Liskeard) of now.

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Here/there we are: St. Ives Central(sponsored by Blue Chip). It -just -survived the Beeching cuts and now boasts  temporary coffee and booking office(independently run) shacks; so it is not even unstaffed; and the train was not one spamcan but FOUR coaches{I am getting a bit traingeek pre-orgasmic:P}.

“This train will call at Carbis Bay, Lelant Saltings and Lelant. Please note, Lelant is a request stop only and the guard must be informed, at the start of your journey, that you wish to alight there.”

 


Being gay in Liskeard(the change point for the Looe branch, with its own separate, cute little station,nomenclatured “platform 3”), IMG_8021

must be no mean feat. It would have been pleasanter to have come to these remoter Cornish spaces/places- the UNgay- with a gay/queer friend with a strong gay/queer sense of self/identity: they/HE would have “got” it: the displaced, malaise-ridden feeling{ the ersatz sebaldian narrator, Steve, felt he was about to revert to periphrastic prose, interweaving clauses set in a miasma of torpor and that Sebald word “malaise”}, the need to(joyfully!) gay up those (already somewhat queer in the sense of “quaint”) Cornish branchlines and the pretty but,ultimately, tedious,blue-and-white art saturation. (My friend had gone to Suffolk at, strangely, the same time: on a Benji Britten and Sebald pilgrimage: I was a bit envious, because I felt he had had the chance to have a queer encounter, with his/our heroes; but I was, simultaneously, pleased for him:)).

…..I am rambling : as, indeed, is this crazy woman in the photogenic trainspotter’s heaven of a buffet at Liskeard interchange: she has been here most of the day. She likes diesel engines, according to the café staff; in fact, they say she is here ALL day EVERY day. She could be ME :P….IMG_8008between trains… junctions/changing points … liminal areas…  These (usurped, used images) trail away or, perhaps, just hit the buffers, like my train(s) and my prose………IMG_7945

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Posted in alterity, Cafe, cafes, gay affirmative writing, psychogeography, queer, queer geography, Queer wrting, Quirky captures, Re-envisionning, Rememberances, Self-actualisation, Uncategorized, working outside hegemonies | Leave a comment

CORNWALL RAMBLINGS(PART 2): GAY IN ST.IVES(?). BY STEVEN BENSON

I wouldn’t like to be gay/trans/bi/queer and live-permanently- in St.Ives. It was alienating and lonely enough being there for a week.


“you are gay gay gay {etc}{blah blah blah}{YAWN}”; “you are TOO{sic} gay}{bigger yawn}”. WHATEVS…. Ha Ha: BUT, HE mentioned “Gay Street” (it really is called that!) in Bath at the start of the conversation…{IRONY/SARCASM ALERT!}. Us gays are SO fucked up; rather, hetrosexual/ist hegemonic society has fucked us up; we internalise it and turn on other queers. How depressing and circular is that… Many a time and oft have I stood on yonder battlements; I cannot really be bothered unpicking it all- all the WEIGHTY baggage-again….{I had written a big psycho-social explication, when I was actually IN Cornwall, but it is a waste of time, and too upsetting, to type it here. Read this instead: https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/09/08/the-lgbt-diaspora-by-steven-benson/

and this: https://towardsutopia.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/institutions-for-merseyside-lgbt-creative-writing-group-mixed-genre-by-steven-benson/   )

But then to -possibly-misquote someone famous :”Mankind cannot bear too much{socially constructed} reality”…….

SO. BEGONE, AWAY….I am now PRETENDING(writing this on the blog AFTER ST Ives, but having originally written it, in my notebook, IN St.Ives), I am in an ideal world, where your sexual orientation and/or gender identity doesn’t matter… Ok, I miss/will miss my vibrant, variegated gay/queer (sub?)- culture; but,in this (semi-imaginary) the-world-as-it-should be- space, St. Ives maintains a poise and equilibrium, a sunshine rainbow promise (though however much of it is a shimmering, rainbow mirage is another matter…), sans oppression(external and internalised)IMG_8273IMG_8322 Is that a ship(unfreighted with baggage) I see on the horizon…….

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