On Thursday 28 January a small audience congregated in the Scottish Poetry Library for an evening of poetry, lipstick, and platform heels. “The Library is Open: Drag Queen Poems” is an exploration of poetry on a theme more commonly associated with the lip-synching and competitions seen on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The poetry performed was not only fascinating and insightful, as if a glimpse into another world, but also deeply moving and profound.
The first performer was Iain Morrison, poet and Enterprise Manager at the Fruitmarket Gallery, who recently immersed himself in “Edinburgh’s drag scene”, and writing a sequence of poetry on the experience. Separated into just over thirty sections, possibly with each section corresponding to one day, the poem took on several voices of varying tones. Sometimes descriptive, sometimes snarky, sometimes passionate, these voices gave roundness to the overall impression, which felt like immediate access to Morrison’s own experiences. He showed an ability to move between speakers without leaving the audience behind. Morrison has a musical background, including a degree in music from Cambridge, which may have influenced his other poem about the pleasure of dancing to sad music. His use of rapidly-changing tracks in the background echoed his words and moved them to a crescendo. Both Morrison’s poems were immersive, enthralling, and expertly crafted.
The other major performer of the evening was drag queen Wanda Isadora de Fourrure, also known as Jean-François Krebs, whose pristine blonde hair, lingerie, and seductive pout stuck out brilliantly in the poetry library. Wanda’s poetry was both darker and more emotional than that of Morrison. The poems were performed in the beautifully mixed diction of French and English and explored drag from every angle: the allure, the addiction, the love, and also the pain, the sadness, and the questions of identity. One poem was presented along with a film, “fantôme”, a very personal view of Wanda at home, completing daily tasks in drag costume, even showering in a dress and full makeup. The repetition of the poem (“ton cœur, mon cœur, son cœur” we heard again and again) allied mesmerisingly with these everyday scenes in a truly moving, if heart-breaking performance. Jean-François Krebs is a student at the Edinburgh College of Art and an experienced artistic performer and poet.
The audience was treated to a surprise Skype call with an American writer, Andy Emitt, whose “Poetry of RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a series of poems that follows each episode of the seventh season of the show, was published by LunaLuna magazine. Unfortunately, the connection was poor, and though the snippets of poetry he read were witty and fun (“RuPaul, RuPologise” being one line that stuck out) much of the poem was lost and the audience was left awkwardly straining to follow along.
However, this was a small hiccup in what was otherwise a very successful night of poetry. All of the poems performed were fantastic in very different ways, and while it was only a one-night performance, I would encourage all readers to look into the work of these talented artists.
Iain Morrison: https://permanentpositions.wordpress.com/
Andy Emitt: http://www.andyemitt.com/
Image by Chris Scott