What does collective action look like at the end of the world? Who will prepare the meals for those hungry for sustenance and liberation? In Admit the Joyous Passion of Revolt, her second full-length collection, Elena Gomez demands her readers consider what the body needs as it resists its own oppression. A glorious retort to late-stage capitalism and all the ways it distracts us, this collection spins together a bleak map of what it means to exist today, while forcing us to consider all the parts of ourselves we have already offered to a system that yearns for our surrender.
Admit the Joyous Passion of Revolt is split into four sections. In the first, Gomez describes a kind of nameless, faceless uprising, made deliberately ambiguous. What isn’t ambiguous, however, is the bodily necessities of the individuals in the furrows of revolt: their hunger demanding enough to “roast the last Percheron / for its muscle”. This first section is hardly hopeful, but it is stern, like a tattered page from the handbook of a disillusioned anarchist.
The Marxist revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai is introduced in the second part of the collection, and is somehow both something, or someone, as innocuous as a passing comment, or as loaded as a rich ideology, and yet she is neither. Plainly, she is whatever you’d like her to be, Gomez teases: perhaps the revolution itself.
Most notably in the second section, Gomez writes about various face coverings – “your hands”, “a canvas tote”, “the leftover newspaper from our children’s / play session” – and, as her verse progresses, she imitates some kind of technological glitch, a layered reiteration of a single sentence: “covered my face with I and i covered and I with a wool I / covered …” It’s reminiscent of Instagram story filters, of the reproduction of memes, of the terrifying implications of a contemporary, online society that is able to be stylised, repurposed and altered in real time. When Gomez writes, “I covered / my face with Bakunin’s abolition of the family”, I consider what it means to cover my own face with a filter that pastes “Gay and Tired” across my cheeks, and where that fits into a complex – and bloodied – history of queer politics.
In this lively, intelligent collection, Gomez taunts us as she holds a mirror to the few things still standing when the world crumbles, and asks if anybody’s hungry.
Puncher & Wattmann, 84pp, $25
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 12, 2020 as "Elena Gomez, Admit the Joyous Passion of Revolt".
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