Dublin-based poet Rosamund Taylor, the founder of Dún Laoghaire’s new LGBTQ+ Book Club, has been going from strength to strength in her creative work. In 2017, she won the inaugural Mairtín Crawford award and was nominated for a Forward Prize for her poem ‘Detour (Leaving Edinburgh).’ Last year, she gave a standout performance alongside fellow queer poet Toby Buckley and artist Will St Leger as part of Dublin Book Festival.
Rosamund’s poetry, informed by her own experiences as a lesbian and as someone who is neurodivergent, explores the space inhabited by women when they are not in thrall to the world around them. Her recent work has appeared in Agenda, Orbis, Banshee, The Penny Dreadful, Crannóg and Magma.
Now, Rosamund’s commitment to LGBT+ representation and inclusion in the world of literature has inspired her to set up a book club focusing on work with queer themes. The LGBTQ+ Book Club meets once a month at the DLR Lexicon and welcomes new members.
The club is just two meetings into what promises to be a lasting and delightful career – its chosen reads so far have been Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s young adult novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed graphic memoir Fun Home, and details on its Eventbrite page promise an equally diverse lineup for months to come.
This World Poetry Day, we’ve caught up with Rosamund to chat about LGBT+ literature, poetry, and what drove her to start a queer book club in Dún Laoghaire.
What made you want to set up an LGBT+ book club, and how did you go about getting started?
I’m an avid reader, and I’m always especially excited to read books with LGBT+ themes and sharing them with others, so setting up a book club felt like a natural step. As well as that, I find that while there are great LGBT+ events in the city centre, there are very few in other parts of the city, and I wanted to start something in my own area. The DLR Lexicon library has been very supportive of our club: my wife and I wrote a short proposal for them, and they were immediately enthusiastic about the idea, and have facilitated us by getting in books and providing the meeting space.
Your book club choices so far have been wonderfully diverse, already bringing in a YA coming-of-age novel and a graphic memoir. How do you make your selections?
I’m glad the book choices seem diverse! This month we’re reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin, which, as a sci-fi novel, might not be everyone’s first choice for an LGBT+ read, but I’ve always been fascinated by Le Guin’s exploration of gender identity, and a book from the ’60s that focuses on gender-blind love feels revolutionary. There are a lot of books out there in all genres that explore LGBT+ themes, and I want to make sure that I don’t just read about one kind of gay experience, which I hope will be reflected by the book group. We’re also hoping that as the book club grows, new members will recommend books to us.
Who are some of your favourite queer writers working in Ireland today?
It’s wonderful how many queer writers there are working in Ireland at the moment – I hope one day we’ll have an anthology of queer Irish writing. I really admire Paul Maddern’s tender, evocative poetry, which deals with many different aspects of gay life. My work was recently included in the LGBT+ edition of the Poetry Jukebox in Belfast, and that includes a wonderful selection of queer Irish poets I admire, such as Annemarie Ní Churreáin – whose debut Bloodroot thrilled me – as well as LGBT+ poets from around the world.
What would you like to see more of in LGBT+ literature?
For the book club, I’ve been looking for books for adults by trans writers about the trans experience and struggling to find any available in this country. While there are some excellent books for children and young adults that feature trans characters, I can’t find novels written by trans people for adults – perhaps publishers think a trans novel would be too risky! Whatever the reason, we desperately need a novel, written by a trans person, that captures a modern trans experience.
What writers have inspired or influenced you as an LGBT+ poet?
As a teenager, the 19th-century French poets Rimbaud and Verlaine were big inspirations for me – I was so moved by the way they wrote about intimacy and despair and loved their world of Parisian cafes and vagabond wanderings around Europe. Though they wrote over a hundred years ago, I found their work exhilaratingly frank. They made me feel I could write about anything. These days, I’m always returning to Mary Oliver, who is not known as a ‘lesbian poet,’ but whose work is deceptively complex, and suffused with love and tenderness.
Do you feel that the experience of running the book club has influenced your own poetic work?
The book club is only a few months old, so it hasn’t yet had an impact on my work – I find it takes a long time for experiences to influence what I’m writing about. That being said, reading, and reading widely, is always very important to me, and I think every book I pick up has some kind of impact on my writing.
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