ROMEO GATT X BROOKE PALMIERIIn Conversation
21 February 2022 at 21:01
Romeo Roxman Gatt
📔 🧹 🤠
To: Brooke Palmieri
RRG: CAME ACROSS YOUR AMAZING PROJECT CAMP BOOKS A WHILE BACK IN THE INSTAGRAM WORLD. IN NOVEMBER I FORMALLY CONTACTED YOU VIA FORM SUBMISSION THROUGH YOUR WEBSITE CAMPBOOKS.BIZ TO ASK WHETHER YOU!D BE INTERESTED IN CHECKING OUT A BOOK THAT I HAD JUST SELF PUBLISHED.
BP: I am a lifelong bibliophile in the sense that love of books really shaped the course of my life, and also really INFORMED all of my most lavish and delightful dissociations as a child, the ones that saved me. As a kid my dad worked for a paper company so I was always making little books— trying my hand at making the things I loved, little stacks of books of my cartoon drawings and facts about dinosaurs. When I got to university it was so great, like there were all of these things I suddenly had access to, either things I didn’t know existed and wanted to try or things I’d wanted to try but we’d never been able to afford. There was a building at the university that had a huge printing press in the basement, a Vandercook cylinder press, and cases of lead and wooden type. I found out the code to the building. Some nights I’d go out dancing all night, but other nights I'd just use that code and stay up all night drinking root beer and learning how to work the press, I can be a really wholesome hedonist. I'd set type and listen to T. Rex. I could make crude versions of the books whose production I was learning about in the 16th century. My childhood dream was to work with books, and it’s always been that way. Fast-forward to now, to your publication, I just loved it, I just HAD to have it in my hands and more than that, find other people's hands to put it in. Books strike my ideal balance of requiring community—from their production to their circulation—but also claiming little moments for us to have quiet little deep dives into our interiority. It's a thrill. And your book is HANDSOME it's a HUNK it's a DREAMBOAT, to repeat what I wrote to you then.
RRG: MY PARENTS EVEN GOT TO MEET YOU BEFORE ME 😢 IN DECEMBER WHEN THEY WERE IN LONDON VISITING MY SISTER. I HAD SENT THEM TO GAY’S THE WORD TO BUY ME SOME BOOKS (THE DRAG KING BOOK BY DEL LAGRACE VOLCANO AND JACK HALBERSTAM, AS WELL AS TRUE SEX- THE LIVES OF TRANS MEN AT THE TURN OF THE 20TH CENTURY BY EMILY SKIDMORE), AND YOU HAPPENED TO BE WORKING ON THAT DAY AND THEY CALLED ME SOON AFTER TELLING ME THAT THEY MET A LOVELY PERSON OF WHOM I MIGHT KNOW, I INSTANTLY KNEW THAT IT WAS YOU.
SOON AFTER YOU HAD EMAILED ME TELLING ME THAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MET MY PARENTS =)
BP: Yes, one of my London sanctuaries is the place where I work a few days per week, Gay's the Word, a queer book shop founded in 1979. Your parents are AMAZING! I have a prayer I say when I open up shop: Thank you Queer Spirits for creating this sanctuary for me/ I will endeavour to give a warm welcome to all who pass through its threshold. Amen! So you parents stopped by and in that spirit we had a nice conversation, I’m pretty sure I also added Jen Manion’s Female Husbands to the stack of books they brought back for you.
RRG: I wanna learn your prayer as it’s one of the nicest I’ve heard. I have my own versions of prayers too, and of course I do, I was born in one of the most Catholic counties in the world. I even used to collect prayer cards alongside football stickers. In Maltese they are called ‘Santa' (singular) 'Santi’ (plural). I have just invented the name for them in English… think of them as baseball cards but just on really thin paper, however I even had a fancy one of a holographic Madonna. I guess I thought that it would give me some more lives until I start getting questioned and disapproved by the adults.
Though I really always believed that unlike the church God was playing on our team - the team of all kids queer.
BP: I LOVE this. My prayer cards were the cards you get at funerals--not only the funerals of people in my family, but as a kid I was an alter server at my church and I was so good at it, that in a sense my first job was serving at local funerals when I was 10 or 11, being in charge of swinging the incense and ringing the bells and holding the book, and after every funeral mass the undertaker would tip $10-$15-$20 dollars. These funeral gigs also let me miss class, which was great. And I'd get one of the cards of prayers with the deceased's birth and death dates on them and like, some saintly namesake or Jesus or Mary on the front. Then I got really into collecting Pokemon cards, which I am now in the process of preparing to auction off on eBay to make money to allow my dog to continue living in the lifestyle to which he has become accustomed.
RRG: WE SCHEDULED A MEETING TO MEET ONLINE AND ENTHUSE ON BUTCH MASCULINITY IN THE NEW YEAR
YOU TOLD ME YOU’RE A WITCH
BP: In, like, 2015 I found a zine at a zine fair called 'BURNED AS A WITCH' written by a gay boy who described 'coming out' to his parents as a witch as a child. That really made sense of my own childhood experience, which was like that + the plot of the folk horror movie 'Penda's Fen'. My touchstone of non-conformity was identifying as a witch and my parents tried hard to keep me from it, taking away my tarot cards, trying to take away movies and books, fretting over both my satanic and my pagan inclinations. Later when that magic turned into more sexual and aesthetic inclinations (homosexuality, genderfuck, channeling the divine masculine, party as protest, protest as protest, blah blah blah) I didn't feel I needed to 'come out' about anything since the history and symbolism of the figure of the witch seemed to contain all that information in it already.
RRG: IN OUR MEETING YOU TOLD ALSO ME ABOUT THE MAGICAL WORLD OF ARCHIVING
BP: Combining my interest in books and my interest in going to the places where VERY RARE and VERY FRAGILE and VERY EXPENSIVE old, old books are kept, I shifted realms a little into archives where more ephemeral documents are preserved, and a lot of handwritten or typewritten materials and other wild survivals from the lives of people dead and gone. Archives have been very important to me as places of learning and research, but also community in terms of both love and lust. As in, when I was coming out I was working at a special collections library and, you best believe, flirting and dating many of the queer researchers walking through the glass doors to work in the archives. My experiences—intellectual and sensual—in those spaces have really shaped the trajectory of my life and my artistic practice.
But I realised that the method as it’s taught in school was all wrong: you go into these elite institutions with permission to find information that has been catalogued and mediated in very particular ways. Ways that constrain you, ways that try to force your hand into writing and reinforcing certain histories and myths. Lines of enquiry as they are funded by institutions and filtered through institutional processes of applying for funding are deeply constraining if not outright censorship. And the hands that mediate and make accessible what survives are biased— there are just an endless array of mediating factors that you face when you step into an institutional special collection, and they’re all different.
For the past few years my approach has been: Why not flip that method and use magic to call things to YOURSELF, for starters. Why not develop a spiritual practice to work against boring, oppressive regimes of knowledge making? Using ritual to re-assemble archives can do that. So I’ve combined my devotional spiritual practice with my interests as a historian and as a person who—in the words of Allan Berube—has a desire for history. I’d construct these elaborate rituals in my living room to help me find untold histories and lost queer artefacts, both as they exist outside of institutional archives and as they remain hidden or under-acknowledged within those places. Or just miscatalogued. And those rituals worked—sometimes in really creepy. ways—I’m working on a book about it at the moment. But lately I've had to take a break from making rituals to find lost queer artefacts because I've conjured up too many and I need to spend some time working through them.
Although--ENTER YOU into my life!--another way to get around the overwhelm is to work with people doing the same thing. You're doing that with ROSA KWIR, so we can help each other and work together and share ideas from our particular places in the world. It's interesting that once I started to feel myself at a saturation point a few people, like you, immediately came into my life. Like, to share the workload.
RRG: AND WE SPOKE BOOKS
BOOKS AND MORE BOOKS
BP: I promise that I only use books to help get beyond the limits of what can be said or done, I'm interested in them because I'm interested in living as much as possible, in going to as many places with as many people as possible.
RRG: AS WELL AS SOME T
BP: I wonder if we can also talk at some point about how the legendary horniness that T gives those who take it is influencing the way we handle books and archives and the knowledge they contain?
RRG: YOU INTRODUCED ME TO AN AUTHOR COOPER LEE BOMBARDIER – I BOUGHT HIS BOOK PASS WITH CARE AND CAN’T THANK YOU ENOUGH FOR THIS. I LEARN THAT HE IS ALSO ON THE COVER OF THE DRAG KING BOOK
BP: Some day you, me, and Cooper Lee are going to, like, watch the Perseids Meteor Shower together (which also happens to fall on my birthday).
RRG: I WISH THAT YOU TALK WITH ME ABOUT
BP: They're really having a moment, aren't they? Lucky for us. But it’s been astonishing to see something I used to think was a fairly niche interest—or a meta interest, considering the materiality of history—suddenly take over queer art and consciousness so thoroughly. You barely go to a show that doesn’t have some archival component. But thanks to the critical mass of people who now care about finding gender non-conformity in the archives, or reconstituting collections of gender non-conformity in order to question the shape of history as it is collected within more traditional archival repositories, I feel like I can work in more spaces and travel to more places and not be tied down by an academic job. There are so many great people working and making art about queer history that it’s a really thrilling time to care and collaborate!
RRG: BOOKS YOU FIND IN THE BASEMENT
BP: One of the things about working as a bookseller is--especially when you focus on rare and secondhand books--is that you're always rooting around people's houses, including their basements, or in my most recent case, in the basement of Gay's the Word which is a treasure trove of used books that I'm always taking photographs of and sexting to my friends. That's what sexting means right?
RRG: THE “DIVINE, MYSTICAL ART & THE WORK OF THE DEVIL, TRIUMPH AND TERROR” (PRINTING)
BP: I've very interested in how media and information are perceived over time -- I know Susan Sontag deals with this on some level in 'Against Interpretation' and 'Illness and Its Metaphors' and 'AIDS and its Metaphors' and I'm influenced by that, Susan Sontag Ora Pro Nobis, but I also kind of take it from the opposite direction, gathering up the excess of imagery and the patterns that emerge from constant, never-ending interpretation. Printing, my chosen medium across different technologies, is something that has accrued centuries of interpretation: what is a book? what is a print? this stuff contains information but everyone has an idea about how it achieves more than just being a container, somehow. And a dominant image of early portrayals of print technology is that printing is a plague and the work of the devil. I would put it this way: The invention of moveable type is the greatest aberration in the history of communication. Its format obscures thousands of years of communication by clay and papyrus, and the rapid output of the press obscures prior book-making processes that were carefully controlled, lavishly constructed, and above all, sacred. No wonder the spread of mechanical printing processes has triggered constant debate over the centuries: is printing the work of God or of the devil? Is the multitude of new information useful, or an infectious plague? But from there I am interested in how these questions move between books as objects, and the people who are depicted in them or who write or read them. The conflation of books and bodies is really fucked up but it's happening all the time around us and it's often happening in a way used to censor and brutalise both. And this language to describe print media has been lifted wholesale and applied to other other forms, especially digital formats. I like to channel these queer monstrous historical currents when I’m printing, it’s a little bit historical re-enactment, a little bit pushing things further in the forms of new prints and zines.
DOGS & DONUTS
BP: The four big Ds
RRG: My love for books happened quite late, even though we were brought up with books from a young age. However it was only when I went to study in London that I started discovering everything that I wanted to read, consume and look at. I had never had access to such books and libraries before, so much on gender and sexuality, queer and women writers, it felt like bliss. Yeah I totally feel you, I remember wanting to look at a specific book (can’t remember which one now) and I was told to go to the British Library, had to ask for permission to view specific books and it felt a bit intimidating for me at the time. Information should be more accessible and less elite for sure. And that question of what is decided to be documented, archived, and by who is an other thing on the whole. So many brilliant texts, manuscripts, visuals should have made it but didn’t just because they were deemed inferior, degenerate, blasphemous, etc… Why not do everything you can to work against boring, oppressive regimes of knowledge making?I really believe that with your work you are doing just that! I never really knew what I was doing and up until now and I still don’t really know what I am doing.
BP: I think you're doing everything in the right order: when you're really onto something, the philosophy or theory emerges from the practice. My late mentor Lisa Jardine said that to me a few months before she died: just work and write, the theories and weight of what it means will follow after you've put in the hours, don't think too much or close yourself off with too much theorising, just do what you want, what you're drawn to. In a queer activist context the best book about that is Sarah Schulman's Let The Record Show--she shows the incredible momentum you can build when you prioritise letting theory emerge from activism, from collective action around an agreed upon issue (in her case, within ACT UP). Your archive will preserve the a sense of the emotions and the urgency with which you compiled it. I don't think you can force 'knowing what you're doing', it'll hit you when it hits, at some point in your accumulation and in your travels, and it will probably also change over time. I think that's true for me too, the archives I was obsessive about working with and really drawn to when I was 19 mean something different to me now than they did then. Things change with the digging, and assembling, and meeting people, and talking and reading, those are all forms of momentum.
RRG: What I know is that I am grateful to have come across you and your work, and other people similar to you who are teaching me so much. It’s beautiful to know that connections like this happen and they happen for a reason. Sharing the workload, sharing ideas are some of those reasons for us. Oh and I guess your rituals still want to go strong and not really stop.
The horniness is real. Beyond what I ever imagined to believe haha… wank/research | euphoria/ euphoria.
I got a slight fear that my new reality of being quite horny, like a teenager would distract me from being productive but I think it’s the opposite.
BP: I know what you mean, but TEEN HORNINESS IS NOT A CRIME! As Sarah Michelle Geller sings in the role of "Krysta Now" in the movie SOUTHLAND TALES:
I also think it's important to get over the very puritanical/protestant-work-ethic fantasy behind how lots of archives, libraries, museums are organised. As if bloodlust isn't what's packed them with objects and artefacts! It's 100% honest and beautiful to make a collection from a place of love and lust and all the emotions that come with them so long as you're not hurting anyone. Rather than pretending like emotions haven't played a determining role in every particle of historical debris that survives, I wanna be precise about the emotions and desires I'm working with—and the pleasures I’m working toward—when I choose the historical debris I write with and through. I also want to say that, while there is much brutality and sadness to contend with in the archives, it’s also still possible to find flashes of pleasure and enjoyment and warm connection. The whole range of emotions are there to be tapped and experienced.
Until we speak again, I wanted to end on a question for you: Since you have started Rosa Kwir, rooted in Malta but embellished by your reading of queer and trans histories from abroad, how has the magnetism of where you're living warped what you're reading? Something that really sticks with me from Emily Skidmore's True Sex is how syndicated news media warped the stories of trans men--in some cases, if you looked locally, these men were portrayed with more details about their lives but also more sympathy and/or respect. That happens today in a different way: just look at how much writing, research, and art often positions itself in relationship to the Stonewall Rebellion before naming and claiming its own limited location and perspective. We pick and choose the known, named histories as a point of departure into the unknown. But I wonder how those translations and movements relate to building local collections rooted in local history, how do USA and UK-centric narratives and "queer theory" get changed when they get to put roots down somewhere new and specific, like what you’re doing in Malta?????
Lots of love and admiration,
RRG: So my research into trans and queer histories highlighted the lack of representation in a Maltese context. I’ve rarely come across references to Maltese trans men, non-binary, gnc people in books. There is hardly any discourse or visual representation of trans masculinity, female masculinity, butch identifying lesbians concerning my own country.
Through the archive I feel that there is a way to make this community more visible a way to connect stories and objects, and in a hundred years time there will be way more visual representation of us. And what I mean of us is written by US and for US. Not just limited to some scientific texts or criminal records. Which is the case of RK's archive atm. Manuscripts from the Grand Court of Malta in 1774 record a story of Rosa Mifsud:
A 17 year old from Luqa. Raised as a woman, Rosa petitioned the Grand Court to be legally recognised as male. Two medical experts examined miffed, and after deciding that Mifsud’s Genitalia conform more to the male the the female sex’, the teen’s wish was granted. There is a rumour of Rosaria being seen peeing against a wall just like a man would do.
What I question is did Rosa change their name? Maybe Rosa didn’t change their/his name, but I doubt it. Was no one ever interested in discovering this?
I think when you ask this question "I wonder how those translations and movements relate to building local collections rooted in local history, how do USA and UK-centric narratives and "queer theory" get changed when they get to put roots down somewhere new and specific????” My answer to it would be that this is something I’d hope I’d discover or come closer to, it is what I guess I am constantly trying to understand, but still unable to get the grasp of… I feel lost and frustrated at times, like going in circles, but having spoken to you last time I felt more tranquil and calm - you actually did that to me.
23 February 2022 at 00:28
📔 🧹 🤠
To: Romeo Roxman Gatt
BP: PS. I started writing that emails at 22:22 on 22/2/22 to MAXIMISE the numerological POWER of our undertaking together in this dialogue!!!
24 February 2022 at 11:55
Romeo Roxman Gatt
📔 🧹 🤠
To: Brooke Palmieri
RRG: "Yeah I’m your toy, the twentieth century boy.
20th century toy I wanna be your boy"
"I drive a Rolls Royce ‘cause it’s good for my voice"
BP: I used to love karaoke-ing "20th Century Boy" and "Children of the Revolution," I'm glad you found EXACTLY those songs! I think, finally, though, my voice is going to give me the Marc Bolan register that I didn't know I needed....so like the next time I'm in a position to karaoke it'll be there in the right key. Something I like about Marc Bolan (RIP) is that he is a beautiful example of working class Divine Masculinity (of which more later), in part defined from the idea that you don't have to hate or suppress the parts of yourself that are feminine, you can caress and finesse them into something beautiful for yourself, something to enjoy about yourself. He also wrote this fun poetry book called The Warlock of Love that I have a soft spot for, however purple its prose.
RRG: I never really listened to T. Rex but checked out two of his tunes to picture you next to the Vandercook cylinder press, lead type in hand. What were you doing with type back then? And do you have any documentation from these crude versions of the 16th century books?
I have a really embarrassing answer to this question. I've been thinking a lot about how embarrassment is like a guiding influence in my artistic life, like how when I feel a twinge of embarrassment about something it also feels like my body is DARING me to DO IT. So, here it goes! One of the main things I printed in an edition of...50? that survives from that period, was a stab-stitched pamphlet (that I still have some leftover paper from 15 years later), and it was of settings from the 17th-century poet George Herbert's The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations.
I'm just really into the 17th century, there's just this mystical outpouring in the English language of a lot of ideas that I like I guess.
Sometimes, I'd just use the press to write though, my own stuff. When you set type, you do it upside down, and backward, first on a composing stick you hold in your hands and then on the press bed. Your fingers do a lot of feeling unconsciously to speed things up once you get used to the layout of letters in the type case--the order of lettering at this particular set up (which is pretty standard) was the 'California Job Case', it's not an order of lettering like a computer keyboard, but once you learn it you can go fast, and composing ideas that way taught me to write in a different way than pen on paper, or pixel on screen. When everything is upside down and backwards, and even the blank space on the page requires you to place a physical object on the compositors stick and what's called 'furniture' on the press bed, nothing can be wasteful. When the composing stick fixes the length of a line to a certain value, you choose words differently. Everything in typesetting is a different set of choices made from bizarre constraints. So everything must be precise and absolutely necessary, and because everything is so tactile and physical, every word has material weight (lead, or wood) almost at the same time that it has other forms of meaning. It's kind of the best I've been able to do to ground my language.
RRG: You can’t imagine the happiness in my heart when you told me that you’d like to get hold of some copies of the publication and getting back to me with such an awesome review, calling them HANDSOME, HUNK, DREAMBOAT! I wanted to get the project seen outside of Malta and nothing makes me more content knowing that it is being done alongside you.
BP: There’s this part toward the end of Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold that I was just re-reading where the author-anthropologists distinguish gay male communities from lesbian communities by saying that the camp queen leaders of one are very different in the vibe from the butch dyke leaders of the other.
They can't imagine the union of those two world-views/behaviours and I think it's because, earlier in the book, they had dismissed and foreclosed on any discussion of transness, especially trans masculinity, which to me bridges the gap or synthesises the binary. We're the Boots of Gold. And I think making books, zines, printmaking, is a very hands-on sculptural form of making information available that can also do this, be both incredibly butch and incredibly camp. You use your muscle to press down HARD on paper with all of this poisonous lead type, and then you use a needle and thread to sew together dainty little pamphlets. I think my Private Ejaculations was that. I also think your Rosa Kwir does it too in a different way, this scholar Barbara Sjoholm called it “the sheer butch glamour of printing," once, a phrase I have always felt encapsulated something I feel when I'm up late at night printing, cutting down sheets, folding them, dancing around.
RRG: I am learning about Penda’s Fen just now through you, just clicked on the play for today scene, with all the boys in their P.E. kit covered in mud fighting each other and the angel in the sky, and a sensual hand running through the neck onto the chest from left nipple to right nipple down to the belly button and then onto the flame.
BP: I think what's also important about seeing this movie is that--I L O V E movies about teenagers or proms or whatever but I don't relate to them, they're pure alien entertainment, I didn't really have that kind of teenaged experience, or if I did I don't remember it--I realised later how much I was dissociating so I have a lot of lost time in my teenage years. But from what I *DO* remember my experiences were filtered through deep religiosity, then a falling out with the faith I was raised in and a "serious" (for a teenager) exploration of other spiritual paths. I feel like the main character of Penda's Fen has this really annoying militancy that I had, and also his interest in Christian Heresy shifts into local Pagan lore is a narrative arc that I more or less followed. I also like the idea that puberty, the onslaught of hormones, is a kind of psychedelic hallucinatory experience, at least that's how the movie depicts it and that too feels a little closer to the flashes of memory I have, as well as some of the experiences I've been having the in the current puberty I'm going through.
RRG: But WOW coming out as a witch to your parents, it’s something I’d never would have thought of, as in where I come from no one would really believe you or take you seriously if you did come out as a witch, but hardcore believe in heaven and hell and devils and angels and martyrs and superstition. Here witches are often still perceived from that sexist depiction in books and movies of past generations, no one seems to question why the church and state burnt so many of them. We believe and pray to the saint who was tortured by men but never questioning the reason for her being killed in the first place.
You went through a route of coming out very differently to mine, I see it as being more in touch with one self, how did you source all the stuff, the books, the tarot cards, the movies… Where did you go looking for it, did you have other friends who came out as witches?
I really related with the BEAST from beauty and the beast, my parents had given us Barbie and Ken, I always got the “boy" and my twin the “girl". This Ken had a mask of the Beast, I still have it, I felt a connection to him, maybe I related more with the monster and not saying that it is the same as the witch at all, though without knowing I saw a beauty and a bond to the monster in all childhood movies and books.
BP: I have a soft spot in my heart for conflations of the monstrous and supernatural with queering gender and sex. There are a lot of great writers on it—I’m thinking Hil Malatino’s Queer Emobidment: Monstrosity, Medical Violence, and Intersex Experience—and a lot of great art made reflecting on it, like this year alone I’ve enjoyed reading anything by Megan Milks, Isaac Fellman’s Dead Collections. I love classics like Susan Stryker’s “My Words To Victor Frankenstein above the Village of Chamounix” and books that are more obscure by lesbian feminists like Terry Castle’s The Apparitional Lesbian and Nina Auerbach’s Our Vampires, Ourselves, which is also one of the best book titles ever.
I've taken so long to respond to this part of our discussion because I wanted to write a lot about this subject but I realise it's too big, I can't right now, I'll just say that I think it's sad that all kids pretty much love crunchy goopy monster stuff--every generation of children has had access to some kind of local or pop cultural monster--but only some of us continue to identify and recall those affinities as we age. Why? I'm definitely interested in...would you call it monstrous phenomenology? Like personally I wonder: what does it mean that many of my earliest memories are filtered through the make-believe games I was playing with my ninja turtle action figures? The way I saw the world was the way I imagined Leonardo the Ninja Turtle saw the world, feeling good on his skateboard with his katana blades going to pick up a pizza. Something personal to my experience with Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles is that I remember them as one of my first big childhood obsessions but I don't remember how exactly they got there, other than that my uncle would get me the action figures if he did well betting at the race track. The same uncle would record video tapes of all my favourite movies: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, all of those old black and white universal monster movies, the humor and horror of which are still a big part of my personality insofar as they dictate my personal tastes. The same uncle was hugely influential to my upbringing but hasn't spoken to me since I came out, like 15 years ago? So there's this paradox I have about luxuriating into my own relationship with monstrosity which is, I relate to the stories themselves as ciphers for my own experiences, BUT whenever I miss my family, whenever I miss him or want to think fondly about him, I also return to those monsters too, like those monster memories are all I have to go on when it comes to our relationship.
I love love love hearing people's stories of their experiences identifying with monstrous characters and then making sense of their life that way, or using aspects of whatever weird creature as a lens of self-evaluation. So thanks for what you said about the Beast. Beauty and the Beast was the first movie I saw in a movie theatre! I remember it really clearly! I also remember feeling be-wild-ered (lol nice etymology there) that the happy ending was the beast turning INTO a human...like why would that be a good thing?
Which may lead to your next question….
RRG: Did you come to the Divine Masculine later in your life or has it been always there?
BP: It's always been there. I guess it has to be that way, I feel like most religions and spiritual practices rely on a concept of divinity that is defined by it always having been there. In "secular" culture--by which I mean in our present context where a lot of religious beliefs are articulated in non-religious language--that concept of having a soul you're always trying to return to its purest state (Adam and Steve in the Garden of Eden, or even the way the soul is described in Gnosticism) gets reconfigured as Your Childhood, a state of perfection worth returning to.
I resisted that for awhile, and I still resent it, but I finally got to the point where I just really needed healthcare, which meant having to justify myself with my ancient childhood urges to show I've always been this way. And I 100% used the phrase 'Divine Masculinity' in a Bureaucratic Medical Application as a joke by myself for myself about how Western religions serve a wrathful, vengeful bureaucratic god, but also because it works. Like, if you want boyhood memories, fine, I’ll give them to you, even if I think it’s ridiculous to have to self-select and reduce yourself like that.
It's true that the way information about divine expressions of masculinity or femininity have most often presented themselves to me are through feelings of remembering or returning.
But I also wonder: Does everything have to be a matter of recall? Are encounters of the sacred or the divine too overwhelming to comprehend that we always have to take it as a matter of memory and personal history in order to make it more digestible in the moment? Is it just that humans perceive god with the same faculties they perceive their own pasts? I guess it's called the temporal lobe for a reason. OR IS IT, as I was getting at earlier, because we live in a cultural context so deeply dictated by tradition and history--we're oversaturated by historical mandates in the form of legal codes and our evolutionary urge to secure certain forms of stability. So "We Have Always Been Here" and "This Has Always Been who I Am" is a formation that remains very useful in politics and that's the context I'm living in, so I have to use it to make sense of myself and my attraction to channeling divine masculinity.
I’d love to get at concepts of divinity and masculinity that happen outside of Christian Bureaucracy and it’s definitely what I aim for in meditation and my spiritual practice, but it’s hard. And even the powerful zoning out I am capable of…doesn’t let me zone out that much.
PS: I received an email this morning and it might be that Cooper Lee will be doing the next conversation in this series with me too depending if there is enough time, and he also said that you mentioned Malta and masculinities archive event. Got to make this happen and the Perseids Meteor shower maybe too? Does that make you a Cancer or Leo?
BP: I'm a Leo, a lotta Leo, and basically all my placements are either in Leo, Aries, or Sagittarius so I'm all fire all the time.
Cooper Lee Bombardier is someone I want to be in-person friends with. I appreciate that the world is small enough that I could just like, follow him on instagram one night and get followed back and then like, DM him. That's also all I want the internet to be for, to keep in touch with people I want to see in the flesh. Anyway this was happening around the time we first spoke, too, so it made sense to make the match between you two. Then recently Cooper ordered one of my prints. I should have said this before but making prints and sending them in the mail is a major part of my spiritual practice nowadays. Making use of the postal service is an incredibly powerful magical practice, since it's the network by which magical people have kept in touch, found new members for their covens, shared information and trained initiates, and coordinated their rituals, for centuries. So I'm always making up envelopes and poster tubes with magical intentions, usually just intentions of friendship and good health, but in Cooper's case I just wrote: I hope that when we meet it's on a beach in Malta.
And I do hope that! And I have an archival precedent to strength my urge to mail to you, here's a picture of it though, I found it in San Francisco:
It says: AUGUST 18-20, 1995
FTM SAN FRANCISCO
It's a program for "The first FTM conference of the Americas...dedicated to all of those who have walked on this path, the spirits of those who have made it possible and to those who have yet to begin their journey."
I think we should do something like that at your gallery in Malta. Not just a historical re-enactment (clothing from 1995 has really come back into fashion, I feel), but something more.
16 MARCH 2022 at 11:57
Romeo Roxman Gatt
📔 🧹 🤠
To: Brooke Palmieri
I am a Leo too!
I know that we will meet on a beach after our first FTM Rosa Kwir and family conference here in Malta.
Sending you a lot of Love and thank you for sharing with me so many beautiful words.
Brooke Palmieri is a historian, writer, and printer, if printing can also be considered as a form of sculpture and performance. In 2018 they founded CAMP BOOKS, a platform for making the history of gender non-conforming people more accessible through teaching, cheap printing, and building archives and libraries. Their writing has been featured in publications by Pilot Press, WMN_Zine, and Louche Magazine, and recent work include "Muscle Memories" as part of In Transit, Our Memory Fragments at Chelsea Space and "Take Nothing For Granted: Theses on History," at Gaada.