Gnashing Teeth Publishing

| words that get in your teeth

BOOK REVIEW: Gusher by Christopher Stephen Soden

Gusher, the recent Queer Mojo release from Christopher Stephen Soden, takes his first publication (Closer) and fine tunes it. Soden writes, “For this one moment / your connection is enough // to take the two of you / anywhere” and this is what his work does. The pieces in this volume take your hand and lead you on a journey through masculinity and queerness in a way that is as accessible as it is comforting.

The author shares in the introduction that his revisions of the original collection work to progress a narrative and the sectioned product does just that. The work moves from inner conflict where he claims, “I would not presume / to instruct you / on the care of outcasts” to a softer connection “that broke my skull / wide open”. The shift rings with verity in that the narrative unfurls from a child whose theft makes him “dance the dance that always / beckoned” to confrontations with a father whose crass understandings undermine the speaker’s manhood and mind then, ultimately, to the firm assertion that “I am the man who lets go”.

The honesty in these pieces comes through most effectively in the way that Soden builds scenes with precise imagery. The dark noticings during abuse of “slick shining hatchlings” and a “shriveled purple cadaver” contrast with peaceful recollections of “watermelon pink evening sky” where “chuckles bubble between us”. Each experience unravels subtly, even when the recollection is gut wrenching.

Christopher Stephen Soden tracks the rainbow of connections between men from the long hold of parent or lover to passing strangers. Scenes of masculine camaraderie in locker rooms and bars are juxtaposed with soft embraces: goodbyes and hellos. In each, the speaker seems to lean into the relationship and the possibilities it holds.

This is a vibrant read that captures a longing for life, connection and an understanding of masculinity. A must read for anyone seeking light in the darkness.

Get your copy of Gusher at QueerMojo, an imprint of Rebel Satori Press.

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