The New Wild West: An Exploration into Queer Adolescence
In a galaxy of words, Tommy Blake throws out his lasso and captures the reader with his whimsical pieces in his new chapbook. Published by Bottlecap Press, space cowboy on a little, uh, space exploration? is Blake’s journey adventuring into the wild west of queerness and identity. Blake’s opening poem, “let’s wrangle the moon?” sets the mood for a wild west reimagined:
“tides vomit all over me, giddy with lumps of sea
greasing the crease of my lips.”
Blake’s poems trap the reader in their vivid descriptions and just subtle enough queerness. There is a sense of fantasy within their words, creating a scenario so realistic yet dreamlike. Instead of reeling the viewers back into reality, though, they leave the endings open & up to the imagination. In space cowboy on a little, uh, space exploration? every word becomes an image, a symbol for the final frontiers.
“can i get a yeehaw every time i rake in water wrinkles,
or is it too cringy to chase weird objects
in the sky’s reflection?”
In ‘looking at the tragic reflection’ Blake continues with their imagery, even starting with a line from the acclaimed film Pearl, directed by Ti West:
i’m a star, please, i’m a star
blearyfrothing at the mouth.
And later on:
“my voice ringing red, so red
like an iris cut from the socket,”
In “the return of saturn, or shaking a magic eight ball,” Blake continues their beautiful imagery and simile. With lines such as:
“maybe this isn’t what i mean by new frontiers.
not when everything is foreseen as a threat
in clarity teased out in blue: signs point to yes”
Blake addresses the teenage emotions of confusion so well as they project themselves as a cowboy in a new world, feeling as much as a teenager does in the world of adulthood. It’s important to look at Blake’s writing process in terms of how they formulated their pieces. In the ‘notes/acknowledgments’ section, Blake refers to his process— one in which “[he] looked to an older and unpublished body of work from my teen years…[they] gathered overall vibes… to reimagine [their] queer experiences in a late teens/early 20s light.” The way in which Blake re-approaches his teenage emotions with the experience from his adulthood makes for a fascinating mix of angst and love.
Blake’s last poem in the collection is also of note, specifically the ending of the poem. Leaving the reader with much to ponder, Blake writes in their ending sentence:
“please, take me
as you will.”
Blake’s mastery of writing and appeals to emotion is like no other. After reading the final line, I found myself pondering about life and love and how I could experience it better. All in all, Blake’s chapbook is filled with themes of fantasy and growth. Through the dreamlike imagery, Blake is able to uncover a way to communicate to the reader queer love, life, and adolescent nostalgia. Any reader would be lucky to experience this book.