Hey folks, what a year it’s been! I’d love to say that bad apple is winding down for the year but that’s categorically not true. Right now, I’m making my way through edits for our summer essay series which will kick off in January and run until the end of February. Immediately off the back of that we’ll be frantic for Auckland Pride, which, in some fun news if you haven’t heard, will feature a five-night showcase of 25 queer Tāmaki Makaurau poets at Basement Theatre put on by me and Mary Mosteller of Overcom.
Keep an eye out for when tickets drop for that, ‘cos we’d love to see you there. We’ll also have some other events on (and you can catch me on a panel for Samesame But Different) as well as plenty on site as per usual. But, that’s all looking forward to 2024, let’s look back through 2023 for a while.
For any data nerds out there, or future historians looking to chronology the exploits of queers in the 2020s, bad apple published 137 pieces (including this one) by 85 people across Aotearoa. All that and I still have about eight new contributors in my inbox I need to reply to (so sorry).
We started the year with a scramble to cover some of the Auckland Pride events alongside Rat World, The Pantograph Punch and Theatrescenes and swiftly moved into our first online collection of the year, ‘release’ for which we had our first in-person event in the Basement’s bar. There was plenty of reviewing through the autumn as the shows and books came in thick and fast before poetry took over in the winter, when we were all wet and sad outside and wet and sad at home.
August saw National Poetry Day roll around again and very ambitiously, I decided to hold live events in both Tāmaki Makaurau and Te Whanganui-a-Tara. This is where new relationships with the lovely folks at Samoa House Library and Enjoy Contemporary Art Space bloomed and we published an eye-twitching number of poems online, with two-dozen poets serenading audiences with new poetry about art for our ‘FRAMED!’ theme.
The lead into election season saw kate aschoff throw their hand up to organise the ‘queer and voting’ campaign, with a mix of content from New Zealand First policy erasure poems to political slogan rankings grace the website in a very stressful time for all involved.
In a weird limbo-time of post-election brain meltdown, I launched a book, Spoiled Fruit: Queer Poetry from Aotearoa, with co-editor Amber Esau. It’s a special piece of work as it wouldn’t exist without bad apple and the poets who took a chance on an emerging little online journal. After a year rotting away in my Google Docs, Spoiled Fruit soft launched at Samoa House Library in Auckland and then took to the main stage (of Meow) in Wellington as part of Verb Readers & Writers Festival 2023. We have over 120(!!!) people in attendance. Thank you everyone who attended one of our launches, and everyone else supporting from wherever you are! If you haven’t gotten a copy of the book yet, you can find one near you or order online via BookHub.
It’s been pretty quiet since early November, but I guarantee there’s plenty to look forward to as long as you all keep writing. And write you have. Out of said aforementioned 137 published pieces, I have chosen a mere 10 of my notable favourites for you to read for the first time, if you missed them, or get back into again. They’re not ranked, they’re not in order and if your piece didn’t make it to the list it’s definitely not because I hate you xx.
The feedback I got from the publisher about Casey’s review was so glowing and went along the lines of ‘they just completely understood the book’. It’s such a fantastic review that tells you so much without ever spoiling the novel. I certainly recommend checking it out if Audition has caught your eye but you haven’t made the leap yet, because Casey’s review will definitely shove you right off the edge.
“Profoundly anti-carceral, abundantly queer, and weird as fuck, Audition will lead you to spine-tingling places if you are willing to navigate its corridors.”
As the Lead Editor for bad apple, I get to read a lot of poetry. The queers love poetry. kī’s working consistently stands out to me with their engaging sense of humour, intelligence and the way they ground their poetry into place (often West Auckland) so vividly. ‘floodgates’, published as part of our ‘release’ collection, has one of my favourite lines of the year.
“dig through the
mud-clot detritus and find me.”
The importance of this non-fiction essay and its chronicling of queer history cannot be understated. Will is a brilliant historian and his wealth of knowledge in this area being shared with us is a gift. This piece, specifically published in response to growing anti-trans sentiment and the New Zealand tour of disgusting terf Posie Parker aka Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, will continue to be an important reference point for the long-standing battle of trans activism in Aotearoa.
I’ll admit, I let people run a little wild on bad apple sometimes, because frankly if not here then where? This is the case for this kind of bonkers essay from Eamonn. We had to rework the website a little to get the featured glowing blue Papyrus font and I’m still not really sure I know what this essay is about but that’s okay. It’s a journey driven by Eamonn’s desire to make James Cameron’s Avatar make sense—to bring it into our world and lay bare it’s fleshy meat and ask us to look at it too.
“I don’t know if I have resolved anything about these films. I hope, at least, that I’ve shown you some beautiful shapes in a dark room.”
‘starboy, or, luke skywalker is a gay transgender man and i know this because george lucas himself came to me in a vision’ by Zia Ravenscroft
I don’t know what to say about this one that isn’t covered by the title already. Zia is a very smart poet that writes works that walk the line between humour and existentialism—exactly where I like my poetry to be walking.
Visual art as standalone work is a little tricky on bad apple, and I’d love to platform more of it. This piece, from our ‘release’ collection, feels very frantic and a little discomforting, like a taboo being broken.
‘i used to shop at newmarket mall until i realised it was a spaceship run by evil aliens and was subsequently abducted’ by Zephyr Zhang 张挚
I think Zephyr might be one of the funniest poets I know. The way they deliver a reading can so dramatically turn an unassuming work into one that has the crowd guffawing. I first heard this poem read as part of the ‘Mythbusters – An Ode to Joy’ event at Auckland Writers Festival 2023 and loved it, so when they submitted it to published, of course I said yes.
I’m quite a fan of Brandon Taylor’s, having read both his short story collection Filthy Animals and debut Real Life in the last two years. Naturally I was hotly anticipating The Late Americans and when I had the opportunity to have someone review it, Josiah felt like exactly the right person. Deeply intelligent and engaged with literature in a way I could only aspire to achieve, Josiah pulled out all the pieces of The Late Americans that I didn’t know I couldn’t see.
“I am not sure what a book should or shouldn’t do. This is too big and too small a question to ask of any one book. Nevertheless, we must try.”
Lots of deeply intelligent queers publishing with bad apple in 2023 and Dani is certainly one of them. Early in the year I lamented the fact that there was very little writing about video games in Aotearoa and put a call out to any who would listen to my plea (grovelling). Dani offered up this sickeningly-relatable braided essay that speaks to taking too much on your plate and being helpless as all the contrasting flavours begin to mix together. Oh, also it’s about the video game Moonlighter.
This is a two-for-one, as it is an intricate visual poem that weaves its prose into something on the cusp of understanding. Sherry very kindly unravelled these wefts into a more traditional structure for our ‘FRAMED!’ collection and performed the poem at Samoa House Library on National Poetry Day.
‘Ways of falling’ “a poem is about the tension between the kind of tender familial love I grew up with as, the juxtaposition with it’s conditional performance with conservative filial piety expectations.”
Well, those have been some of my highlights for the year. This is where I should do a call to action and ask you to share your favourites with us on Twitter or Instagram, but it’s December 15 and we’re all tired so I’ll let you get away with just liking the post for this article on socials.
There are a few more things coming your way before the year ends, but remember that time isn’t real and everything’s fucked anyway. FREE PALESTINE.