Writing, Identity, & Queer Studies

In & Out, Either/Or, and Everything In Between

On Reconciling Religion and Queerness in Mosaic of the Dark

What Eye Is This
Lisa Dordal

1. Twice Now I’ve Dreamed of Birds
What eye is this that rises
and falls, sudden flock
across a blue wake, billowing
as if body and sky
are one. As God becomes
the quarrel, becomes
confusion and descent,
fragment of exaltation. This
eye, this wisp of seeing
and being seen.

*I have only included “1. Twice Now I’ve Dreamed of Birds”, and not “2. Omniscience, Prayer, Pantheon”, because the second one was not as relevant to what I was writing about.

Some of the things which draw me to Lisa Dordal’s poetry the strongest are her usages of Biblical allusions and references to the Divine. I do not necessarily consider myself a religious person; religion is not something that comes easy to me, and I’ve tried. However, it seems that there is something inherently magnetizing about gems of religious references which are hidden in literature pertaining to matters of identity, particularly about queer identity, because the two, even as concepts, are so often at odds with each other (more by execution than design, but design is certainly not exempt from any blame). Queerness and religion are woven together in Mosaic of the Dark, as they are both fundamental elements of Dordal’s identity and of the events of her life thus far, and “1. Twice Now I’ve Dreamed of Birds” from “What Eye is This” (p. 62) caught my eye as invoking both of these.
This poem is a snapshot of the events of a brief dream (whether real or fake is not apparent, but so many of Dordal’s other poems draw on memory and raw experiences that I would expect it to have been an actual dream). It then transitions to God again, and to being seen, themes that have been appearing throughout the book.
I had the opportunity to ask Dordal about this, or rather, comment on how important it was to see as someone who has also realized that many of my deep-seated issues with identity and being seen have to do with the Catholic Church’s insistence on queer erasure. From what she said over the course of the evening, it seems she has most definitely been able to reconcile much of that, and she now holds a Masters in Divinity, and through her writing she has been able to find healing and closure.
In this class, through texts such as The Trouble With Normal by Michael Warner, it has been made apparent that standards placed upon queer individuals by the confines of religion are considered “bad” because of their normalcy. Sometimes, though, it is absolutely imperative that queer people reconcile their relationship with religion instead of ignoring their church’s doctrine entirely. In Lisa Dordal’s case, this has provided a sense of peace and a path of study/career path, and she now writes about it as a way of emphasizing the isolation that she, as a closeted lesbian felt (for many reasons, though – not solely because of religion, but that no doubt had an impact on her). I think that although Michael Warner may have made excellent points in arguing against the traditional values placed upon queer people by religion, Dordal demonstrates that reconciling one’s relationship with religion, as a queer individual, can be a way of freeing oneself and making oneself seen again.

1 Comment

  1. Hi! This was a really insightful passage. I particularly how you brought up your question and Dordal’s answers. I also noticed the tie-in to religion and was wondering about how she can reconcile her religion–which a part of her identity–as well as her identity as a queer woman. It is so important to note that reconciliation of religion and queerness is important. Rather than abandoning one part of identity completely, Dordal’s approach is an experience worth replicating.

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