Poet and Activist/Scholar Nat Raha unleashes a relational firestorm with this interdisciplinary text penned in conversation with Gavilán Rayna Russom’s recent release Transverberation. Photos of Rayna by Jane Chardiet.
NEOLOGISMS, green with new life, bear the opportunity of formulation, the openness of early definition, the echo of past uses. Between transcendence and reverberation, prefixed with trans as moving “across a socially imposed boundary away from an unchosen starting place”. 1 Eclipsing the given through what is lived, unbinding bodies, laying out in the context of possibility. (Although in the plague year, stepping out & possibility shrink, cast with the context of mass death & political in/action).
She, queer trans femme, maintains a sense of her existence through dress & space, the domestic as where she is after all. Unsure of origin stories, she is interested in what they reveal as histories of power. These are lines to be uprooted, appropriated, put to work for the collective. The dictionary is virtual, & lies close to her head. The lines underneath the text are added.
origin a borrowing from Latin. etymology: from classical Latin reverberāt-, of reverberāre to repel violently from a surface, beat back; in post-classical Latin also to dazzle (11th cent. in British sources), to reflect (12th cent.), to cause (sound) to re-echo (c1200). Compare French réverbérer to strike again (end 14th cent.), to reflect (an image), to reflect (heat or light) (c1400), to repeat (something) (1424), to shine (c1470).3
†. transitive. To beat, drive, or force back; to repel, repulse. Obsolete Originally: † to send (something) back whence it came; to cast back upon something; (obsolete). In later use: to deflect (flames, heat, etc.).
A strong wall to repulse and reuerberate the violence of the furious waues of the Sea. 4
†. intransitive. To turn or bend back (with in and reflexive pronoun); to recoil, come back on a person, one's feelings, etc. (with on, upon, to). Of a material object: to recoil, rebound, esp. with a reverberating sound. Obsolete.
On the top of this fiery trunk, seemeth the fire to be in form of a fiery Globe,..which fire reverberateth and rolleth in it self. 5
†2. transitive. Of light or sound: to fall on or strike; to spread throughout, fill. Obsolete.
His beames reuerberatyng heauen, represente suche a maner of lyght, as we haue in Sommer two houres before the Sunne ryse. 6
3. Chemistry and Metallurgy, transitive and † intransitive. To heat (a substance) in such a way that flames are deflected on to or pass over its surface. Now rare. (1576). Of a kiln or furnace: to heat by reverberation. Obsolete. rare.
Put it back in the pan, reverberate it as before, first with a small fire to let it glow sweetly without getting a taste.7
4. in/transitive. Of a place or object: to ring or vibrate with sound; Of sound: to re-echo, resound. Also figurative: (of reputation, news, etc.) to be much mentioned or repeated; (also) to have consequential effects.
She..Makes Echo's hall reverberate around, And wakes each note that slept within her lyre. 8
5.in/transitive. Of heat or (light, or other radiation): to be reflected, esp. repeatedly (from something). † intransitive. To shine up/on something, especially with reflected beams or rays of light. Also figurative. (1598-9)
Fleshy Pillars, wherewith the heat is both more easily preserved and reverberated 9
† 6. transitive. To beat or strike (a thing) frequently or repeatedly. rare.
The dictionary was enough to leave a ringing in the ears. Flames on the surface, reflecting beams. Nautical twilight. Furious repulsion, quivering heavens, burning globes. Echoes casting back, navigating oceans. Constituting power, as its lasting effect. Repeated reflection. Fire rolling in itself, laughing. Trying to take the edge off the reflection (the re- prefix), & find the position of her pronoun amid the histories embedded in the expeditions and literal violence of coloniality, she attends to the vibrations and waves that ripple from trans worlds, and from the sensations and practices that emerge from them.
trans/lash. booming, voices. loudness. often: looks, way of life, bursting into the day / sweeping into night, rupturing screens, exploding received ideas. intensive flutters. appearing from the multitude, the underground, the night. continuing, igniting heat; amplifying laughter. aliveness.
Transverberation ⎯ a voluminous eclipse of imposed boundaries, to move with celestial objects, defy dominant gravities. to engender vibration in the dominant order until its resonance frequency sets it dancing and wavering through to a point of collapse. for these orders to fall from our bodies, cleansed & stripped off, to reveal the space for something profound to emerge. to move with our own radiance to somewhere else—
towards transcendence, to be visited spiritually, to find its source within—
The gender binary is one of the structures of the social relations of the dominant order that we inhabit, white supremacist ableist neoliberal capitalist society, founded in coloniality. Trans at its most powerful entails shifting our position, our orientations to this society—to move through and refuse the imposition of its boundaries and borders in order to forge new spaces and worlds. Transition, an alteration of one’s relation to these spaces and worlds, changing the body, opens a body to new worlds, encouraging transformation and movement. This is provided one is willing to give up the logics and securities of the dominant order, what must be let go to open one to possibility.11 beyond the boundaries of domination, stepping out of the binary as wretched impossibility there are new worlds to be fabricated, to be stumbled into and shared.
With these embodied and relational shifts, transition affects sensory experience. In an openness to bodily change and the social relations that come with orbits of trans and queer lives, from the interpersonal to the sexual, our senses change—from alterations to our skin and senses, of smell to perception and colour. These are (bio)chemical changes but also social and psychological emergences—heightened through the clearing of somatic weights on the body [dysphoria] via bodily change, body modification and hormones, but also other beings, senses of dress, practices, sex, cultural spaces and psychological work, age and understanding. Opening up our experiences of worlds, transition presents new webs of intelligibility through our bodies. The contexts in which this may happen⎯economic deprivation, transphobia and abuse, rejection from family, friends or lovers—can make it difficult to bear, painful physically and psychologically. But to uplift, share and spread these forms of understanding is to build trans power, to find the shoots of transcendence among us.
Trans- opens one to sensory exploration while building relations with other bodies, to manifest ways of being, as a means of healing and of embodied understanding. These social relations are essential for overcoming forms of social isolation that white hetero-, cisnormative ableist patriarchal neoliberal capitalist society would literally prescribe for us and has done so in the past—with the imperative of Gender Identity Clinics for trans people to move to somewhere new and tell no one of one’s past, a prescription of shame, silence and powerlessness.
The worlds we find and fabricate are forged through sensation and expression, mutuality of experience, of joy, liberation, violence and harm, possibility and belonging. We tap into particular sensations, attuned to certain objects and images. From relations of queer desires rooted in practices of being and becoming, forms of sensuality emerge. In the trans and queer politicised worlds where such sensations find their context and becomes intelligible, linguistically, sonically, where these embodied experiences have power, have potential.
glamour & gravity in the plague year ::
sensation separated like bodies, hung
fabrications & threads / solidarities
passed as mutual aid, as pounds, dollars
skulls greyscaled shrunken off cultural airs
as fog as low lit / florescence
pacing our rooms few strung together as rent,
shoulders hunched over screens & bibliographies
our underfunded forms of living / the immensity
of our refusal to trade all that is left for a wage diminished
feminist diaspora. anomie. debased glamour. pelvic floor. un/binding & un/leashed.
ringing soft tissue, silicone firm. sylken & removing. layered, crushing virtuous,
bles/sing lace or latex or nylon, c(h)ord determined leg pivot.
dive psych into loss constitutive, a giving over of body possessed by fire, loosened to
let energetics flow through out & into
(& if there was more than one of us
/ strut toes out of these rooms
elaborated slow onto exposed skin
in the absence of expressions our daily of
love, of the bodies that people the constellations
we name community; of the touch &
sensations materialising a body (as) felt,
tended, cared, fucked;
these tones dripping across ears
as fingers about holes
as the offerings of diaspora reaching
oceans as pressing air into one
isolation draws out the oxygen rebounding about a body.
pull the threads of arms of support to orbit: we seek other strategies for sensation, practices to stoke bodies⎯their spread contained also with quarantine.
but we who are used to it ⎯ deviants, disabled folks, older people, incarcerated people, migrants ⎯ stepping out from dominant orders or being held by them.
to posit links back into our worlds.
that press out onto skin / that gesture toward body
pulses through the surface or between a crevice to be absorbed into its tissues, its
surfaces and depths
in solitude, sexual being pronounces itself, reveals itself in a quietude, in an absence that holds memory and sensation of similar occurrences in the past.
while other people can be great sources of knowledge & sharers of passions, so much of the erotic we figure for & through our bodies/selves can come solo the sensations of bodies changing, altering, developing; the working of & out of sensory pleasures, pressures, fantasies, & patterns, sustaining tensions, visions & release, the cleansing of sorrows, the plumbing and fabrication of ecstasies,
we cultivate practices to reach through with care, to break silence, to let air.
we stoke methods, call transcendence from the flames to the present, blow embers,
try to nourish our own worlds & find means to share them—
we mix spices and scents in our apartments to keep our bodies engaged.
we keep moving & connecting sound to flesh, subcultural verberations for the body on
a molecular level. but all this is easier said than done with a crash of psyche, supplies low, the body
when all that is left otherwise is the ringing of one’s ears
Isolation imposes a boundary, forming around our bodies, contained, cooling; it tends towards vacuum, the thinning of air pressure, sensation or verberation. Without oxygen or relation comes suffocation of the fires in the flesh.
The sexual intelligibility of trans femmes and trans women already sometimes lacking social context beyond ourselves⎯either overdetermined and fetishised in a pornographic context (that puts the agency of trans women in parenthesis), or desexualised in pursuit of respectability. Social worlds and cultural connections shrink and contract; fantasies of the cisnorm may loom as aspirations.
Much of what she’s learned about isolation as a form of oppression comes from Tourmaline, who emphasises that care is a means to break it, that coming together is powerful. It challenges the devaluations of the racial and gendered division of labour under capitalism, emphasising the value and knowledge of crip, trans, queer, Black, indigenous, of color lives, that we are worthy of love. The worlds that have emerged from these lives are durable to isolation. Worlds that bear so much trauma from marginal and precarious living, even as their surroundings shrink and evaporate. The harms and joys held between us guides the practices to hold, work through and embrace them together, practices ancient & new. Even in our separation and the containment of quarantine, we figure spaces to hold the pain in space, to cry & call (to/gather) for its negation, for the abolition of the institutions that permit or perpetrate it (or which pretend the worlds which bare it don’t exist). We deepen our understanding of what is borne or bared between us, an understanding that isn’t simply with the mind (after all, one does not simply understand with just the mind).
But isolation sows negativity. Under this negativity, how does one maintain dreams, fantasies, visions of transcendence as forms of possibility, of power in oneself or one’s scenario, as a creative drive? Such that the forms of oppression and violence we face and have faced don’t lead to our deterioration while alone? Given that so much time has been handed over to waiting, as the pace of life’s possibilities are slowed with the pandemic⎯of dating, of becoming and exploring the self in respect to others.
So transverberation becomes a means of cutting through the sameness of unremarkable days, a circle of resistance through and around the body, sounds to collapse walls through a dark ecstasy. Recuperating frozen soma, setting bodies in motion towards a form of transcendence. This transcendence points inwards, while it constitutes a space to hold pain and passion, crying & calling enraged. What we would set to burn with placards & torches, the heat of harm and blood and memory between chosen kin.
all that booms through the flesh, from the head, to pussy, shoulders, spine, heart,
limbs, lips, chest, what is traced by the fingers, from the external (text, screen,
image, body/being) or moved in a space, held inwards, a holding space for heat to
simmer // a flame, engulfing.
between a rite & the ringing of the ears, exuding, a tongue coming into its moist
being, temperate, raising neck. hair swung, moist backs, firm clits what offerings can be made to a body to know further directions inward
if a social scene doesn’t come through for you in such a way.
if the vitality of your body is drained w/work, pain, life, administration,
if tight dresses & fishnets are now nights in only
as breath on leather binds hands only yours
as the couple(-form) in its ubiquity repels eyes from the streets
as the only parcels to arrive in good time are from the sex shop ( < 24hrs!)
as the domestic space is lone to fabricate trust in oneself,
to learn to listen deeper, to know
dis/solve the body in imminent heat
1 Susan Stryker, defining her working term transgender at the start of Transgender History (2008), Oakland, CA: Seal Press, 1.
2 Hacked and condensed from the Oxford English Dictionary Online, 3rd Edition (2010), with apologies to etymologists.
3 See also Catalan reverberar (15th cent.), Spanish reverberar (15th cent.), Portuguese reverberar (a1557), Italian riverberare, †reverberare (14th cent.).
4 T. Coryate Crudities (1611), sig. Ov.
5 J. Dee Jrnl. in True & Faithful Relation Spirits (1659), i. 356.
6 R. Eden in tr. M. Cortés Arte Nauigation (1561), Pref. sig. ¶¶.iiiv.
7 M. M. Junius Practical Handbook of Plant Alchemy (1985), xi. 225.
8 W. Woty Shrubs of Parnassus (1760), 43.
9 N. Culpeper & A. Cole tr. T. Bartholin Anatomy (new ed.) (1668), ii. vi. 101.
10 The death of a figure named Khâkee Shâh, at the hands of English colonial forces, near Mysore, India finds its mention here within the OED.
11 This is an insight from the work of Mijke van der Drift.