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Books: Navigating Youth and Growth in a Neurodivergent and Queer Body with Elspeth Wilson’s ‘Too Hot to Sleep’

Do vampires breathe? Did you take any breaths during your first kiss? Can poems breathe? Wilson’s debut poetry collection, Too Hot to Sleep, does, alternating between wide-ribbed sighing-outbreath prose poems and tight, urgent inhales of tiny-lined poems. She shows flair with both styles, conveying central concerns of navigating youth and growth in a neurodivergent and queer body.

Common motifs include but are not limited to: The Sims and sleepovers, undying and undeath, hot touches and hot messes. A highlight is ‘Wildfires burn across Australia as Edward Cullen takes his shirt off for the twentieth time’, a poem which perfectly encapsulates that daily forgiveness we each internally beg for as we choose our own comfort over productive action. And who can blame us? A highly relatable poem for other queer millennials will definitely be ‘In Sims, I Woohoo with a girl’ – games are often a safe space for trying and testing before things are attempted IRL, a sort of wish fulfilment through clicking rather than dreaming.

Continuing with Sims, Wilson artfully highlights the unfairness of being told not to grow up too soon and then the next minute being told to select a career for the next forty years of your life in ‘Picking your career aspiration is easier in Sims 2 than it is in Mrs Mackie’s office where decades of work stare you down before you have even had your first orgasm’.

The final poem, ‘Pride’, speaks of the revelation of introductory queer connections – an enlightenment of sorts – and ends with: ‘the first time is in darkness but the next will be in light.’ This essential collection explores the learning and unlearning that comes through pivotal ‘firsts’ and our lifelong relationship with media. These poems are a criss-crossing hybrid of rushing and slow sounds, of the humorous and the poignant.

Lighthouse Bookshop is hosting a night of poetry with Elspeth Wilson on 11th May, and she is joined by two of my other favourite poets, the enrapturing Andrés N. Ordorica and the serenely sublime Sarah Stewart.

Too Hot to Sleep is out now, published by Bent Key Publishing

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