Queer Coded: Interview with Prathna Lor

Poet, essayist, editor, and educator Prathna Lor talks to us about how queer writing can go above and beyond discussions of gender and sexuality, shares writers who influenced them, and that when reading their LAMBDA-finalist collection of poetry Emanations (Wolsak & Wynn), you should definitely read it aloud.


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All Lit Up: Hi there! First off, how is your queer identity reflective in your writing process? Would you say your writing is overtly or covertly queer?

Prathna Lor: Hello! Firstly, many thanks for taking the time to interview me.

There are deep ways that who I am—who I love, how I think about community, the world and how I perceive myself in it—are connected to my writing. And my writing emerges from how all these things interface with each other that may, in a final analysis, emerge as “queer” but queerness itself is not my starting point. I’m not sure I would characterize my writing as being either overtly or covertly queer, as what happens with poetic experience happens between a text and a reader. But I suppose the inelegant answer is yes and no—that it largely depends on what kind of reader you are asking. I could say that my work isn’t overtly queer in the sense that I don’t really talk about queerness in explicit terms or figure queerness as plot or character in obvious ways, as I’m wary how minoritarian life and its relaying can fall prey to a consumptive status. I would not also say, however, that it is covert in the sense of being coded or hidden from a reading public. I like to go back to what Eve Sedgwick once said about queer work that spins “queer” away from gender and sexuality across different nodes of experience—and, at least for me, it’s about honouring all the things that may emerge as “queer” (or a different word or name in a future time) as that which asks us to pause, disrupt, reflect on, or reimagine our modes of being and ways of thinking, and open up towards something unnamable but adamantly exhilarating.

ALU: What’s a piece of LGBTQ2S+ literature that you heartily recommend?

PL: Billy-Ray Belcourt’s A Minor Chorus. 100%.

ALU: Which, if any, queer writers influenced your writing of this book?

PL: Too many to name but many lyric poets and New Narrative writers, Gail Scott, Renee Gladman, Dionne Brand, Erín Moure, Sina Queyras, Garielle Lutz…

ALU: Is there anything you would like readers to take away from Emanations?

PL: It helps to read the poems (and almost all poetry, for that matter) out loud!

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Prathna Lor is a poet, essayist, editor, and educator, who has published in Canadian Literature, DIAGRAM, C Magazine, Jacket2, Poetry is Dead and Plenitude Magazine, among others. Lor is Poetry Editor at Shrapnel Magazine and holds a PhD from the University of Toronto. They live in Montreal, QC.