Today’s edition of Overcom: Celebrate marks 49 years since Issue 1 of Aotearoa’s first lesbian magazine, The Circle, was published. We are celebrating with ‘Marry me in the church at Staglands’ by Dani Yourukova, inspired by early issues of The Circle.
The Circle was a monthly magazine published by the Sisters for Homophile Equality (S.H.E) from 1973 until 1986. In the first issue’s editorial, Alison writes: “The gay movement in New Zealand has been largely male dominated… The majority of women identifying as lesbian in this country have very different problems from those experienced by gay men. We are oppressed both as women and as lesbians… In certain areas of our lives we are as oppressed by gay men as we are by straight men.”
Alison was one of a collective of fourteen women, and only the editors’ and contributors’ first names are used in this issue, presumably to maintain anonymity.
Early issues of The Circle are a fascinating and important insight into the challenges and experiences of lesbians in the 1970s. Early contributions include a poll of readers about whether they will come out to their parents, an account of the Christchurch S.H.E branch going to a town hall Christmas dinner and ‘driving away two tables full of people’ when the women danced together, and an article about two women from S.H.E running a one-off talk-back radio programme for the public to call in with questions about lesbianism. The poems featured in the first issues are largely about lesbian yearning, sex, first relationships, and breakups.
Head to this Instagram post to see more of the editorial from Issue 1, along with a few of the poems published in that issue. If you would like to see more issues of The Circle, contact The Charlotte Museum in Tāmaki Makaurau or the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand (LAGANZ) in Te Whanganui-a-Tara to arrange a viewing.
Marry me in the church at Staglands
I want to glide across the outdoor grill area my hollow bones resplendent in a swan feather
gown mud streaked, pale as egg whites I want to take you to Tracey’s Cave
and keep you there I want to distribute general usage feed-pellet party-favours
twisted into paper bags pig-ready for the kune kune tunnel mouths, hairy-backed and soft
soft soft pose for our nuptial photographs with the paradise shelducks honking and
flapping and damp
take me to the aviary and hold me let’s get away from all this beneath the wire mesh
cinnamon sky where the parrots jangle like car keys mangling sweet orange impaled
on the branches of trees they sip from bowls of scooped out citrus tear syrupy pulp
from the bottom I want you to drink me too taste the salt of my tongue then rail
me in the secret rabbit garden where the the bunnies’ wide feet thump the earth like a
headboard take me down to the trout pond so we can watch the fish those
leisurely slabs of silver muscle circling us slowly like a spell
no one can stop me now!! I’m gonna smash that tractor trailer ride all the way down
the aisle open all the doors and windows and burn the chapel down to its ankles
so we can toast our marshmallows in the ash and weave our wedding rings from donkey
hair then we’ll ask the taxidermy heads at the bar to bless our union with all
their lank-jawed mould bitten hearts
then when all of the Arapawa island goats have gone home and the afterparty winds
to a close no pellet left in our pockets we will turn and ask each other “where the fuck
were all the stags? isn’t this place called fucking Staglands?” and you’ll smile
but you won’t have an answer until we’re shivering in the carpark past dark and your eyes
find the hill’s horizon where the herd spreads like silk under the forest’s eaves
far off and quiet as stars
Dani Yourukova is a Wellington poet, who completed their Masters at the IIML last year by writing poems about gay yearning, ancient Greek philosophy, Les Misérables slash fiction and a choose-your-own-adventure apocalypse. Their debut collection is forthcoming from AUP next year. You could find their work in various journals, if you wanted to.