Loose Canons19.04.23

Loose Canons: Alex Stronach

Meet writer, editor, cryptid, and our new Comms Manager, Alex! She shares five things that have informed her work, for Loose Canons.

Loose Canons is a series in which we invite artists we love to share five things that have informed their work. Meet the rest of our Loose Canons here.

Alex Stronach (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Huirapa ki Puketeraki) is a writer, editor, and cryptid based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and current Kaiwhakahaere Tūhononga at The Pantograph Punch. Her wingspan is thought to exceed two metres. It is unclear how she escaped the South Island, but investigations are ongoing. Look, she's a neurodivergent trans woman who owns cat ears and likes Paradox games, you know the type: hobbies include queer issues and activism, SF/F, gaming, poems that bloom like a lotus on subsequent reads. Keen to make sure upcoming artists from all over the motu get their names written in the stars. You may know her from The Spinoff, The Herald, or because she's That Girl From Twitter. Her debut novel The Dawnhounds was released by Saga Press in 2022.

John Ashbery in 1971. Credit: Gerard Malanga. Sourced from NY Times

1. John Ashbery’s Civilization And Its Discontents.

The one poem that can reliably make me cry every time (Alice Notley’s At Night The States is up there, okay, but not *reliably*), that explores queer identity and repression through Ashbery’s characteristic cipher. Queer writing so often has to be indirect - when the consequences of misreading somebody’s vibe include getting the shit kicked out of you, you learn to talk in code, to send out signals that fellow travellers will recognise but hostile strangers could never hope to clock. We so often mask desire, and Civilization And Its Discontents is like catching sparkling sad eyes through the mask. To be queer and in love is to be chained to aurora – beautiful, impossible, unreachable but right there. I’m goin off again though, what’s a fun one?

Sourced from author with consent. IG: @maximumclaire

2. Anybody who can hit a 3x5 120kg deadlift


'Castor, The Twin' album image. Sourced from Bandcamp

3. Dessa’s Castor, the Twin

Is there a more perfect album?  Probably, but that’s why I love it. Dessa’s great strength was always as a lyricist (as she describes herself in Mineshaft: an underrated writer/overrated rapper) and Castor is the album where she gets really weird, almost apocalyptic at times, tangling big impossible emotion with a dark surrealist Beksiński-esque flair that somehow still always manages to stay grounded. Later albums are great, she’s obviously improved technically, but Castor is, to me, her Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock it’s messier, harder to follow, rough like sandpaper. Dessa got more slick as she got older, but there’s this weird little crunchy moment in her discography where she sticks in the throat and I love it.

Also I know rap is theatre to an extent but I absolutely believe she has/would murder her bestie’s dirtbag boyfriend and never get caught and I think it’s a good energy to project.

The character 'Great A'Tuin' from the Discworld series, by Terry Pratchett. Sourced from Geek Girl Online.

4. Terry Pratchett

Nothing has meant more to me in the last few years than when somebody comps The Dawnhounds to Discworld. Those books were my everything as a teenager. Among other things, Monstrous Regiment was the first time I ever read a trans character who wasn’t a punchline. Most discussion of pTerry’s work leans heavily on the comedy, but I keep coming back  to an interview I read after his death (was it Gaiman? I think it was Gaiman but I’ve never been able to find it again) where he says Pratchett was angry, angry all the time, looking out into a shitty world and saying “that’s why compassion matters.” So much writing about hope and compassion feels toothless to me, it’s a fluffy shiny aesthetic of hope with no praxis, but Pratchett always felt like he was building towards an actual practical way to live in a world where hope isn’t always easy to come by.

Dragonlance series, sourced from Polygon.

5. This One Girl Who Won Me A Stack of Dragonlance Novels At A Pub Quiz Like Almost Ten Years Ago Now

You were the first t-girl I ever met face-to-face, like oh my god it’s not just Yanks on the TV, it’s a real thing you can do? Now look at me, smashing back spiro like tic-tacs and loving every minute of it. I still have those books in a box somewhere. Never going to read them (I tried, they’re a bit shit, even my Three-Games-of-Pathfinder-A-Week ass has limits) but I’m never gonna throw them out either because they mean a lot to me. Babygirl you were very wise not to take these terrible books that I now cherish. I write for you sometimes, I think. I hope you’re thriving. I certainly am.
Header Image by Sylvie Kirkman/Little Noise

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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