Book review: Out-Side: Queer Words and Art From Regional Victoria, Edited by Michael Earp

A wide range of queer writers and artists offer eclectic contributions to this anthology.
Out-Side: Queer Words and Art From Regional Victoria. Image on left is a smiling white man with red rimmed glasses, beard, one long dangly earring and open necked shirt. On the right is a colourful book cover with the title in a lurid green frame around the cover and an illustration of a blue and yellowy-green tree in the middle.

Out-Side: Queer Words and Art From Regional Victoria is a mixed format anthology of queer writers and artists. There is no prescribed theme for the anthology. The collection demonstrates that, while queer regional creatives have common shared experiences, there is also a wide range of diversity in their artistic output. This results in a collection that traverses genres, styles and experiences that can be intensely moving at its best and frustratingly obscure at other times. 

The prose works in the anthology are diverse in content and style. There is a common thread running throughout of the challenges of being queer and the individual battles to find acceptance. Cris Stevens-Todd aptly describes it in the title of their story, ‘Surviving the Fog’ about growing up hiding their sexuality.

Phoebe Nagorcka-Smith contrasts the rural with the city experience in ‘I Didn’t Tell Them The Haircut Did’, which highlights the difficulty of fitting in in both queer and cishet spaces, while Jasper Peach beautifully describes the modern rainbow family in ‘Parenthood’. The most intensely powerful of the prose pieces is ‘The Words I Wish I Had Said (To Myself)’ by Sissy Austin, which describes a brutal crime with the perspective of what they would have told themselves during the crisis moments. The personal stories in this collection work a lot better than the fantasy ones; Em Chandler’s retelling of the Cinderella story and J C Rycroft’s dragon rider fantasy don’t make the same connection with the reader. 

The poetry in the collection has many little gems such as ‘Transmasculine Topography’ by Marley Pearce, with its elegant description of the beauty of the human body. Josslyn Owleye’s ‘Only Weaving’ produces many evocative images and Nick Lawson’s ‘The Dance of the Horae is a moving poem of loss, while Jemimah Brewster writes a clever description of the beauty of ‘a tiny day’. There is a little bit of everything in the poetry selection and something for most readers. 

The visual art in the collection often feels obscure and hard to connect with. The most powerful inclusion is Iphis and Ianthe – Interpretations by Suzy Medwell. This is because it has an excellent accompanying text that adds to the appreciation of the image; the rest of the art stands alone with simply titles. Some explanatory text to accompany the other artworks would have made this section of the book less obscure. 

Read: Book review: Deep Water, James Bradley

The anthology is worth exploring for its diverse range of content and approaches to the queer experience. Out-Side‘s lack of a theme means that there is less regional-focused content than what may be expected in an anthology with this title. Though the artworks could also do with some accompanying text, the highlights in the prose and poetry contributions make the collection worth buying.

Out-Side: Queer Words and Art From Regional Victoria Edited by Michael Earp
Publisher: Q-Lit
ISBN: 97806468886
Paperback: 136 pp 
RRP: $24.99
Published: February 2024

Kim Hitchcock is a freelance writer based in Melbourne who has an interest in all art forms and enjoys exploring them locally and abroad. He has completed a Master of Art Curatorship at the University of Melbourne and can be reached at