“visible, & then material & then heavy":
a Review of Slabs by Brittany Billmeyer-Finn
by mai cortez doan
Radical vulnerability endures throughout Brittany Billmeyer-Finn’s recent book of poetry, Slabs. A meditation on identity and (im)materiality, Slabs travels through space and time to reveal intimate moments of arrival and becoming. Weaving together fragments and memory, Billmeyer-Finn articulates the experience of becoming “visible / & then material & then / heavy,” (12). Slabs reflects on how we shape-shift in relation to our self and our surroundings; how we exist both intuitively and institutionally and are always existing within the two.
The form and language of Slabs is both ethereal like memory and tangible like the body. Lists, fragmented text, and repetition collage together, through which nuance and contradiction appear. Reading it is like opening a queer memory box: an assemblage of moments, feelings, and textures through which the reader is asked to hold both the sweetness and magic of queer intimacy as well as all that confines it. In this way, Slabs holds sacred the ways one survives (in) the confines and makes complicated homes out of a desire for closeness.
Through its collection of ritual and remembering, the deeply intimate and personal survives in spite of its entanglement within hierarchies of meaning, sociality, and identification. Slabs explores this in the workplace, on the couch, and at the protest: “in case of a disaster we will all meet in the parking / lot of the Giant Burger at 22nd & Telegraph / & we all stood around pouring water / into each other’s eyes,” (48). With each temporal, metaphysical, geographical, and interpersonal space it peers into, Slabs documents an intimacy that cares for as much as it resists. In doing so, Billmeyer-Finn envisions a space where it feels both more urgent and possible to hold each other dear.
mai cortez doan is a dreamer, poet, and heartworker. she is the author of transgression: things i have learned from my body. mai is committed to poetry that is necessary and responsive and finds camaraderie in works by women, queer, and trans writers of color enacting radical uses of language to create and complicate the telling of our rage, bodies, histories, and desires.