News / Brittany Billmeyer-Finn

  • mai cortez doan Reviews SLABS by Brittany Billmeyer-Finn

    mai cortez doan reading at RADAR

     

    “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 bodymai 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.

  • Brittany Billmeyer-Finn Interviews Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta

    Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta

    Check out this badass interview between two TIL authors: Brittany Billmeyer-Finn, author of Slabs  interviewed Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta author of The Easy Body (forthcoming, May 2017) for Drunken Boat.

    Stay tuned for details on Tatiana Luboviski-Acosta's book release, it's going to be a rager.

    xo

     

     

  • Geraldine Kim interviews Brittany Billmeyer-Finn at Weird Sister

    Cover image for the meshes by Brittany Billmeyer-Finn

    Geraldine Kim interviews Brittany Billmeyer-Finn at Weird Sister:

    Geraldine Kim: When I was reading the meshes, I noticed multiple layers of gazing or “looking” throughout the text—the gaze of the filmmaker, of the author writing about the filmmaker’s work, etc. “looking resists. looking revises. looking interrogates. looking invents, to be stared at. looking at one another. looking back” (p.31) and “having performed seeing. seeing double. seeing doubles. having performed spectatorship. I describe the lens. the film itself. the both-ness. opposition of becoming. soft focus. caught the light. depth of surfaces. multiplications as limiting” (p. 54). Could you talk a bit more about these layers?

    Brittany Billmeyer-Finn: Spectatorship is innate to the process of writing this book. An important part of the process is watching films. It also becomes a source of contention and critique that develops in the four sections of the book; “the poems,” “the essay,” “the play,” and “the annotated bibliography.”

    “the poems” engages with a selection of Maya Deren’s silent films including; the meshes of the afternoon, ritual in transfigured time, witch’s cradle, choreography for camera, at land and meditation on violence. As I watched these films, I attempted to translate them into poetry by showing the experience of watching on the page.

    Following Deren’s silent films, I came across her documentary, The Divine Horsemen the Living Gods of Haiti. The course of the project shifted with the inclusion of this film. It felt important to push up against the passivity of watching. The process needed a form that allowed for more nuance beyond watching and translating. So, I changed the form to a poetic essay. “the essay” includes both the process of transcribing the film itself and also a research element in which I read books and essays on the Haitian Revolution, on Haitian Voudoun tradition including Deren’s own book, The Divine Horsemen the Living Gods of Haiti. I read multiple genres in which Haiti is represented. This incorporation hoped to push up against the colonized archive and potential violence of ethnography as well as the passivity of spectatorship by asking, What are the ethics of this?

    “the play” was an important shift in form. It reflects the process of writing the first two sections of the book and offers a self-awareness the first two sections do not. “the play” itself is a ritual of making this work. the meshes deals in iteration. As “the poems” and “the essay” become “the play” the position of the text shifts, starting as a collection written by a viewer and becomes that which is viewed.

    Read the rest here!

  • The S.L.o.T.


    Final Outcome: A Conclusion of Sorts by Brittany Billmeyer-Finn



    The S.L.o.T. is an irregularly published feature that hosts critically-engaged, outward-facing, serial essays. We named this series after The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that entropy will either increase or stay the same; entropy is the measure of the amount of energy that is unavailable to do work, and we hope that these essays will make you a little bit less productive.

    By Brittany Billmeyer-Finn

    Read the first three installments of Brittany Billmeyer-Finn's series here, here, and here.

    How to put these together / How to get the right experience / How to hold everything in the whole wide world/ How to be in my own body / How to be part of a community / How to intersect and overlap / How to pass / How to be in relation despite competition and privilege / How to reauthor the American Dream / How to be in relation despite expectation / How to get paid for the dream / How to keep dreaming despite late payments or missed payments / How to be present / How to present / How to embody / How to unmark   

    —Cheena Marie Lo, Untitled

     

    This section of an untitled poem by Cheena Marie Lo (pulled from the zine Macaroni Necklace curated by Eric Sneathen) offers accumulations of relation, pointing to the reality of how embodiment is marked by capitalism and the embodied vulnerabilities of these markers as they manifest materially. I read this poem again as I shuffle the deck to pull the last card of this reading, the Final Outcome. The Final Outcome position is not finite but instead an accumulation. It is the mirror in which to reflect the cards that came before it. It is the last stroke of the circle drawn. It is the container that The Hermit calls upon for new possibility.

    I pull the Strength card. The Strength card according to The Collective Tarot represents, “surrender, integration, and vulnerability. It’s about living in communion and partnership with all parts of self.”

    A major theme for this reading and thus in a queer poetics is relationality. How the subject is marked by encounter and how these marks of difference tell a narrative of systematic oppression across race, gender, class and ability. That this narrative plays out multiple times a day for some, in various spaces, even the radical ones. I return to Lisette’s work, What I Want a Manifesto for Revolutionary Tenderness, “This means actually changing the way we do things-including writing papers, organizing conferences […] socializing, thinking, discussing concepts such as action, environment, nature, revolutionary subjectivity AND collectivity-through self-reflection and awareness.”

    In this same series of poems Lo writes, “I still never know what to put together / Something about marking and ways of seeing / the ways that I can never know / the ways that I am marked / the ways that I am seen / the ways that I mark and / the ways that I see / How to put these together / how things look not what they seem”

    There is something here about a simultaneous knowing and unknowing. It is in the simultaneity that something emerges or transforms.

    The Collective Tarot continues its description for Strength, “It doesn’t make us any less strong when life circumstances demand that we compromise our ideals. We live in a broken system, and we frequently have to use broken tactics in order to survive. If we don’t want to acknowledge we’re compromising our beliefs, we usually pay, in some form, to let someone else compromise for us. Strength is about learning and following your own compass- incorporating the brilliance and idealism of your community and your culture with what you know needs to be done.”

    The Strength Card in the Final Outcome position holds the various obstacles of the journey laid out here; tension, self awareness and reconfiguration.

    If the Seven of Keys represents the Heart of the Matter then it locates it’s subject in a poetic position of tension. Like Lo does in their work here. The Strength card then empowers the individual to listen to their intuition and know what is best for their survival.

    If the Death card represents the Opposing Factor, then the Strength card offers the power to over come the loss and celebrate the new possibility.

    If the Eight of Feathers represents Goals, then the Strength card breaks the binds and ignites the labor of reconfiguration as Lisette offers above.

    If the Hermit represents the Future, then the Strength card offers itself as the foundation of the container of new possibility.

    I go over the various discoveries made throughout this reading; revolutionary tenderness, emotional labor as implicit, the textual and embodied relationship with encounter, subjectivity, self awareness and introspection. It is the simultaneous relationship of the practical and poetic that create the queer poetics of this tarot reading.  It is the momentum of the circle drawn, the newly constructed container. It is the path we have been lead down with each card pulled and read. This action of making meaning, of empowerment, of taking care, of valuing emotional intelligence and intuition that by valuing this emotional labor we are putting to death some of the internal binds within us. It has set the task of a queer poetics to constantly re-evaluate and reconfigure, to speak up and out, to survive.

     

     

     

  • The S.L.o.T.


    Positons 3 & 4: Goals Card and the Future Card



    The S.L.o.T. is an irregularly published feature that hosts critically-engaged, outward-facing, serial essays. We named this series after The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that entropy will either increase or stay the same; entropy is the measure of the amount of energy that is unavailable to do work, and we hope that these essays will make you a little bit less productive.

    By Brittany Billmeyer-Finn

    Read the first installment of Brittany Billmeyer-Finn's series here, and the second here

    It questions its own effectiveness, engaging in constant reflection and self-evaluation. And it is about practice and process rather than a point of arrival, resisting hierarchies of truth and reality and instead naming and refusing state violence.Dean Spade, Normal Life

    In his introduction to, Normal Life, Dean Spade explains the primary goals of his text. This epigraph relates to “showing how critical trans politics practices resistance.” This quote exemplifies the convergence of the political and personal work of a queer poetic practice as it points to the labor intrinsic to a queer poetics, that of “constant reflection and self-evaluation.” Practicing tarot aims to offer self reflection and evaluation, to engage in the nuance of self and here to do so as a political gesture in forming a poetics that “resists hierarchies of truth and reality.”

    As I shuffle the deck, I think about the Goals position, card 3 in this reading.  The Goals position illuminates desire. This position also considers present circumstances and obstacles in the pursuit of the goal.

    I pull the Eight of Feathers. The Feathers suit in The Collective Tarot is represented in more tradition decks as the Swords. The Feathers is about communication and intellect.

    Interestingly in more traditional decks, this card is very gendered in its representation and meaning as it shows a woman bound unable to escape her constraints. Though there is a logical escape, the character is bound by emotional reasoning. The Collective Tarot reimagines this card by valuing emotional intelligence, “We use reason to develop our principles, ethics and political convictions. The progression of the Feathers suit, from ace to ten, follows the trajectory of a spinout in which the gift of the air suit, when taken to extremes (intellectualizing, hyper rationality) becomes tragic. In this masculinist society, we are taught to dismiss knowledge that is not based on empirical and scientific truth, while knowledge like feeling, intuition and magic are feminized and disparaged.”

    I consider, in the last post a state of imagining and creating opposing configurations of community to counter the violence of capitalist encounter. But of course this process is a labor in itself. Being a part of  politically engaged, poetic and queer communities (these communities are multiple but not mutually exclusive) the work within these communities while offering alternative spaces to patriarchal structures also must undo the long historical and ever present internalizations of white supremacy still present among these counter cultures.

    Francesca Lisette writes: “We cannot pretend wielding rhetorical power, even if only in the process of argument, does not risk preventing others from adequately expressing their own opinions—this is structural oppression and the nature of power itself […] I’m tired of the devaluing of emotional ties in political action, activism, discussion and theory.”

    The Death card then as it relates to the Eight of Feathers seeks an ending to the devaluation of emotional labor and a rebirth of communication that upholds the rational and emotional as equally valued forms.

    Following Goals, is position 4, is The Future card. This card offers a potential reality if the guidance of previous cards is put into action offering a manifestation. In this case we might consider the potential outcome of valuing emotional labor as that “constant reflection and self evaluation.” 


    I pull The Hermit. This is own of my favorite cards. The Hermit offers an internal wisdom a sort of light to guide oneself and others. The Hermit, according to The Collective Tarot, “asks ourselves to create a new container that can literally hold a new vision.”  The Hermit is the wiser more experienced Fool. The Fool is number 0 of the Major Arcana and sometimes considered the protagonist of the Tarot. The journey from The Fool to The Hermit is the journey of looking inward.

    The relationship of The Fool to the Hermit brigs to mind the relationship to subjectivity in queer poetics. The Hermit is a poetic subject holding the simultaneous journey of daily tangibility and the abstract. The state of being in a queer poetics requires constant reconfiguration. A queer poetics might offer a transformative subjectivity meaning that it is in constant motion and changing its position and formation to reflect the internalizations of the outside world.   

    The Collective Tarot continues its description of The Hermit, “She wears the key of transformation and a dagger to cut through illusion and she holds a tin lamp to illuminate our truth […] the real life hermit can be a subtle creature and may at first glance, seem preoccupied with the minutia of mundane life. But while she looks busy doing this and that, she is actually at work traveling the dark terrain of miracles and there is nowhere she wont go to see her truth.”

     

    Meanings:

    The Eight of Feather: self-imposed constraint, accountability, need for communication

    The Hermit: introspection, inner guidance, wisdom