News / queer poetry
TIL promotional wizard Andrea Abi-Karam wins the Kelsey Street Press Firsts! Book Contests Judged by Bhanu Kapil for their book EXTRATRANSMISSION, a book length piece on killing bros, trauma & delayed healing, & the intricacies of cyborg bodies. Forthcoming early 2k18!
“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.
"We then enter the city, the body, the community as a unit constructed of closed language. This room is that of a hateful past, and the structure seeks the destruction of others. But the body and voice will shift into a colorful community that joins in the fight (be it peaceful or not) for creating a new kind of architecture beyond “the city [that] meshes harsh words with contours / of bodies and eyes that, voiceless, construct streets with no / exit.” How the goal then becomes communion of diverse bodies equal in facing various oppressions. How the goal also becomes entrance into the celebration of queer community, exit from the current space of blue and red and ash, and finally, embrace of what’s truly not artifice – the self and the language persistent."
Oh, and be sure to read the entire review, M. Ryan includes a dazzling creative response to the book as well ;-).
"Phrydas’s speaker is contained within the socio-political markings of queer embodiment and longs to burst through, “With a hatchet, I could fuck this floor up. I could hack a hole through which to pull him, up into her warmth”. The nexus the speaker is caught within is, and is not, personified as his mother: the white walls are his inheritance from the state and white ancestry, and are also of the speaker’s own design. His mother/empire conceit scrambles to the unsettling point where if the speaker were to take a hatchet to U.S. empire’s floorboards, he would also hack away at his subconscious mother. The speaker, without hatchet, yearns to find the space where he and the beloved can be free from socio-political trappings of queer identity and race."
Here's an excerpt, but you should definitely make time to read their piece in full:
"When a disaster is recounted, the points of failure and the resulting body counts both become seared into our collective imaginaries. We demand to know what could have been done differently, how this could have been avoided. Because we are not able to comprehend tragedy without sacrifice we hone in on minutia, obsess over how the Titanic did not have an adequate number of lifeboats."