Mapping my way through gender with books

There are moments which can be marked through books.

I don’t recall most memories of my childhood, but I remember what I felt when I first read Anne Sexton or digested the cut-up language of Dodie Bellamy in Cunt-Ups. Or Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Or the thoughts I had when I read Rubyfruit Jungle the first time, then the second and third. I could list all the writers who led me to want to translate my own language: Dorothy Allison, Thea Hillman, Kate Bornstein, Eileen Myles, Charles Bukowski, Sapphire and Michael Cunningham.  And most recently: Eli Clare, Ivan E. Coyote, Ariel Gore, Lidia Yuknavitch, Cheryl Strayed, T Cooper, Alison Bechdel, and Max Wolf Valerio.

Then there are the writers who supply us with the ink when we feel we have run out. They might even spit against the dried up stream of black or blue. For me, this writer is j/j hastain.

As a writer, I get how books can be like bodies. And the way it feels to rub against them and underline the best parts. And we become monogamous and sometimes polyamorous with these books, introducing them to others and sometimes selfishly keeping them to ourselves. I have lost a lot of books to lovers, but hopefully they passed them on and continued the lineage of the words inside the binding.

A few nights ago, after a long day of work, then a poetry open mic at a dark bar in Brooklyn, I noticed a package in my kitchen and a book inside: Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics edited by TC Tolbert and Tim Trace  Peterson. I am so honored to have some of my poems published inside this book alongside trans and genderqueer warriors that I have been reading for a number of years. Writing can be so solitary, but being in this book feels like I am surrounded by family, a giant table where we are feasting on each other’s words.

Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics is a new anthology celebrating 55 diverse poets speaking and writing about gender and language in a way that feels a bit revolutionary. These are true experiments on the page that perform through emotive theatrics. I am still navigating my way through gender. I am still figuring things out and rummaging through lost languages in order to map out the queer on/in me. This book is a learning experience, a gender studies course, a historical scar creating a permanent marking on every body that speaks into it. Read these poems out loud! Buy the book and purchase a few extra because you are going to want to share this.