Thank you to Jenna Leigh Evans for asking such excellent questions. She also has a fantastic novel that came out last year, “Prosperity“, which I highly recommend.


Aimee Herman

Aimee Herman! Do you ever publish your work without compensation or for a nominal fee? If so, why, and how do you feel about doing it?

I’m a poet, so most of my work is published without compensation. I chose poetry (or poetry chose me) and I know it’s not a moneymaking genre. But it keeps me alive. I want to be read. At the end of the day, that is what is most important. However, there are some journals who apply for grants and graciously pay their writers, so there have been times I’ve been compensated with money. Otherwise, it’s usually contributor copies, which is more than enough. There are often small teams of hardworking people working to keep these journals alive, so I don’t expect to be paid; they aren’t even being paid.

Does your craft alone provide you with a livelihood? 

Livelihood tends to be equated with income, but for me, it’s about nourishment. I feel nourished and filled-in when I write. I feel like I’m traveling, like I’m having a conversation even though I’m all alone; like every scar on my body is being properly translated. I will write regardless of how it affects my bank account. Luckily, I also really love how I spend my days making money, which is through teaching. I always struggled as a student, from day one even through graduate school. I have a difficult time with authority, and I’ve always been restless sitting in those tiny desks. But being a teacher extends the conversation of words and thought.

If you have to hold a day job to supplement your income, or just make a living at all, do you feel you have as much time as you need to write?

A writer writes. I don’t want to oversimplify it because it can be extremely difficult to find the time, but it is there to be found. I wake early, or I say no to invitations, or I set up extremely hearty writing dates. When I teach creative writing, I often do the assignment I give my students, so there is further encouragement.

How do you know for sure when something in your work still needs another revision?

I read it out loud. To myself or to an audience. I perform a lot and that really helps me to gauge what works and what doesn’t. I search for the rhythm. I watch/listen for responses. For me, nothing is ever done, even when it’s published. I rework old poems all the time. Rebirth them into different forms and extract lines to create new ones.

When revising something in your work, how do you know for sure when it’s truly time to stop?

See above. But also, there are times that — especially when workshopping — one could easily cut too much out. It’s like when I cut my hair.  When I was nineteen, I had a bad day, went home, and decided to give myself bangs. This is often not a good idea when one’s hair is curly like mine (though I’ve seen some curly-haired folks really pull it off. See: Kim Addonizio). Then I started fumbling with the rest of my hair. Chopping away strands. I grabbed my then-girlfriend’s clippers and began shaving away my hair. I was left with nothing. Really. I over-revised and ended up with quite a mess. Sometimes it’s necessary to leave parts alone.

Do you feel that being a writer was a choice or a calling for you?

I have no choice. It arrives in me like breaths or hunger. I cannot control it. And I am grateful for this calling every day.

BONUS ROUND FOR PURE PLEASURE: What book did you probably read too young and it therefore haunted you forever after?

Hmm…..not sure I read any book too young, but I did get my hands on a really old copy of Naked Came the Stranger written by Penelope Ashe (rather, many writers calling themselves that) at a garage sale when I was in high school. I don’t think I was too young for it, but I didn’t “get it” in the way I did a few years later. It didn’t exactly haunt me, instead, it inspired me to haunt. The Bell Jar will forever haunt me. Same with Catcher in the Rye because although so many characters have been compared to Holden, none will ever match his unique voice.


day 26: read (some more)

Reading a book is like being in a relationship. There are moments you do not want it to end, yet there are also times when you feel more than ready to walk away from it. There are disappointments, but also surprises. Sometimes, there are sequels, which just elongates the pleasure.

I’ve had entire summers dedicated to writers, unable to say goodbye to their language: Mary Gaitskill, Haruki Murakami, Charles Bukowski, even an orgy of Pablo Neruda, Kazim Ali and Hafiz.

It is easy to use the excuse: there is just no time to read a book, but time must be paved and watered.

When I read, I travel to countries and territories I may never get the opportunity to discover. I meet characters who help me to understand myself and the world around me. I read poems that expand my vision. Reading reminds me to always believe in magic.

Here are just a few great books I read this year and highly recommend:

Nevada (Topside Press)  by Imogen Binnie. Throughout this book, I felt like I was part of the bike gears turning over bridges as the narrator, Maria, traveled toward and away from herself. I was significantly blown away by this novel and the honest, funny and emotional writing of Imogen Binnie. After reading this book, I purchased, The Collection, which is a phenomenal anthology of transgender writers, including Binnie. I just didn’t want to let go of her yet.

Man Alive (City Lights Publishing) by Thomas Page McBee is a memoir exploring masculinity and a highly focused dissection of the past. It is poetic and brutal and exploratory. I found myself folding over the corners of pages in order to go back to his words. I even underlined some things, faintly, since it was a library book. This one I need to purchase, so I can reread and rediscover.

Prosperity, A Novel (Dog Ear Publishing) by Jenna Leigh Evans. I was blown away by Evans’s vocabulary and cinematic approach to the ways in which debt can be overpowering and (oddly) funny. It is beyond relatable, since I want to believe that everyone is slathered in some form of debt. The entire time I was reading this book, I felt like I was watching it. Her mind is so illustrative and she crafted a place that I could see in every scene, down to the color and smell of it all.

For Today I Am a Boy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)  by Kim Fu explored the complex relationship of gender and culture. I fell in love with the protagonist, Peter Huang, and loved being a part of his journey away from and toward home. Kim Fu brings such dynamic characters together up until even the very end of this novel.

An Untamed State  (Grove Press) by Roxanne Gay has infiltrated my dreams and has sewed itself to my palm. I am forever changed by the horrific accounts of the protagonist, Miri. Roxanne Gay already had me with “Bad Feminist”. I fell in love with her frankness. Here, in this novel, she captivates my core. I feel bloodied and battered from the scenes she creates.To write that I could not put this down is not exact enough. Even when I put it down, I was reading it. I want to ask Gay: How did you leave these scenes while writing them? How were you able to move through the world (eat lunch with friends, watch a television program, sleep) with these images crafted by your mind and fingers. This book MUST be read.

Retrograde (great weather for MEDIA) by Puma Perl surprised me in such marvelous ways. I’ve been a fan of Puma Perl’s since moving back to Brooklyn almost five years ago. Her poetry is gritty, like rock-n-roll slurs of graffiti against the page. I’ve seen her perform many times and she slides her words out seductively and authoritatively. I have read most of (if not all) of her books and find that this collection shows such immeasurable growth that makes me an even bigger fan than I already was.

the pedestrians (Wave Books) by Rachel Zucker feels like a walk through the subconscious mind. This is what I imagine it might feel like to hold hands with another’s frontal lobe, interlocking fingers with mood and behavioral status. There is a saltiness to her prose. A desperation drenched in almost-stale tears. It is a unique experience to read a book of poetry and want to call it a ‘page-turner’, but this one definitely is.

Here (Mariner Books) by Wislawa Szymborska became my travel date on a long walk through Greenpoint, Brooklyn one day. I carried her words around and could feel the seep of her line breaks saturate my skin; her words drip. I feel full when I read her, like I’ve just eaten a meal full of protein and starches and my insides feel bathed. There is an optimism in her writing that also reveals a bit of loneliness as well.

Performance Tonight: meant to wake up feeling………poetry and prose

MEANT TO WAKE UP FEELING POETRY AND PROSE with Aimee Herman and Jenna Leigh Evans

Photo by Jennifer L Gonzeles


Celebrate the newest books by these great writers! meant to wake up feeling by Aimee Herman and the excellent novel, Prosperity by Jenna Leigh Evans.

Come to DIXON PLACE: 161 Chrystie Place/ NYC

7:30pm-8:30pm   FREE!!!!

There will be books for sale.


Aimee Herman is a Brooklyn-based poet and performance artist looking to disembowel the architecture of gender and what it means to queer the body. Find Aimee’s poems in Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (Nightboat Books), in the full-length collection, to go without blinking (BlazeVOX books), the recent chapbook, rooted, (Dancing Girl Press), and in the forthcoming full-length book of poems, meant to wake up feeling (great weather for MEDIA). Aimee is a faculty member with Poetry Teachers NYC and a writing mentor for the Red Umbrella Project through their memoir writing drop-in classes for those in the sex trades.

Jenna Leigh Evans was named one of LAMBDA Literary’s Emerging LGBT Voices of 2014. Her novel, Prosperity, was published this year. You can also find her work on Autostraddle, the Billfold, the Nervous Breakdown, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, and is a founding member of the Paratactic Fiction group.

Performance: WORD (brooklyn)

Tuesday, November 4th, Books are cracked open, read and discussed!

Come to WORD bookshop for an evening of poetry and prose with Richard Levine, Aimee Herman, Jenna Leigh Evans, and Puma Perl

Time: 7pm – 8pm, reading/talk/Q&A; 8pm – 8:30pm signing
Location: WORD Brooklyn, 126 Franklin St, BK NY 11222


Celebrate an evening of queer art organics plus Open Mic! (sunday)

I’m excited to host the first (of many) Queer Art Organics, which is a monthly showcase of LGBTQI artists showcasing their particular creative language(s). We feature poets, writers, music makers and performance artists of all kinds. Come and soak up the sounds or sign up for the OPEN MIC!!

Come to Branded Saloon located at 603 Vanderbilt Ave/ Brooklyn. SUNDAY OCTOBER 19th from  8-10 pm

Suggestion donation of $5 (no one ever turned away for lack of funds)


Photo by Jennifer L Gonzeles

Jenna Leigh Evans was named one of LAMBDA Literary’s Emerging LGBT Voices of 2014. Recent publications include Electric Literature’s The Outlet, The Nervous Breakdown, The Toast, Autostraddle and the Billfold. Her debut novel, Prosperity, was a finalist for the Eludia Award and a semifinalist for the Black Lawrence Press’s Big Moose Prize. Published in July of this year, it is available in print and as an e-book.

Trae Durica is a genderqueer poet, writer and artist living in Brooklyn. Trae’s work can be found in NYSAI’s first Issue Flush’d,great weather for MEDIA’s latest anthology I Let Go of the Stars in My Hand, a self published chapbook Cacophony Worth Remembering, and on the undersides of overturned picnic tablesTrae Durica has mixed feelings about the Oxford comma.

Ian Spencer Bell is a dancer and poet combining the two in performance. In March he premieres a solo at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. Bell is a 2014 Lambda Literary Poetry Fellow. For more information, please visit


Upcoming Readings/Performances

In celebration of new book of poetry, meant to wake up feeling, LOTS of readings coming up:

3 October, 2014: “Tina Barry and Friends” @ Roos Arts Gallery 449 Main Street Rosendale, NY  6-8 pm
9 October, 2014: Performing alongside j/j hastain and samuel ace @ Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe 1203 13th St. Boulder, CO
10-12 October, 2014: Disembodied Poetics Conference at Naropa University. Registration is free. Boulder, CO
19 October, 2014: Queer Art Organics Performance and Open mic (host) w/ Jenna Leigh Evans, Stephen Ira and Trae Durica @ Branded Saloon  603 Vanderbilt Ave. Brooklyn
24 October, 2014: I Heart NYC @ le poisson rouge 158 Bleeker St. NYC
4 November, 2014: Poetry and Prose with Richard Levine, Aimee Herman, Jenna Leigh Evans, and Puma Perl @ Word Bookshop 126 Franklin St. Brooklyn, NY 7pm-8:30pm
14 November, 2014: meant to wake up feeling poetry and prose with Jenna Leigh Evans @ Dixon Place 161 Chrystie St. NYC 7:30-8:30pm FREE!
22 November, 2014: Reading with Thomas Fucaloro @ Unnameable Books  600 Vanderbilt Ave. Brooklyn 7pm FREE!!!


A Celebration of Brooklyn-based writer, Jenna Leigh Evans’s new book!!

Living in New York City, one comes across a lot of creative humans. Music makers and artists, writers and performers. We (often) learn from each other and gain insight into all the ways in which imaginations can stretch. When I first met Jenna Leigh Evans, I was blown away by the flexibility of her narrative and the bravery in her characters’ voices. We became friends immediately and often share spaces where writing is encouraged. I have been counting down the days until the arrival of her first novel. It’s been lingering in the air for so long, I am excited to finally celebrate its arrival.

Prosperity can be purchased through Amazon and Dog Ear Publishing. Once I finally get my hands on it, I’ll have more to say beyond the fact that I know it will be a collection of pages I am quite sure will be difficult to put down.

Here is a description to entice you further:   America has finally figured out how to make deadbeats pay up: the PROSPER program, a very modern, very luxurious debtor’s prison housed in a shopping mall. When curmudgeonly hobo Percy Rue first gets there, she’s as lonely as she is broke – and the only person who’ll talk to her is Lita Takewell, a drug-dealing New Age priestess she’d rather avoid. But when Percy uncovers sinister machinations behind the program’s helpful façade, Lita is the only one she can trust – and maybe the key to her survival. Prosperity is speculative fiction; social satire; a pitch-black comedy set in the very near future. It is a novel for anyone who has ever found something absurd – or maddening! – about corporate culture, cubicle jobs, debt collectors, webinars, infotainment, political activism, advertising, government assistance programs, billionaire philanthropists, shopping malls, Town Hall meetings, New Age spirituality, Big Pharma, bureaucracy, awkward friendships, celebrities, minimum wage, anarchists, video games, the criminal justice system, outsourcing, food courts, education, on-the-job training, privitazation, psychotherapy, or standing on line at the DMV.

Tonight: A Performance of Second Chances

I have been thinking about this quite a lot: second chances. Another chance at lovebodyhealthpeacediscoverylanguage. Tonight,  a celebration of poetry and prose at the two year anniversary of the great NYC reading series: Big Words.

Come to CULTUREfix / 9 Clinton St. NYC  / 6-8pm /

Jenna Leigh Evans (my Soul Sister and fantastic fiction writer!)
Sagan Clifford
Aimee Herman
Stacie Evans
Cooper Wilhelm


The Absence of Presence

The following is a guest post by the phenomenal fiction writer, Jenna Leigh Evans (with a forthcoming novel due out SOON). When I first noticed Jenna on a summer afternoon surrounded by writers, I knew she would be in my life for an extremely long time. She has since become my soul sister. I admire her strength as an artist, human, woman, and survivor. These are her words……


Presence: It Began With, and Returns to, Chimney Pots

From my kitchen window, I watch the fan that juts from the roof of the building next door. White steam is gusting from its round black mouth. When the wind blows, the steam dances wildly before dissolving. The sunlight is pure, naked white – the last days of November.  Every structure is edged in dazzling platinum, and the small clouds above the water towers and the elevated subway tracks are likewise haloed in bright white light. Now a squirrel appears on the fire escape, surprising me.

There were vents and fans on the rooftops across from the apartment where I spent my early childhood. From that kitchen window, too, I would sit and stare when I was lonely. The variety of shapes – those with caps like mushrooms, those that resembled the steam whistles in cartoons, those that spun briskly or lazily revolved, those that were only tubes poking up – was intriguing, and I was hypnotized by the mystery of their purpose. Maybe once I asked what they were for, but if I did, I don’t remember it, so I must have wanted not to know.  Like many children, I read books set in a long-ago London, and I perceived these totemic protuberances as chimneys, or related to chimneys.

2i. Absence: Absence Defines Itself in Every Moment, Repetitively Yet Inventively

She, herself, is quiet by nature, but her absence can’t shut up. It calls attention to itself as punctually as a pre-recorded announcement on the subway or the airport. But unlike those monotonous admonitions about the white zone being for loading or unloading of passengers only, it custom-tailors each announcement just for me. I observe as I walk the dog down Baltic Street: golden gingko leaves frilling against a deep blue sky, the last leaves of November. For a split second I enjoy the sight. But it’s been whole minutes since her absence last announced itself, so it can’t help itself. It simply must add AND YOU ARE NOT TOGETHER TO WATCH AUTUMN DEEPENING. I try to combat this terrible fact by trying to be present — but the present is now composed of absence. SO MANY WONDERFUL MEMORIES OF WATCHING AUTUMN DEEPEN TOGETHER, absence continues. WOULD YOU LIKE TO RECALL A FEW RIGHT NOW? This is how I end up staggering back toward my apartment minutes after having left it. Her pretty hands pulling open a milkweed pod, setting the floss afloat.

2ii. Presence: And on the Topic of Gingko Trees,

This was the last day of the gingko trees. They have been dazzling this fall. They were the last to turn, still flirting with green until the first hard frost, and then all at once unfurling like a hundred dancing girls in golden kimonos unfurling a hundred thousand golden fans. Even at night, under the sodium streetlights, they make me stop in my tracks and stare. The sidewalks beneath them are soft heaps of uncountable riches. They are given to creating sudden, magical tableaux. For instance, the other morning on Bond Street, I came upon a white car wearing a garland – an enormous drift of leaves had gathered just so at the base of its windshield, a tidy yet luxuriant crescent shape. Yet there was not a single leaf anywhere else on the surface of the car. Spotless and holding its circlet of golden leaves, it looked like a bride on its way to a fairy wedding – this homely, boxy white car.

3i. Absence: I Had Been Doing Great, Even Though the Store Was Playing Christmas Carols

Today absence first hinted with me fleetingly, peeking out coquettishly from the beauty products aisle at Winn Home & Beauty. I had figured it might find me there; I could even be said to have gone looking for it, in that browsing in old-fashioned dime stores is a thing we both love, and she particularly likes Winn Home & Beauty. But the other option was a chain store notable for the rageful incompetence of its staff, which would have been purely masochistic; so off I went. I reacted to the sight of the pink packet of Beauty Gloves, with their 60’s-style cartoon of a beatific sleeping woman wearing white cotton gloves, as though it were an electrified fence. Snatching up the relevant item on my shopping list, I skirted blindly out of the aisle just in time to escape specific memories.

3ii. Presence: And I Say to Myself, What a Wonderful World…And Then I Have a Panic Attack

On the walk home, one thing after another revealed its beauty to me, almost aggressively. Stately old brownstones love an autumn rain, as drops leave pendants on all the most elegant objects: wrought iron that’s patchy with rust, sycamore trees wearing waistcoats of English ivy, fancy gourds and pumpkins arranged on brownstone stoops, yellowing bamboo fronds arcing over wooden slats.

These magnificent sights began to give me the sensation of being a wild animal that wakes up in a zoo. Recognizing confinement, desperate for a home that has vanished and been replaced with something else altogether. I tried to reason with myself while walking up Douglas Street, but only returned to the same crushing facts as usual. Then I got mugged by reality. I stood on a street corner, shaking, panting, clinging to a pole. This is really happening, this is really happening.


5ii. Presence: an Embarrassment of Riches Cuts No Mustard

It’s interesting to spend an hour trying to come up with something that feels present enough to write about it. To be surrounded by the world, to have had a pleasant walk in the park with a friend, and have nothing special to say about any of it – it’s surprising, but that’s life. I told myself, you should not be embarrassed to start with the teapot on the table, its fat cream-colored body belted with an orange stripe, with the spray of fir and hard red berries in it.

Nor is there any shame, I told myself, in feeling that for the second time in a week, the high point of your day might be the view out the kitchen window. Bruised, moody purples and red-browns, glazed with silver.

6i.  Absence: I Believe They Were Called Romper Stompers

When I was a child there was a simple toy made of inverted yellow cups attached to long green rubbery cords. That was the store-bought version — you could make your own out of cans and string. The point was to stand atop the cups, grasping the cords, and walk. It was surprisingly laborious, and if you got good at it, the payoff was discouragingly low. At best you scraped around with a clomping, high-stepping gait, hindered and concentrating hard on not tripping.

Walking the dog at four o’clock, every step forward shot a jolt of physical hurt into my heart. I felt as though there were cords attached to my feet and threaded through my chest, each step buckling my knees, threatening to take me down. I forced myself to go one step further, one step further, but young children were being walked home from school, filling the air with shrill cries met with quiet, deliberate responses. Plans were being made for supper. Everyone was going home.

6ii.  Presence: After the Pot, But Before the Tranquilizer

I am so cool, I have really lived, so even my pain is cool, even the fact that I’m a mess right now is cool, even the holes in my coat are cool, even my backache is cool because it’s from writing, good writing, I’m a good writer, I have a certain kind of iconoclastic slightly fucked-up cool, I am completely awake, I am the fox that slinks through your yard, alive to the night!