Thank you to Bruce Weber for co-organizing the annual ANYDSWPE, Annual Alternative New Year’s Day Spoken Word / Performance Extravaganza. This is a video from January 1st, 2015. What a great way to begin a new year.
“Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something. If this seems so clearly the case with grief, it is only because it was already the case with desire. One does not always stay intact. It may be that one wants to, or does, but it may also be that despite one’s best efforts, one is undone, in the face of the other, by the touch, by the scent, by the feel, by the prospect of the touch, by the memory of the feel. And so when we speak about my sexuality or my gender, as we do (and as we must), we mean something complicated by it. Neither of these is precisely a possession, but both are to be understood as modes of being dispossessed, ways of being for another, or, indeed, by virtue of another.”
― Judith Butler, Undoing Gender
Be unpossessed about being just one thing. I do not own just one t-shirt or sweater. I have several different trousers and more than one pair of shorts (which used to be trousers). How can I possibly expect myself and those around me to just exist in one way through one set of clothing. Undo your threads. Allow those around you to challenge what it looks like to settle in.
“Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.”
― Judith Butler
You are going to curve your body into as many alphabets as your lips can fit around. Your tongue loses its ability to bend when you reach four thousand and forty-nine, but you still have two thousand, four-hundred and fifty-one to go and you’ve run out of spit. So you borrow some from your lover in order to complete the sentences you started two decades prior. There may be a collapse during this time. Here is why:1. There will be a significant moment when you decide that the keratin climbing over the flesh at the tip of your fingers is like a cage. You are deeply uncomfortable by the imprisonment of your nail bed, so you peel each one off slowly because sometimes pain is a necessary part of reminding the body that it still works. After the removal of each nail, you find that the skin held captive all this time is limp and wavy. It may be angry. It may not have wanted this freedom; some things are not always ready to come out when you want them to. 2. The ground is not as sturdy as you’ve been led to believe. 3. No one ever told you in science class—grades seven through twelve—that there are actual bones located in the ecosystem of your voice and if you don’t drink enough milk or whiskey, they will not grow properly. 4. Someone may tap you on the shoulder while you are underground, waiting for the 4 train and ask you the sexual orientation of your belt buckle. 5. What about the letters that are silent. 6. What it means to rummage for a better more accurate sound to let them know that you are not exactly what you’ve led others and yourself to believe. 7. Impermanence. 8. Your knuckles in a bar on the lower east side on a Monday in a bathroom, dark because someone else’s exposed vertebrae turned it that way and you locate the tunnel of a mouth you’ve only just begun to get the name of. 9. This version isn’t exactly deeper, rather like an ironed out Coltrane. 10. Don’t forget to breathe. Hidden in every exhale is a love letter to your former and future. Untwist the question marks into multiple exclamation marks to recognize the static in knowing.
It is no longer one or the other. Humans have been peeling off the labels of male / female for years now, arriving at new vocabulary and hybrid forms of what one can be. It is illuminating and awe-inspiring.
Recently, during a conversation about gender, my mom said: But I don’t have to announce I am straight.
And I responded: Because people already assume. But imagine if you weren’t, and people thought you were. Wouldn’t you want to let people know they are wrong?
So, we come out. To newspapers. To co-workers. On television. Online. To our lovers. To our friends. Over text message.
But it is never just one time.
When I came out at nineteen, I thought I was done.
Phew……that was rough, but they [my parents] seem to be ok about all this. Now I can just live.
But we are labeled in more ways than sexual orientation. I am no longer a lesbian. I am queer. And my gender is complicated and still arriving at a movement of letters. For now, I call myself genderqueer.
I am re-arriving at my body. Knocking my way in…ringing its doorbell. We aren’t as friendly as one might think. I am tentative inside of this core.
Recently, a popular social networking site called Facebook (which I am not on and would normally not give extra time toward, but learning of this made me feel a slight admiration for), added almost 60 different options for users to identify their gender. I was deeply moved. It is no longer just male or female. It never has been, but so many of us have been checking off boxes that were the lesser of two wrongs. Now, people can actually see their self-identified gender.
For anyone who has had a difficult time connecting to the ridiculous sign on the bathroom door of a public place, this is a moment of clarity. In fact, a few nights ago, I was performing in a bar where the female restroom identified itself with a high-heel on the door. I thought: I am not a high-heel. So, where can I safely go to the bathroom? How has shoe wear become our identifiable gender markers?
- Cis Female
- Cis Male
- Cis Man
- Cis Woman
- Cisgender Female
- Cisgender Male
- Cisgender Man
- Cisgender Woman
- Female to Male
- Gender Fluid
- Gender Nonconforming
- Gender Questioning
- Gender Variant
- Male to Female
- Trans Female
- Trans* Female
- Trans Male
- Trans* Male
- Trans Man
- Trans* Man
- Trans Person
- Trans* Person
- Trans Woman
- Trans* Woman
- Transgender Female
- Transgender Male
- Transgender Man
- Transgender Person
- Transgender Woman
- Transsexual Female
- Transsexual Male
- Transsexual Man
- Transsexual Person
- Transsexual Woman
Recently, I have become friends with a human who is finding their way in and around themselves. They are transitioning from how they feel on the inside toward something more visible on the outside. I have begun to dig around inside myself toward what I have been feeling and finally they are offering me a safe space to do this.
I have been inside this body for decades. Finding the right word to name my feelings is enormously empowering. However, when we get past the labels, the hard part is daily translation. Some people wake up inside their bodies and feel complete kinship. Even love.
Imagine waking and feeling so lost, you wonder how it is possible to get misplaced inside something that has always been there.
Humans are incredibly complicated, constantly evolving creatures. We are incorporating new words into formal dictionaries. Boxes are being added as languages develop. The language of our body. Of our sexuality. Of our gender.
Be more open to people blurring the confines of male / female because that list is going to continue to grow.
You told me during the hours of one day ending and another’s approach.
You explained it was because of your eleventh year of breath-control and that time.
You wanted to illustrate the reason you need to be choked.
You check-in to places to convince others you are going places.
You have never loved while loving while being loved while making love.
Sometimes I wish I had driven with you in rented taxi to airport.
Sometimes I think about
bi dissecting my sexuality.
Sometimes I need to stuff my body with plasma to make sure it still churns in me.
Sometimes I need to talk about drugs to stop myself from doing them.
You said it was always something like love but could only exhibit it through hate mail.
You falsified your resume.
You cheated on your diet and lied about last night’s dream sequence.
You wished you had been a drifter instead of an academic.
You’ve never been monogamous.
Sometimes I dream that you are in front of me and we are eating calzones on your rooftop.
Sometimes I think I might have lost my cells on your mattress.
Sometimes I wonder what would happen if my hair went away.
Sometimes I need to be abstract so you will ask me what all of this means.
My soul sister with curls and wisdom crunched into dark roots illuminated by crystalline split ends and history of mailboxes all across the country tells me I am androgyny.
Tells me I am not a woman in a tie nor man with long hair; I am somewhere in between.
And we barely know each other even though I can let the sick drip out of my nose right in front of her and she keeps talking and my ears turn into wells, deep enough to capture even her sighs.
And we barely know each other but my soul sister with curls and wisdom crunched into dark roots illuminated by crystalline split ends almost knows what this word means to me.
and then i cut up a dress and removed the feminine/ blue shards of cotton against black taped stage/ and hollow phallus swallowed the remnants until no gender was left to name/ what is left but/ what is left is/ androgyny.
I am having a love affair with tissues. Napkins. Toilet paper. Sleeves. My wrist. Anything to sop up the sick drowning in my nose. And my body reeks Winter. And even with soreness, I can breathe in the goodness of language. To be seen by others as a mirror of how we see ourselves is true fulfillment. I flatten my breasts and burn them back inside my body.
I know there was a time I wished you here…but go back go back go back deep beneath the bones.
A tie is really just a choke of fabric. Fastened conservative. Dapper’d neck.
Hair is just a growth of knots. An arrival of scalp shock. Length has nothing to do with genital affiliation.
My soul sister with curls and wisdom crunched into dark roots illuminated by crystalline split ends tells me that love may last longer when beds belong in separate houses.
& maps are meant to be explored with toes.
& stubbornness should be celebrated when soles are involved.
And we barely know each other but I told her about the time someone circled OTHER on my back because that is what I feel & that is how I see myself & and what if we could all just rebel against the pinkblue revolution and become and become an(other).
when all else fails, eat lead.
boils in water may be used as a murder weapon.
her vagina is detachable therefore nothing is left to rob.
russian man has breath of wood chips.
lobsters exchange colour from maroon to cherry post plunge.
day begins when air wafts against lungs like a flying bruise.
gender is the symptom.
black butterfly interrupted by yellow is the image.
convince existence to remain one more day is the treatment.
I could purchase runners: the expensive kind, the kind that kids wait for overnight in folding chairs and sleeping bags so that when the store opens they are the first ones to touch them.
I could replace my ink-stained backpack with one slightly more durable, big enough to house my notebook and two pens, extra clothes, an atlas, trail mix.
I could fall in love again and not push it away like an intruder.
I could have a baby, search for a woman with sperm or try to grow some of my own and impregnante myself.
Is there a way to peel off the first fifteen layers of my skin and make room for something else to grow there?
I could move to Canada.
I could eat ice cream for breakfast because that is what my body truly craves.
I could give away all my things so that I don’t have to put them away anymore.
I could unplug myself and see what persistently remains alive.
What would happen if I started walking, forced myself to get lost, cross state lines and comfort zones and begin life in a place where no one knows what a scar means.
I could swallow seeds, water myself until my body is covered in crops, feed the world from my harvested bones.
I could stop making lists and just allow the day to arrive.
I could give up on monogamy with another and begin a solitary love affair with my brain.
The manifestation of this grammatical feminine is not found in any of my parts/ Every inch of me is detachable, including these thoughts/ Neutered mind allows room for retranslation of life.living/ Questions are androgynous/ Words are without genitals/ Love is just an angle to faint against.
Aimee Herman is a cyborg. Not in the sense of a mixture but: in her impetus. Her desire for a book to be a new kind of thinking and being in the world. As she writes in the startling Statement of Poetics that opens this passionate collection: “This body of text practices trilingualism and contraction. Theories include gender confiscation and syntax dissection.” I liked that. A syntax that records what happens to a body even more than the words themselves. And that’s just page one. Throw away “the color pink,” writes Herman, deeper in. And: “Gender is best received in a question mark.” In not with. I loved that. This is re-wiring where it counts: below the lexicon. Below the public-private register:” where the label was rubbed.” Until there’s nothing left but, as the writer says: “The most dangerous parts of me.” What those “dangerous parts” become, reconfigured, mutilated and grown again, is the text of this “sore” and “feminine” book. A book in which “words” and beloveds, of various kinds: “never stop coming.” What kind of cyborg is this?
—Bhanu Kapil, The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, Naropa University.
Gizzards: a word my grandmother used to mean bloody, messy, entangled innards. These are gizzard-poems. Even if the important parts are blurred you can hear the sound of envelopes unlatching, you can become the redhead body for a while. Herman tells us do not approach the scars…disobey her and masturbate while reading this book. Then go snap a pencil in half. Yes, it’s like that.
— Jackie Sheeler, author of Earthquake Came to Harlem
Aimee Herman celebrates and contradicts our expectations in her disturbing juxtapositions of unexpected images. This is a book poised to define the poet’s title and premise: “How can one edit the typos found in scar tissue.” Reading these poems challenges our comfort zone and confronts us with an ever-moving visceral vitality. The poet’s lyrical scrutiny considers all angles and actions as in the “shape of angled knuckles surfing into / independent variable”. She is breaking through taboos of language we never knew we had. Her tangled metaphors morph into surreal visions. Unpredictable, a sexuality of the unexpected that demands our engagement even as the language soaks us ever deeper into inexplicable non-outcomes that riddle like questions in a Zen koan. Experimental and disarmingly playful, these lines are a testimony, a political investigation into a sensuality that refuses conclusion.
— Maureen Owen, author of Erosion’s Pull
Aimee Herman writes so often in the imperative because she and her world insist on the NOW of the body, society, and language. She brings us the world both embodied and cataloged, alienated yet familiar. Her words are a recipe for seeing differently. Blink at your own delicious peril.
— Daphne Gottlieb, author of 15 Ways to Stay Alive
Aimee Herman’s to go without blinking is a visceral, wide eyed, queer movement that creates “sturdy retinas” in those of us who participate. As we enter and perform this book by way of our bodies (our inhabitation) we are nervy-aghast, gasping, slobbering, terrified, aroused. Oh the confessions here– not only the confessions themselves, but the quality of confession amid the varying grits of the unveiled body. This is not a book of the stellar body. It is the core, guttural relation of body to page—it is body and page as planar path, “leaking teeth”—“a need to disrobe to satisfy.” Herman has shown us an unabridged vista of spaces and scenes where power, colonization, detriments and desires are exchanged. Nothing is held back here. We are cut by this book. We are conflated. We are ruined in the best possible ways. to go without blinking’s “tongue is too big for [its] body” and this is where its genius is.
—j/j hastain, author of prurient anarchic omnibus
Aimee Herman, a queer performance poet, has been featured at various New York venues such as the Happy Ending Lounge, Dixon Place, Wow Café Theatre, Perch Café, One & One Bar, Bowery Poetry Club, Public Assembly, and Sidewalk Café. She has performed at reading/performance series such as: In the Flesh erotic salon, Hyper Gender, Sideshow: Queer Literary Carnival, Mike Geffner Presents: The Inspired Word, and Red Umbrella Diaries. Her poetry can be found in Clean Sheets, Cliterature Journal, InStereo Press, Sound Zine, Pregnant Moon Review, and/or journal, Polari Journal, Mad Rush, Lavender Review, and Sous Le Pavre. She can also be read in you say. say. and hell strung and crooked (Uphook Press), Focus on the Fabulous: Colorado LGBT Voices (Johnson Books), Best Women’s Erotica 2010 (Cleis Press), Best Lesbian Love Stories 2010 (Alyson Books), Nice Girls, Naughty Sex (Seal), Women in Lust (Cleis) and The Harder She Comes: Butch Femme Erotica (Cleis Press). She currently works as an erotica editor for Oysters & Chocolate and curates/hosts monthly NYC erotica and GLBT lit readings. She can be found writing poems on her body in Brooklyn.
· Paperback: 156 pages
· Binding: Perfect-Bound
· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books]
· ISBN: 978-1-60964-080-4
$16 Buy it from Amazon