When I moved to Brooklyn the first time, I went to an open mic at a bookstore that seemed mythical to me. It was full of more queer studies books I’ve ever seen in one place. They had an erotica section that spanned more than just a shelf! They had a place for people to sell their homemade zines and an extremely well-stocked poetry section. Bluestockings will always be my favorite bookshop to visit. It is quite impossible for me to enter without leaving with at least one book.

In their mission statement, they call themselves a radical bookstore, creating a space that empowers all people. They “actively support movements that challenge hierarchy and all systems of oppression, including but not limited to patriarchy, heterosexism, the gender binary, white supremacy, racism, ableism and classism, within society as well as our own movements.” It is powerful to walk inside a public space and feel heard.

Within the past few years, I have been extremely lucky to have performed at this space several times. But what I have always wanted is to feature for this open mic, which lead me there for the first time. Hosted by Vittoria Repetto since 1999, the Women’s / Trans’ Poetry Jam & Open Mic encourages people to perform (up to) 8 minutes of poetry, prose, songs, and spoken word. I am deeply excited to be featured this month with Ilka Scobie.

Women’s & Trans’ Poetry Jam & Open Mike

Tuesday Feb 25th 7pm – 9pm

Feature Writers: Aimee Herman & Ilka Scobie

Aimee Herman’s poetics deconstruct the architecture of gender and bodies. Aimee experiments with the language of bones, crack them open, count the syllables stuffed inside, and smear what translates onto the page.

Ilka Scobie’s poems are written through the filter of being a feminist, native New Yorker, traveller and teacher.”A passionate song to the city in all its stripped down, scaffolded, merciless and brave beauty.” Janine Pommy Vega

$5 suggested donation

Bluestockings Bookstore     172 Allen St. NYC   (between Staton & Rivington)

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.