Friday, April 11, 2014

Los Angeles Review of Books

In the latest issue of the Los Angeles Review of BooksMarcela Sulak's excellent essay "The Tenderness in Looking" examines both Doll Studies: Forensics and Idra Novey's Exit, Civilian "to interrogate our perspective on crime and incarceration." 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New short fiction in Anomalous Press

Kelly Magee and I are feverishly working on our second short story collection, titled Your Sick. Each story focuses on an imaginary illness. We're also working with alphabetical obstructions, focusing each story on a particular letter. Here's the title story, featured in the Queer Issue of Anomalous Press. And here I am, reading at AWP.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review

It's nifty to see book group questions written for my book! Here's a friendly reader's guide to X Marks The Dress: A Registry, thanks to Heather Nelson's feature in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review.    
Photo: Rebecca Cairns
X Marks The Dress: A Registry was also recently reviewed by Ana Garcia for Parallax Literary Magazine, an awesome literary journal published by Idyllwild Arts Academy. In 2011, Parallax began accepting submissions from high school students worldwide for its online component. I'm pleased to see high school students reading and responding to my book. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Twin Human, Twin Horse

Here's a new story in The Adirondack Review about a woman who gives birth to twins: one human, one horse. "With Horse" is part of my collaborative short fiction collection co-written with Kelly Magee, forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in 2015. I love the art that accompanies this issue: "Animal" by Liz Atzberger.
I'm also delighted by Jessica Bixel's thoughtful review of X Marks The Dress: A Registry in Rufous City Review. And thanks to everyone who stopped by to visit at AWP!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Queer Art of Failure (workshop edition)

I'm midway through teaching a new Creative Writing course that takes its title from Judith Halberstam's The Queer Art of Failure. We're exploring new and better ways to fail as writers and artists. Other texts include Frank Ocean's Channel Orange, CA Conrad's The Book of Frank, and Eva Heisler's Reading Emily Dickinson in Icelandic. Right now my students are presenting to the class on a significant failure of their choice; soon they'll be crafting their very own Book of Failures. I'm loving this alternative to traditional workshop. Next quarter: Creative Writing meets Critical Animal Studies. Tips from fellow teachers welcome!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I Won A Thing (time capsule edition)

Like most artists, I've led several lives. In one of those lives I went to a Great Books school that had gone co-ed only three years earlier. Columbia was my first choice only because it was in New York, and New York meant Balanchine, my aesthetic ideal.
Of course, what I found in New York, on and off campus, were worlds the suburbs hadn't prepared me for. Most of my goals turned out to be somebody else's, and the things I was running away from eventually caught up with me. So now nearly 25 years later I've won something, a sort of time capsule opening up onto awkward, confused me wandering around New York City in a fog. I used to show up for classes in leg warmers, my knapsack filled with toe shoes instead of books, carrying at least two cups of coffee. I'd fall asleep mid-lecture anyway, dazed from dancing all day, and no food. Somehow in all of this dancing and disillusionment I joined a club that seemed related to poetry, which was a thing I knew I was good at, or might be, if I could just finish reading The Cantos. Actually, I wasn't sure if I should be writing poetry at all, because so many of my professors insisted that women couldn't write, shouldn't write, shouldn't be admitted to an all-male school; and certainly that we shouldn't read books by women. I was very pink and girly, but decided that I was actually a man. Everything was dissonant. I just wanted to dance and be left alone; I wasn't eating enough to really focus on anything; and I believed I was that rogue wave, a female poet, but if I had to be a man to write, I would. All this to say it was startling and lovely to find out this week that I'd won an award from the club I joined years ago, which is called The Philolexian Society of Columbia University. And the award is for "Distinguished Literary Achievement." Which has also been given to Lydia Davis and John Hollander, among others. Hmmm. I got a C in one of my classes because the professor spent hours lecturing on Lolita and I knew he couldn't possibly understand.
design: Jamie Keenan
The place didn't speak to me back then, but in awarding me something the place is asking me to speak to it. Which I didn't have much opportunity to do back then. And so I'm grateful to have the chance to try now. I'm honored and happy to be recognized, to have a chance to reconcile that past self with current and future selves. Poetry, for me, has always taken precedence over identity; yet my search for beauty turned out to be my entrance to politics. I have to write an acceptance speech, something I've never done before, and maybe when I've given it I will post it here. It means something significant to be honored by an institution where back then I didn't feel wanted. It means someone is paying attention to the past and the present, holding them side-by-side. That's what I try to do in my work, plus throwing in future touches for risk. So thanks Philo, and Tom Vinciguerra, and hello to 2014. Also thanks to Brandi Wells for her insightful review of X Marks The Dress: A Registry in The Lit Pub; and stay tuned for a list of book signings and offsite readings at the 2014 AWP Conference in Seattle. Maybe I'll see you there. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Anti-Gay Violence in Russia

While the focus of most mainstream American LGBT organizations is same-sex marriage, it's easy to forget that in some countries, queers are just fighting to survive. American LGBT movements are often caught up in assimilationist goals, neglecting questions of survival and ignoring intersectional identities and oppressions. I found "36 Photos from Russia That Everyone Needs To See" and "Gays in Russia Are Under Attack" to be useful perspectives on the struggle for queer rights and gender expression in the home of this year's Olympic Games. As a queer teacher, I'm horrified to think of the impact this internationally sanctioned homophobia will have on LGBT youth. I've watched so many young people struggle with fear, self-hatred, and rejection. I've counseled countless students who were verging on suicide, terrified and lonely, unable to imagine a future for themselves. Over the past 25 years this has changed dramatically; many of my LGBT students now seem confident, ambitious, and unafraid.  Sometimes they're entirely unaware of the violent history that led to the gentrified identities so popular in mainstream media. The images coming from Russia feel strangely familiar to me, more akin to my own coming out experiences in the Midwest and Great Plains than glossy pop stars and cutesy sitcom characters. Russia has much to learn from America's LGBT culture, but America has much to learn from Russian courage. The photos I'm seeing show an incredible grassroots movement of brave queer people and allies willing to literally risk their lives for love. American queers still put our lives on the line, but for what? A wedding registry at Target? We can do better; we can ask for more. We must learn from our Russian cousins about activism and remember that liberation and assimilation are not the same thing. 
ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK / Reuters