SPIT, POET! 10 Trans, Non-Binary, Gender Non-Conforming, Gender Fluid, and Genderqueer Poets You Need to Hear
The alternate title to this piece is: “15 Gender Non-Conforming Poets That Will Inspire You to Eat Glass With Your Hands,” a title that came about after a brilliant GNC poet (*cough*Linette*cough*) commented on the lack of gender-queerness on a plethora of recent “Top 10 Poets” lists. As a queer poet of color, I understand the frustration that accompanies a lack of visibility within an artform and community within which we fight to make ourselves seen and heard. I hope this list honors these poets, their work, and the wider non-cisgender poetry community.
1. Linette Reeman
Linette Inspires Me To
…hold fast to courage despite its spikes, re-member my adolescence and young adulthood with only my two good hands as blade. Writing through teenage angst, adult vices, and historical inconsistencies, Linette’s work is not only incredibly introspective, it speaks in conversation with itself, providing its reader access to a new lens with which to look at themselves. Often, their work asks itself to be held accountable, asks to be held, and understanding when the answer is “no.” In writing themselves a new mirror, they constantly create new worlds and re-imagine old ones.
What Linette Says
Something my mother has said to me my whole life: “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.”
2. Chrysanthemum Tran
Chrysanthemum Inspires Me To
…mold language into a shape that accepts mine, and that, if it won’t, to create a language of my own. Their work serves as both a call-out and a call-in, says, “World, your history erases me, which is cute or whatever, but I’m still here.” Their poetry is a testament to the beauty and pain that accompanies an inherited then fine-tuned resilience. Always powerful and devastating, always allowing room for heart and holy. They are an actual breath of fresh air. Breathe deep.
What Chrysanthemum Says
My all-time favorite quote is Rita Repulsa: “After 10,000 years, I’m free! It’s time to conquer Earth!”
3. Justice Gaines
Justice Inspires Me To
…love and honor all of my many selves with such tenacity that it can’t be undone, least of all by an ungiving world. Xyr work exemplifies what it means to be unafraid of truth, to be vocal about even those truths which can be fashioned into weapons against xem. It is impossible to leave xyr’s work without also having the hurt in you call for healing, healing that then calls for you to assess the hurt of the world and how you are responsible for healing that, too.
What Justice Says
My favorite saying is from my grandpa: “It’s a poor dog that doesn’t wag its own tail”.
4. Miles Walser
Miles Inspires Me To
…be unapologetic in retelling my story. My truth does not exist in a vacuum, it shape shifts, does not ask to be polite just to be remembered. His poetry is as much a brave and whole celebration of self as it is a learning of self through a series of awkward, blush-worthy, heart wrenching, cringe-worthy middle school-esque experiences. A perfect blend of humor and poignant analyses, Miles openly attempts to put the puzzle pieces together with patience and care.
What Miles Says
Right now I think it’s: “And if I hadn’t come now to the coast to disappear/I may have died in a landslide of rocks and hopes and fears,” which tends to be my go-to before major life transitions.
5. Lee Mokobe
(photo cred: Daniel Schaefer)
Lee Inspires Me To
…grace. Both in verb and adjective. A prodigal wordsmith at his core, Lee speaks on painful experiences with delicateness, yet spares no expense in being exacting. And, as cheesy and disingenuous as it might sound, when I watch Lee perform, it so evident that he loves this craft, that he finds home in it. His warmth and self-assuredness is inviting, which makes the gut-wrenching turns in his work that much more destabilizing and raw.
What Lee Says
Fav line/motto: “Be like a spring, when pushed down, it bounces back up even higher” — something my mom always says to me :)
6. Francine Hendrickson
(photo cred: Valerie Jane Kwok)
Pronouns can fluctuate but neutral is always fine
Francine Inspires Me To
…rip my flesh off and prance around in all my still-existent beauty, in all my true ugliness. Francine’s work is without shame. They write sans intention to sound pretty, to just tell the real as it is, which creates kaleidoscopic images of the heart — so, pretty. Their work, often interrogating death, loss, and body, forces audiences to engage all of their senses and how they help us consume the world, create memories. What, then, do we do with these memories? Francine’s poetry screams at us, with love and softness, to figure it out.
What Francine Says
Ahhhh this is mad corny but as of right now, this Hamilton line has been saving my life: “Why do you write like you’re running out of time?” Cause the answer especially this week is: my time here can be taken from me at any moment, and I got to keep writing while I am still here and as a means to survive.
7. Venus Selenite
Venus Inspires Me To
…meet pride at all of my identities’ intersections, to know that when I exclaim my right to take up space, I also mean my right to fill that space with a self-made joy. Her work — poetry, essays, performance art — is committed to making the experiences of marginalized communities visible. She demands more than her audience’s attention, but also their (dis)comfort; her writing challenges complacency and asks you how you are complicit in society’s failings. It asks you what you are going to do about it.
What Venus Says
Motto, which is a small mission statement of mine: “I’m not here to make you comfortable. I’m here to f*** s*** up.”
8. Kevin Kantor
Kevin Inspires Me To
…dress myself in all that I have survived — be it mynx or the spoils of war — and strut. They write from the gut/the pit of the stomach/the grounded center, creating work that lives and breathes and extends itself ever outward. Their work is: a warm embrace at the end of a trying day; a smile that tells you they’ve been where you are, and if they made it to today, you’re capable of tomorrow; a laugh in the face of all your demons; a hand to hold your trauma.
What Kevin Says
My tag: “Give love. Accept love” …
But also, for fun, an Oscar Wilde quote I really like: “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
9. Cecily Schuler
(photo cred: Guangpyo Hong)
Cecily Inspires Me To
…active lifelong learning, failing, unlearning, learning anew. They encourage me to never accept that all we are is all we ever will be. Their writing is a constant dis-/re-membering of trauma, mental illness, and the ways our bodies and spirits interact with physical space. It disrupts, erupts, questions with childlike wonder, reassembles with adult fever and longing. A non-linear chronicling that invites readers to consider new ways to confront and examine their own histories, Cecily’s work serves as validation that all that fills us doesn’t have to have a name in order for it to deemed “real.”
What Cecily Says
Despite its colonial origins, I have always found the following line to provide endless relief: “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars. You have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”
OR “You do not have to be good./ You do not have to walk on your knees/ For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting./ You only have to let the soft animal of your body/ love what it loves.” — Mary Oliver
10. Cam Awkward-Rich
He/Him and They/Them
Cam Inspires Me To
…never mistake my quiet for anything less than a controlled roar, a buzz evolving into beckoning siren. He is able to capture monumental, weighty moments and contain them in such a way that readers might lose themselves in the words but always find themselves at home. Sometimes, that home is a seat in front of a crackling fireplace, often it is the good china slipping out of hands and shattering. Cam’s work is the lullaby that both hushes the broken in you and makes you aware of just how much body you have — for the better.
What Cam Says
Uh, well, if I’m honest there’s a line from Alex dimitrov’s poem “Lines for People After the Party” which is kind of my motto: ‘how long should I look at the world / before I go home?” But, I also just read Gwendolyn Brook’s The Second Sermon on the Warpland for the first time in a while so the words “Nevertheless, live” have been stuck in my head.