Dear Trans- [Ching-In Chen]

Chen 05-07-18 image

Bio: Ching-In Chen is author of The Heart’s Traffic (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press) and recombinant (Kelsey Street Press) as well as co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press; AK Press) and Here is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets (Achiote Press). They have received fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda, Watering Hole, Callaloo, Can Serrat and Imagining America. They are also part of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. They are a poetry editor for the Texas Review. They can be found online at www.chinginchen.com

Inspiration: I’ve been trying to write this poem for months, but somehow placing the words on the page only produced more and more anxiety for me – representative of the anxiety I’ve been carrying around with me recently as a result of so many of these attempts to exclude and legislate trans people out of existence. I didn’t want to merely reproduce the words on a page without transforming them so I chose to re-situate them into new journeys, new angles to peer through.

Advertisements

See, D.C. [Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis]

Not the animals disassembled
into discardable or valuable parts.
The old ivories of no piano

unable to make that dirge sing
for me. Piece by piece,
there’s no harmony, no reckoning.

Don’t give them your science, based
on no God, take the stars, cheap
string-lights of our consolation.

Look up. The moon’s a fetus
crescented cold against all this.
From silence, accuse

the constellations, their bright braille,
and read that diversity of mythology,
fable, any tale, to say we matter. Take the stars

off the pushpins, then. Trace
them with your mortal fingers
as proof we’re one more tiny, nothing-entity.

I try to get there, but the dots don’t sync
Connect them though I try.
There’s no reckoning.

The crime? Identity? The evidence
base, destrustive, a typo, or a word
that swallows trust inside its own proclivity

to destroy what it can’t unbelieve.
Entitlement’s fur coat pulled tight
against all vulnerability.

The animals, the walking-dead.
The woman, as epidemic, as pre-existing
amenity. Something you get for free

upon check-in. The transgender satellites
smear light. Fireflies we smash just to write
our own names with their bodies.

 

Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis, author of the poetry collections Intaglio and The Rub and the chapbook Aloha Vaudeville Doll, works at Columbus College of Art & Design where she serves as faculty advisor for Botticelli Magazine.

Inspiration: These seven words touch so many other words as they are singled out for erasure. I wanted to create a rhythm of reckoning in their use and for their banishment. I wanted that reckoning for every vulnerable being that suffers anew under the dim light of now.

 

Trump’s Seven Forbidden Words [Kim Bridgford]

Who would object to any one of these—
Science-based, diversity, and fetus
It’s like when you’re polite, but don’t say please

(What difference, really, does it make)? The lies—
Entitlement and vulnerable—hit us.
Who would object to any one of these:

Evidence-based, transgender? OEDs
Reassert themselves from Wiki-itus.
It’s like when you’re polite, but don’t say please

(The way that we train all our PhDs).
But acquiescence will come back to bite us.
Who would object to any one of these?

Beware the military soft surprise:
It’s language first. So pretty, they can shoot us.
It’s like when you’re polite, but don’t say please.

They say that it’s a shower. Such naïfs!
You offer up yourself to barracudas.
Who would object to any one of these?
It’s like when you’re polite, but don’t say please.

 

Kim Bridgford is the director of Poetry by the Sea and editor of Mezzo Cammin.  The author of nine books of poetry, she is the recipient of grants from the NEA, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, and the Ucross Foundation.  Her three-book project with visual artist Jo Yarrington, The Falling Edge, chronicling their trips to Iceland, Venezuela, and Bhutan, is forthcoming.  Bridgford is currently on sabbatical, reading about Antarctica.

Inspiration: Years ago, I worked as a military historian for the federal government.  In writing the history, I made a decision about what would be revealed and what would not.  “Trump’s Seven Forbidden Words” is about controlling the narrative:  eliminating some words might mean eliminating some discussions altogether.

 

On Guard against Exposure to Ideas [Ned Balbo]

What words will those in power declare taboo
to blur the line between what’s false and true?
Why do they feel uneasy, vulnerable?
Who else will they declare invisible?

Is truth transgendered, viewed with deep suspicion?
Can they erase those who reject their vision?
Is truth transmissible, a virus known
to spread by contact, or through words alone?

Fear isn’t science-based. An enemy
is needed: immigrants, diversity,
imagined foes….Scripture provides the lens—
Cause, cure, and risk are only dissonance

to be shut out, replaced by doublespeak.
The strong owe no protection to the weak,
and inconvenient truths, evidence-based,
are now regarded with the same distaste

by those whose power bestows entitlement—
who’d steal our very words and leave us silent….
Who will they ban when all of us are gone?
What else will they forbid before they’re done?

We can’t just wait till history unfolds
its measured arc…The future that it holds
(a fetus, frail, heart beating in the dark)
is ours, and all we need to strike the spark.

 

Ned Balbo’s 3 Nights of the Perseids, forthcoming in 2019, was selected by Erica Dawson for the Richard Wilbur Award. His previous books include The Trials of Edgar Poe and Other Poems (awarded the Donald Justice Prize and the Poets’ Prize), and Upcycling Paumanok (Measure Press). He received an NEA translation grant in 2017.

Inspiration: The prospect of CDC guidelines being used to erase people or perspectives that the current administration finds objectionable is repellant. That the same guidelines would seek to reduce the role of science in verifying research findings meant to help and heal is worse than troubling–it’s a full-on assault on our collective well-being.

 

American Poetry [Gerry LaFemina]

In Memory of Thomas Lux

I recognize these claims I make are not science-based. I praise American poetry’s diversity for its diversity is its strength. Each poem conceived in a climax of inspiration—an image or an overheard phrase, or a word banned by bureaucrats, committees or point-totaling politicians, or you name it. Then the gestation of drafts.

I’m aware this is a terrible metaphor, but the poem becomes fetus and eventually gets its entitlement of a title. Most Americans don’t care, don’t read poems any more than they read medical journals. They remain ambivalent about peer reviews. Not that it matters.

Nor does it matter that sometimes revisions are transgenre-d—prose poems longing for lineation and vice versa: verse (free and formal both) believing it should be a paragraph, wanting only the cadence of the sentence. How vulnerable each word, each syllable. What evidence-based claims might the critics down the hall make with their deconstructions about these matters? I couldn’t construct their hypotheses or their outcomes, only know the myths of their methodologies. I wouldn’t want anything else. I recognize my claims are not science-based, but I praise American poetry for its diversity. Its diversity is its strength.

 

Gerry LaFemina’s newest collection of poetry, The Story of Ash, is forthcoming in 2018. His other books include numerous collections of poetry, prose poetry, and fiction, as well as Palpable Magic: Essays on Poetry and Prosody and the textbook Composing Poetry: A Guide to Writing Poems and Thinking Lyrically. He is an Associate Professor of English at Frostburg State University, and a writing mentor at the Carlow University MFA program.

Inspiration: My initial impulse was to pass on this project because I felt the pull to write a poem that was pedantic would be too hard to resist. It was only when looking at the word transgender and seeing how,  with a slight juxtaposition of letters, it could become transgenred that I found my “in” into the poem, which was to celebrate American poetry in all its amazing diversity, thus avoiding some of those potential pitfalls.

 

Three Science-Based Limericks [Sandra Simonds]

I.
There once was an internet kitten
who was by a fetus bitten.
It was evidence-based, that kitten was chaste!
And now our TALE art written.

II.
A VULNERABLE seeking entitlement
from the vital 1%
swept the McDonald’s, for one-hundred Donalds,
blessing her quarter-pounder retirement.

III.
“Transgender and Diversity VERBOTEN!”
shouts Klaxon the A-hole they vote-in.
His life is bereft, girls always swipe left:
GUNS are his only emotion.

Sandra Simonds is the author of six books of poetry: Orlando (Wave Books, 2018), Further Problems with Pleasure (winner of the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize, University of Akron Press, 2017), Steal It Back (Saturnalia Books, 2015), The Sonnets (Bloof Books, 2014), Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012), and Warsaw Bikini(Bloof Books, 2009). Her poems have been included in the Best American Poetry 2015 and 2014 and have appeared in many literary journals, including Poetry, the American Poetry Review, the Chicago ReviewGrantaBoston Review,  PloughsharesFenceCourt Green, and Lana Turner. In 2013, she won a Readers’ Choice Award for her sonnet “Red Wand,” which was published on Poets.org, the Academy of American Poets website. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida and is an Associate professor of English and Humanities at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia.

Inspiration: Bad times call for BAD VERSE.

Lab Coat Blues [Kate Bernadette Benedict]

Oh, I got those science-based, gotta-cry blues.
I said, those wretched research blues.
I ain’t cured nothin’, that’s my only news.

Oh, I got me evidence-based blues.
’Cause evidence all proves my life’s a ruse.
No gal will ever see my name in them Who’s Who’s.

It’s humblin’, yes, humblin’. I’m vulnerable these days.
Sing it loud: it’s humblin’. I’m in a vulnerable daze.
My lab rat’s double-crossed me. She don’t run my maze.

That rat was born’d transgender. A most intriguin’ thing.
Yes that he rat was a she rat. She ain’t got that shwing.
A few swings of a scalpel knife and off went that thing.

Now she wants a litter, little babies, yessir!
She wants little babies. There’ll be no rat fetus for her.
She got no place to grow ’em down under all that fur.

Oh, I got those science-based sad-rat blues,
I said, those wretched lab rat blues.
My star lab rat is pinin’, that’s my only news.

Entitlement!—badass blunder that I made.
Assumed I was entitled even tho’ no dues were paid.
No rat’s in my maze, I ain’t makin’ no grade.

I’m takin’ off my lab coat, I’m quittin’ this life.
Diversity’s a thing these days. I’ll live a different life.
Goodbye to rats, bye petri dish, bye knife.

I got those science-based, gotta-cry blues.
Them sad-rat, barren-rat blues.
I ain’t good for nothin’; that’s my only news.

 

Kate Bernadette Benedict, of Riverdale, New York, is the author of Earthly Use: New and Selected Poems (2015). www.katebenedict.com

Inspiration: These are difficult times and the banned words are difficult words, prosaic and highly charged. So why not try something funny? I figured blues stanza would be utterly daft, and it was, and it led me to this nutty tale of a lab researcher and his sad and stubborn rat.