From Our Facilitators: Are my desires my own or am I drowning? Two dispatches from a soft place by Emily Marie Passos Duffy
[Image credit: Emily Marie Passos Duffy ]
about the author:
Emily Marie Passos Duffy is a poet, writer, and performing artist. Her works explore longing, labor, censorship, and spatial identity. A 2020 finalist for the Noemi Press Book Award and a finalist of the 2020 Inverted Syntax Sublingua Prize for Poetry, she was also named a 2020 Disquiet International Luso-American Fellow. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing and Poetics from Naropa University in 2018. Her ongoing community collaborations include work with Writers Warehouse, Boulder Burlesque, and Tart Parlor. She is currently rebounding from her breakup with higher-ed, working on a chapbook of strip club ephemera and a full-length poetry manuscript. You can receive monthly missives from her here: https://duffylala.substack.com/
Sign up for Emily's Workshop:
[Image credit: Marloes Hilckmann]
I want to talk about monsters. All the time. This obsession started as a kid watching TV shows like Aaahh!!! Real Monsters and performing the little kid rite of watching the same movie over and over again until our tape of Fern Gully broke. Surprise surprise, my favorite part was “Toxic Love” which probably sparked my love of skeletons and lifelong crush on Tim Curry (maybe that says more about me than I should admit in public). My partner and I go to see exclusively scary movies in theaters. Friends and family gift me skulls and Frankenstein’s monster themed gifts. Talk to me about horror, talk to me about monsters. Anytime.
This might seem like a tangent, but stick with me. I want to talk about being trans. About living in a world where self-determination about body and presentation is seen as taboo. About how so many people view gender affirming surgeries as grotesque and horrific. About how being trans places so many people on the fringe. What about the blood, the bandages, the violence that becomes part of being trans? I want to talk about the sheer EUPHORIA of being at ease with oneself, the joy of rending binaries and sex essentialism. Let’s talk about being outcasts, gender rebels, the kind of people who make the world say ‘think of the children!’
You might see where I’m going with this. Trans people identifying with monsters is not a novel concept; the unfortunate intersection of gender and horror contains trans people. Particularly trans women, reinforcing a lot of really yucky misinformation about the lives of unassuming women. However, I’m not the only trans person I know who has a love of monsters and monstrosity. Grabbing something that’s used to vilify you can feel powerful. YES, I am the monster you fear and thus you should stay away from me and my partner and my cats so we can just garden in peace.
It’s more than the sense of power in striking fear in cis people’s hearts, however. Identifying with monsters provides a way to see ourselves in the media where we are so often forgotten about. Why yes, I think I will see myself in the lighted eyes of Bela Lugosi’s Dracula. I love to dress up goth dandy and be extremely overwhelming to people who don’t know me. Or tomorrow I might be the Wolfman, watching my hair sprout on my face because of my testosterone shots. Or both; I could be the son of Dracula and the Wolfman, wearing my drag ball best, sporting my new beard hairs twined with belladonna berries and oleander.
Okay, enough fantasizing about my fictional gay dads.
The purpose of merging transness and monsters arrives here: When you’re exploring yourself, looking into the depths of what you could be, think about becoming that which scares you. There’s so much electricity if you’re brave enough to grab it.
about the author:
H.P. Armstrong is a trans and queer writer who hails from the Midwest, but lives in Colorado with his partner. He is a graduate of Naropa's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics with a BA in Creative Writing and Literature, as well as a graduate of Front Range Community College. His work has appeared in KYSO Flash's A Trembling of Finches, with Punch Drunk Press, Plains Paradox, and internationally with Nota Bene. His work primarily involves the beautifully grotesque and disenfranchisement of the body, along with his experiences as a destitute poor, queer, homeless young adult and as an ex-Mormon. He is working on his first novel handling themes of the consequences of religious abuse and the lack of knowledge of one's own body.
[Unrecounted, W.G.Sebald & Jan Peter Tripp (New Directions, 2004) ]
I lent a copy of this book to a cohort member a couple years ago, and I realized how darkly perfect a text it is for the current landscape. There’s no theory I wish to apply or a great philosopher to attach onto this text or reading; it appeared to me again as a certain and all-too familiar phenomenon. Unrecounted, a collaboration of W.G. Sebald’s “micropoems'' and Jan Peter Tripp’s lithographs, perfectly encapsulates living within a pandemic moment: a pair of eyes coupled with a sudden clarity. The translator’s note by Michael Hamburger is similar to most introductory pieces, in that it is made mostly of anecdotes, names, dates, and the tribulations of publishing a collaborative text. It does however, include those lovelier details that experimental writers find so exquisite; inner turmoil hinted in the exchange of letters and journal corners, the budding of a once-thought dead fruit tree, the author’s practice of carrying around a book of haikus in his travels. The archival footage can rarely be outdone in the writing world.
Certainly, this small ritualistic book is a comfort, in these days of searching for familiar faces in a sea of scarves and masks and plastic shielding. There are the eyes of the two authors, of other prominent historical figures, of someone’s dog. I know of people who, just to make tense workplace interactions feel more human, have started intentionally raising their eyebrows or squinting to make themselves seem more emotive. Maintaining our daily patterns is the heaviest anchor to bear.
So I think of writers-turned-photographers and vice versa, who are not “just” documenting but need to look like they are “just” taking a picture of Woolf’s bed, of the band at the regular venue before a couple’s cross country drive. Because it is never “just” any of those things. Projection and detachment have never been more significant. And of course; as I flip through the book for a passage, I land on the painted stare of a countess by Ingres (43), which naturally reminds me of Portrait of a Lady on Fire, (the film I mentioned in my promotional video for my workshop, it being the last movie I saw in a theater) doesn’t it just.
her eyelids still
she says she has dreamed
of a carpet
all in shreds, in tatters”
Though finding connections across mediums and realities is where I most often find solace, these days I’m usually left laughing in disbelief. Discovery when I am cramped, cold, and marooned in the northeast is about as great a gift as I can muster. If you don’t already, I sincerely hope you start carrying one small book around with you or leave underneath your pillow. You might find a line like this, to leave on a park bench or receipt, like I even might.
about the author:
Drew Dean (MFA) is an experimental poet and cinephile who suspends his disbelief as often as he can, or in Barabara Dilley’s words: “Let a soft gaze roam around in the space without naming.” In both his work and instruction, he seeks out the obscure, the double-takes, and the dialogues within. He wears a specific sweater for cloud-gazing.
© 2019-2021 collective.aporia