The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Light We Cannot See by Anne Casey


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Kirsten Kowalewski, is from The Light We Cannot See by Anne Casey, released by Salmon Poetry in 2021.

I

i
i
id
ide
idea
ideate
ideology
ideologue
ideal

ii
in my native
tongue, i
is topless: it’s lost
its head—a lopped
chıcken or dog
-matıc, runnıng
mındless, wıld


iii
in my                                                                                                 
native tongue,                                                                                                 
i is                                                                                                                              
sometimes topped with a fada [i.e. ‘long’] soundíng a sílent
scr[eee]am—as ín bean sí [banshee: ‘woman spírít’] emíttíng hígh pítched shríeks

iv
is what i think is needed in our [sk]in-deep
society—a transfusion of truth wouldn’t go amiss
in place of this iphone ipad ipod iwatch itv
in[s]ane existence where the i:eyes have it...
blïnking döts ïn the sky, ïn the walls,
on the ceïlïng, vïa satellïte & sïrï or alex[ï]
& strangers can link to conversations
you’ve had in the [quasi¿] privacy of your
very own mani[in]fested ïclouded home

ic [sic]
is what i’d intimate is missing in this in[v]erted
semi-[un]conscious, icecap-melting, species-oblit[era]ting
p[last]ic-proliferating, media-misap[prop]riating, ideate-[in]filtrating
p[rot]ectïonïst state where independent id is ımpaıred,
gaia’s spirit is shríekíng & ic: to care intensively is
the impasse between i-centric conservation &
an[nıhıl]ation

Originally from the west of Ireland and living in Sydney, Anne Casey is author of five poetry collections. A journalist and legal author for 30 years, her work is widely published internationally, ranking in The Irish Times‘ Most Read. Anne has won literary awards in Ireland, Australia, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and the USA, most recently American Writers Review 2021 and the Henry Lawson Prize 2022. She is the recipient of an Australian Government scholarship and a bursary for her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney where she researches and teaches.

Kirsten Kowalewski is the editor for online horror fiction review resource Monster Librarian. She has an MLS and a specialist certificate in school library media from Indiana University, has worked as a children’s librarian and elementary school media specialist, and is a lifelong reader.

Sundress Reads: Review of Not Flowers

The sentimentality of childhood is one that we carry with us throughout our lives, which is exactly what Noreen Ocampo captures in her chapbook Not Flowers (Variant Literature, 2022). This nostalgic coming-of-age poetry takes us through stages of the speaker’s adolescence and unleashes a plethora of joyful and bittersweet feelings. Ocampo’s use of the natural world grounds us in the viscerality of youth by exploring our own upbringings in concert with the poem’s own flower roots.

The first part of the collection, “white snapdragon,” starts us on our journey through the speaker’s formative years by reflecting back on their own innocence. Ocampo creates an unawareness in the speaker through their childlike observations, such as “I miss our old backyard and how everything grew into everything” and “the sky explodes into a meadow of neon.” The nescience of the speaker is supported even further when they say “I should have been afraid I loved like that at eleven” and elucidates the purity of a child’s love. Ocampo shows us that there is some truth in the “ignorance is bliss” cliché where our youthfulness is concerned.

We get a closer glimpse of the speaker’s perceptions and how those develop throughout age in the next section, “limonium.” The speaker reminisces on seemingly typical interactions between them and their family, and in examining that household dynamic, they set a melancholic tone, stating, “I can never return to these places” and “i want him to know what love looks like.”

Ocampo artfully preserves the physicality of memory in each piece while offering a new cognizant lens to view them through. These memories are redefined in some of the speaker’s own observations in recalling their experiences, examples being “some parts of me never stop searing” and “trust that you know / what color the flame should be.” This evaluation of each scenario suggests that there is more hope beneath the surface than what meets the eye.

With the progression of age in each section, Ocampo uses this difference to show the speaker’s transformation in how they display love and who they have love for. In the third section, “yellow rose,” the speaker develops new relationships and in forming these close bonds, their idea of love becomes more complex, expressing that they “just haven’t seen other people’s hearts & the weakness.” The speaker identifies with the people they love, and in acquiring these new identities, they question their own: “I am drawn in a side character’s uncertain lines.” Ocampo shows us that we give a little of ourselves to every person we share love for, and in collecting these pieces of people we carry with us, we often find ourselves reshaping our boundaries and who we are as a person. We watch the speaker find this moment of clarity– “we’re more than a collection of penciled-in lines.”

In the last section, “dianthus,” the chapbook comes full-circle with the speaker’s adventure in overcoming the anguish that comes with self-discovery and their own outlook on life. Ocampo illustrates that there is safety in stability when regarding the people we love, showing us through the speaker’s eyes, “we’ll be so / glad we learned to smile at each other.” Part of the beauty in growing up is learning how much people mean to you and having the ability to look back, knowing that you loved them before you knew anything else. The speaker also touches on the inevitability of growing up, asking, “Do you trust your luck? If I tell you / luck was never a part of it, / what then?” Ocampo’s message that we all go through the motions of finding ourselves creates a community among her readers, in that there isn’t a roadmap to navigate life.


Ocampo’s Not Flowers is refreshingly optimistic in how it reshapes our perspectives on childhood. It reminds us to remember where we came from and teaches us to find joy in our experiences. Not Flowers healed my inner child and taught me this: our growing pains are fleeting.

Find Not Flowers here!


Z Eihausen is an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she studies English and Philosophy. Her extracurriculars include dancing (poorly), hanging out with bees, playing saxophone, and attempting to make peace with her beloved cat.

Sundress Publications Announces 2024 E-Anthology Selection as Transmasculine Poetics: Filling the Gap in Literature & the Silences Around Us

Sundress Publications has selected Transmasculine Poetics: Filling the Gap in Literature & the Silences Around Us, a collection of works by transmasculine writers edited by Remi Recchia, as our forthcoming 2024 e-anthology. Submissions for this anthology will open in 2023. 

Transmasculine Poetics: Filling the Gap in Literature & the Silences Around Us, will include poetry written by trans men and/or writers who identify as genderqueer, genderfluid, or agender, as long as they identify as male-of-centeror transmasculine in some way. A comparative anthology is the seminal collection Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics (2013) by T.C. Tolbert and Trace Peterson; more recently, editors Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel curated We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics (2020). Transmasculine Poetics would be different han bothof those anthologies, however, in that it would feature exclusively transmasculine voices. Transmasculine Poetics would serve as a model for transmasculine writers; a place to find both themselves and other poets in whose footsteps they may want to follow.

Remi Recchia, a white, bespectacled transmasculine person with short, brown hair and a beard, smiles at the camera. He is sitting at a desk and holding up a small red book.

Remi Recchia will serve as the editor for this anthology. Recchia is a trans poet and essayist from Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is a PhD candidate in English-Creative Writing at Oklahoma State University. He currently serves as an associate editor for the Cimarron Review and Book Editor for Gasher Press. A four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Remi’s work has appeared or will soon appear in World Literature TodayBest New Poets 2021, Columbia Online JournalHarpur Palate, and Juked, among others. He holds an MFA in poetry from Bowling Green State University. Remi is the author of Quicksand/ Stargazing (Cooper Dillon Books, 2021) and Sober (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2022).

Poets in Pajamas 2023 Call for Readers

Poets in Pajamas (PiP), a Sundress Publications reading series is putting together the slate of readers for 2023 and would like to invite you to apply to read. 

Poets in Pajamas is a live-feed online reading series, hosted by Sundress Publications, which prides itself on producing high-quality poetry readings for an online audience. Readers read from their own work for fifteen minutes and then answer questions from listeners for an additional ten or fifteen.

We are interested in hearing from ALL writers (we accept both poetry and prose readers) but we also particularly want to welcome writers who identify as being a part of disenfranchised communities such as but not limited to, people of color, immigrant populations, native and indigenous people, LGBTQ+, d/Deaf and Disabled, non-binary people, members of non-dominant religious groups, all women, Dreamers, formerly incarcerated, and more. We want to host you and promote your work. 

To apply, send three poems or up to five pages of prose and a short video clip of you reading, NOT a recorded reading in front of a crowd. Please send a new video of you reading at home or in your garden, in front of your computer, or in your living room. This is NOT a call for produced sessions. Read for no more than 1 to 3 minutes (less is more), and please also attach a bio and author photo in one email to poetsinpajamas@gmail.com. Submissions close December 18, 2022.

Note: We’re NOT concerned with audio/video quality here, nor your appearance. We are looking for that magical combination wherein the poet writes wonderful words we want to hear and knows how to give a good reading in a virtual setting. Really, one to three minutes, read as you would at any reading, one poem, or one paragraph, don’t overthink. Please apply! Now more than ever, people miss getting out to readings. Plus many folks don’t have access to readings because they don’t live near a literary city/don’t have time/can’t get to them. These are the people who wouldn’t regularly be at your reading but want to see you read, and want to know and love your work. PiP would like to help you and them find one another.

Interview with Margo Berdeshevsky, Author of Kneel Said the Night

For the release of her book Kneel Said the Night, Margo Berdeshevsky spoke with intern Kaylee Young-Eun Jeong about the weaving of myth and reality, poetry and prose, to explore themes of temporality, spirituality, and womanhood.

Kaylee Young-Eun Jeong: You begin the first part of this book with an epigraph from Alice Notley: “To be dead grows on one, sweetly. Not knowing what time it is.” How do death and temporality influence the writing of Kneel Said the Night?

Margo Berdeshevsky: When did we see it coming? I know that I am afraid. And I hide it. And I can’t. So do you. I no longer know what time to call ours, or if we have lost our way in the literal and in the nonlinear. We are living, right now—in war time, in a time of yes, global ache. What time is it when fascism is rising in so many countries, and it is not the 1930s, it is now. With ugly aggression comes cruelty, and yes, death, and yes, fears, and lusts for power, and illnesses we cannot control, even as we try to love one another sweetly, and smell the rain, and believe in our own creativity, still.

When I was growing up, I often thought I was blessed to not be in a country at war. That wars were history, not our now. But I grew to understand that the wars and hatreds and ruins have never ended. They have only remerged, vermin from under old stones, and this is in our time. We try to pay attention to other things. Gardens. Sunrises. Music. Poetry. But the truth is what it is. As I write elsewhere in the book, “I am the woman who asks, how close is death, how near is God.” That question has been a deep personal and philosophical quest for me—from the past, and most certainly in the now I share with my fellow humans and yes, with readers. I try to imagine endings, and beginnings. So I wrote Kneel Said the Night with such consciousness in my being, of a world I can’t escape, as a woman, as a cynic with her eyes wide open to the world that is—and as one who still reaches out hungry for love, or sex, and that thing with feathers Emily Dickinson wrote of. “Hope.”

KYEJ: Tell me more about the way you move fluidly between first, third and even second person narration.

MB: The book, as I moved into it in the opening chapter, and later in the notes at the end, is what I call a book of “half notes.” Breaths. Fragments becoming a whole. So it made sense to me to speak in those several modes, first, second, third…as a way to embrace different points of view. Maybe facets of a shattered crystal, I could say. I wanted to build stories and poems that would break through different walls and doors. And to do so, I needed to find voice in the different characters and images. To move with a spatial and poetic prose and a harsher one, to an articulation and unexpected imagery—and to find a self, and characters that could live inside each.

KYEJ: How did you go about creating the hybrid genre of the book, moving from poetry to prose and in between?

MB: Poetry, prose, and images. Yes, they happen as a result of my larger thrust. I have a love for the hybrid approach as an artist in different mediums. I don’t like to be stuck in a single box, and I find it very interesting as a reader, and an image maker and a word maker, to break forms and expectations. That way I surprise myself, and, hopefully, the one who receives the work I can offer. As I wrote in response to a quote by Zora Neale Hurston, reiterated in the final notes at the end of the book: “The single hour cannot be—eternity. But here is its gathering—for the book that is in your hands, now.”

KYEJ: How did you select the pictures you used, and how would you want your reader to appreciate them within the context of the language?

MB: I’m a collector of my own images. I photograph, I draw, I collage, I layer, I hunt. Sometimes I have a piece of an image but I don’t yet know what I might do with it, it’s sitting on my table, or in my files, and then I wear a different hat or magic cape one morning. And I’m making a poem or a story and I remember that visual image and I go looking for it and it begins to morph in my hands as I see how it could accompany what I’m writing or have already written. I never use an image for mere show and tell. I use it to jog the way the words land. I like ambiguity, sometimes, and I like contrast, to invite left brain/ right brain side by side. As this book came together in its overall intention, I began to know what belonged and what to use, or not use. For that, I have an inner yes/no/yes—and I listen to it.

KYEJ: Tell me about your choice to use mythic, abstract elements in conjunction with more mundane aspects of ordinary life, such as gardening or texting a lover.

MB: I’m smiling as I answer this. Because all I can say honestly is: that’s just how my head works! I like collage. I like to mix. I’ve often been attracted to what is mythic and to the surreal. I’ve read and studied myths and different spiritual paths. I’m a rebel when it comes to “systems of belief.” I feel I need and want and have the freedom to pick what works for me at a given time. And to select something other, later, or next year. I’ve believed, and lapsed, and believed anew. And I’ve lost my way. But I don’t want to get locked in a box I can never get out of.

Abstract? Not so much. I’m attracted to what moves me emotionally. And what moves me, and what I tell myself I believe in has changed over time. I want to be a “believer.” But I lose my way and have to come back around from a new or different source. I’ve traveled widely in my life, I speak a few different languages, and I’ve read and explored different cultures and creation stories and spiritual explanations for our lives. I’ve had respect for each of them. Each of them becomes part of how I wonder about and look at life. And then—I long for simplicity, and silence, and daily life to lean on. I haven’t always been able to make that happen. I haven’t often had a traditional life. So yes, a garden. And yes, a lover. And yes, a text, if it has something to say and is not just blah blah blah. The mix of the ordinary and the extraordinary are tools for me.

KYEJ: What is the significance of the religious and spiritual imagery in Kneel Said the Night?

MB: I think I speak to this question in several ways just above. Blessings are everywhere, and yet so damn hard to hold or trust in. As the “description” of the book ends, it asks “who holds the winning hand?” and “who will save us?” Word images come near me, like presences—spiritual, metaphorical, hard edged and soft—insisting that I include them somehow. I think that to deal with our times these days, the spiritual element is often the elephant in the room. Religion is personal and can be addressed in myriad ways, or not at all. But our truths and/or questions are voices in the book that I, and they, pursue.

KYEJ: Can you speak about the book’s different experiences of womanhood and the ways they intersect?

MB: I’ve long cherished Sojourner Truth’s words, “Ain’t I a woman?” Because it ain’t so easy. Because the cause of freedom and a woman’s rights to be—confront us now as then, and more and more than ever.

Being a woman often comes at a deep cost to the soul. In the book I speak through different narratives of a woman’s intimate desire(s.) And her quest to know if she has learned anything in a long or a short life. If she is or can be free. If abuse or rape or just being in this world in these times—can still allow her to “fly” (metaphorically speaking.) She asks what it is or may be to grow old in a woman’s body. What frightens her. What desire and the hungers for love have led her to. What she must risk, to be held. What or who does she belong to. Where can she travel to become free. Who holds her hand. Who influences her? Dead mothers, dead fathers, available or unavailable lovers, her own shape and flesh, fame, solitudes, illnesses, death itself, or something holy? Sometimes she is preyed upon. Sometimes she turns predator. But mostly, the women I speak of in their intimacies turn to the erotic and the mythic, the poetic, the mysterious, and even to ruin. Or, joy in the play and dances of life—all to survive. And to be a woman.

KYEJ: Can you speak to the recurring birds in this book?

MB: People have noticed my inclusion of birds in my writing elsewhere. I acknowledge it. The very fact that a bird may lift from the branch, from the earth, and that in my narratives earth is sometimes a place to escape or to be saved from, makes a bird an apt symbol for me.

Maybe too it’s what I mentioned at the beginning of this interview: as one who still reaches out hungry for love, or sex, and that thing with feathers Emily Dickinson wrote of. “Hope.”

KYEJ: What is the significance of the constant father figure-like characters throughout this work?

MB: I would not say that the father figure is the constant in the work, but yes, it is a hard presence, and/or an absence. Sometimes as mythically so, as one to reach for. Sometimes, frighteningly so, as one who permits abuse. Sometimes, merely as an old death. Sometimes, but rarely so, as the patriarchal deity who might answer a question, the question. (I must add that often in the book, the mother figure-like character is written and is a constant for good or for loss or for memory or for ghost …)

Order your copy of Kneel Said the Night today


Margo Berdeshevsky, born in New York City, often lives and writes in Paris. Her latest  collection, Before the Drought, is from Glass Lyre Press and was a finalist for the National  Poetry Series. It is Still Beautiful to Hear the Heart Beat is forthcoming from Salmon  Poetry. Berdeshevsky is author as well of Between Soul & Stone and But a Passage in Wilderness (Sheep Meadow Press). Her book of illustrated stories, Beautiful Soon Enough,  received the first Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Award for FC2 (University of Alabama  Press.) For more information, kindly see margoberdeshevsky.com.

Kaylee Young-Eun Jeong is a Korean American writer, currently studying English at Columbia University. She edits for Quarto, Columbia’s official undergraduate literary magazine. A 2019 Sundress Best of the Net finalist in poetry, her work has been featured in diode, BOAAT, and Hyphen, among others. 

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: The Light We Cannot See by Anne Casey


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Kirsten Kowalewski, is from The Light We Cannot See by Anne Casey, released by Salmon Poetry in 2021.

Where gulls cry

I could tell you how the whole earth seems to end
at this one place where the land falls
cleanly into a tumultuous thundering—
the relentless roar of furious millennia crashing
iced cobalt against three hundred million years
of vertical bituminous siltstone stubbornness,
all overlaid with a violence of vivid greenness
inconceivable until witnessed, where the sky splits
open above—brewing caliginous charcoal yielding
to an inevitability of iridescence, streaming
shards spearing simmering drizzle-laden mists,
all lit as if from within with an otherworldly luminosity
approximating divinity, a scene so sharp yet ethereal,
surreal, imprinted in a part of self within but apart
that might burst from this pulsing bone-suit, this
shadow-world flesh-mantle sheerly in the act
of reliving that reminiscence. I could tell you
all of that or I could say how much this exiled

soul aches for home.

Originally from the west of Ireland and living in Sydney, Anne Casey is author of five poetry collections. A journalist and legal author for 30 years, her work is widely published internationally, ranking in The Irish Times‘ Most Read. Anne has won literary awards in Ireland, Australia, the UK, Canada, Hong Kong and the USA, most recently American Writers Review 2021 and the Henry Lawson Prize 2022. She is the recipient of an Australian Government scholarship and a bursary for her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney where she researches and teaches.

Kirsten Kowalewski is the editor for online horror fiction review resource Monster Librarian. She has an MLS and a specialist certificate in school library media from Indiana University, has worked as a children’s librarian and elementary school media specialist, and is a lifelong reader.

The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Her Kind by Cindy Veach


This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Kirsten Kowalewski, is from Her Kind by Cindy Veach, released by CavanKerry Press in 2021.

You’ve Got to Deny, Deny, and Push
Back on These Women

               A woman’s adultery is a very serious attack on the honor and
               dignity of a man.

               —Judge Neto de Moura of the Porto Court of Appeals

content warning for violence

And still they pick up a stone. And still they throw a stone.
Because the woman. The woman.

Mr. Judge. The Honorable. Sets him free.
After all, his honor. Infinite

these one-sided stones
though John wrote what Jesus said—

how no one touched a stone.
And still they pick up a stone. And still they throw a stone.

Because asking for it. She was asking.
She was the cause.

Because of clothes
on her body clothesline

in a spring breeze. Golden sunshine.
Fresh. So fresh.

Because not a dedicated wife.
Not, not, not.

Jesus spoke. John wrote.
No one touched a stone.

And still they pick up a stone. And still they throw a stone.
Because the woman. The woman deserved it.

Cindy Veach is the author of Her Kind (CavanKerry Press) a finalist for the 2022 Eric Hoffer Montaigne Medal, Gloved Against Blood (CavanKerry Press), a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and a Massachusetts Center for the Book ‘Must Read,’ and the chapbook, Innocents (Nixes Mate). Her poems have appeared in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-DayAGNI, Michigan Quarterly Review, Poet Lore and Salamander among othersCindy is the recipient of the Philip Booth Poetry Prize and the Samuel Allen Washington Prize. She is co-poetry editor of MER (Mom Egg Review). 

Kirsten Kowalewski is the editor for online horror fiction review resource Monster Librarian. She has an MLS and a specialist certificate in school library media from Indiana University, has worked as a children’s librarian and elementary school media specialist, and is a lifelong reader.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents December Poetry Xfit

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present Poetry Xfit hosted by Denise R. Ervin. This generative workshop event will take place on Sunday, December 18 from 2 to 4 pm EST via Zoom. Join us at the link tiny.utk.edu/sundress with password “safta”.

Poetry Xfit isn’t about throwing tires or heavy ropes, but the idea of confusing our muscles is the same. This generative workshop series will give you prompts, rules, obstructions, and more to write three poems in two hours. Writers will write together for thirty minutes, be invited to share new work, and then given a new set of prompts. The idea isn’t that we are writing perfect final drafts, but instead creating clay that can then be edited and turned into art later. Prose writers are also welcome to attend!

Denise R. Ervin is a creative writer hewn from the streets, classrooms, and boardrooms of the city of Detroit. Formally educated in both literature and business, she has served in corporate America by day and as an adjunct college professor by night. Her work focuses on the experiences of those who look, live, and love like her. As a teaching artist, she has spent nearly two decades performing around the country, publishing in online and print journals like AADUNA and Harbinger Asylum, crafting full-length novel projects, and leading online workshops. Most recently, Denise won a United States of Writing Grant from Poets & Writers and was selected as a Writing Fellow by The Watering Hole. In addition to serving as Literary Arts Director for Sundress Academy for the Arts, her short story “Numbers” was recently published in The Fire Inside Volume 2, an anthology from Zora’s Den.

While this is a free event, donations can be made to the Sundress Academy for the Arts here: https://sundress-publications.square.site/product/donate-to-sundress/107?cs=true

Each month our donations help to serve people in our community. This month we are fundraising for support grants for Black and/or Indigenous identifying writers to help cover the costs of food, travel, childcare, or any other needs while they attend the SAFTA residency. 100% of this month’s donations will support this program.

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents “Narrative Medicine”

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to present Narrative Medicine, a workshop led by Allison Coffelt on December 14, 2022, from 6-7:30 PM. This event will be held over Zoom. Participants can access the event at tiny.utk.edu/sundress (password: safta).

In this workshop, we will introduce the field of narrative medicine and read and write together. We will explore how the skills of close reading and witnessing connect to the narrative medicine principles of attention, representation, and affiliation. This session is ideal for people who are in and around caregiving and health care, broadly defined—and welcomes those who are newer to writing and expressive arts. Together we will create an environment in which we tap into our innate creativity, and then draw connections between that creativity and care work.

While there is no fee to participate in this workshop, those who are able and appreciative may make donations directly to Allison Coffelt via Venmo @allisoncoffelt

Allison Coffelt is an author and teacher working at the intersection of health and humanities. Her writing and audio production has been featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association, BMJ Medical Humanities, NPR’s KBIA-FM, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. She is the author of the award-winning book, Maps Are Lines We Draw: A Road Trip through Haiti. Coffelt is a SAFTA alumnx and holds an MS in Narrative Medicine from Columbia University and an MA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Missouri. She teaches at Columbia University and Baypath University’s MFA.

Sundress Reads: Review of How to Identify Yourself with a Wound

When every social category marks you for harm, you may find it “best to identify yourself with a wound / Preferably before they even happen.” At least, KB’s speaker first confronts pain in this way in their award-winning poetic debut, How to Identify Yourself with a Wound (Kallisto Gaia Press, 2022). Spanning two decades across as many Texas cities, How to Identify Yourself with a Wound chronicles one Black transmasculine person’s nonlinear healing journey. These full-throated poems, while wholly KB’s own, capture the incalculable complexities of contemporary survival. 

In “self-portrait as Frank Ocean song about drugs,” one of the chapbook’s earliest poems, the speaker contends with their attraction to “un-out women […] who only see me / with a devil’s sickle resting on their left shoulder.” Their lovers, deeming queer masculinity a corrupting force, retreat into the closet, relegating trysts to car seats and street corners. At the same time, the speaker only pursues women “with daddy issues, unstable self-images, & blunts dipped / in promethazine,” cementing their eventual disposal. 

Subsequent poems explore similar tensions within the speaker’s relationships. In “First Boyfriend,” the speaker considers their high school relationship’s relative health in contrast to its age gap and explosive conclusion. However, upon receiving a Facebook friend request from their ex-boyfriend, the speaker observes, “he had three children with / women multiple years younger than me.” Then, in “Notes on Sexual Experiment,” they reengage in sexual relationships with men, goading “love to make a mockery” of their lesbian identity. However, their curiosity collapses beneath their discomfort, leading them to excise themselves from their male lovers’ lives.

As Tim Kreider states in his oft-quoted essay, “I Know What You Think of Me,” “We don’t give other people credit for the same interior complexity we take for granted in ourselves, the same capacity for holding contradictory feelings in balance, for complexly alloyed affections, for bottomless generosity of heart and petty, capricious malice.” I love how KB refuses this easy sentiment in each and every piece. After all, as the speaker proposes in “Pre-Top Surgery Pantoum,” “To be alive is to be scarred & riddled with problems. / To be dead is to give up on ideas for birth.” Here, KB’s speaker recognizes these contradictions in themselves—and extends this understanding to their subjects’ full humanity. 

you’ll never know what your mother went through” best exemplifies KB’s aptitude for empathetic characterization. Presented in the form of a numbered list, “you’ll never know what your mother went through” explores the speaker’s relationship to their semi-estranged birth mother. Here, the speaker notes, “My therapist defines me as a person that mothers all of their partners. I offer selves that I never owned—a name, a tongue, a moment of time—to a partner in efforts to cosplay intimacy.” Cycles of pseudo-motherhood manifest in their romantic entanglements, dooming them to inevitable failure. It is only through self-acceptance and introspection that the speaker frees themselves from this repetition.

Finally, in the chapbook’s sole dedicated poem, “How to Identify Yourself with a Wound (2020),” the speaker finds themselves “yearning & receiving isolation in return” in the first days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, a new lover appears out of the silence, “Fighting local grocers & restroom signs / & tears back for me; filling places in my body that I didn’t know knew empty.” In contrast to their previous paramours, this lover treats the speaker as neither adversary nor parent, but as a partner with whom they can navigate conflict. In cherishing their scars as a part of their personhood, their lover embraces commitment’s necessary difficulties. 

How to Identify Yourself with a Wound is a gorgeous exercise in candor, a perfect display of authentic existence without surrendering to popular consumerist ideals of “authenticity.” I adore how KB ensures even their most morbid moments are infused with hope. In “When the Lights Shut Off,” the chapbook’s final poem, the speaker considers their own inevitable death in the context of lineage and community. Arm in arm, they harmonize with a departed friend, “I hurt but I love you much / I promise / better is coming.


How to Identify Yourself with a Wound is available at Kallisto Gaia Press


Fox Auslander is a nonbinary poet and editor based in West Philadelphia. They serve as the editor-in-chief of Delicate Friend, an intimate arts and literature magazine, and one of three lead poetry editors at Alien Magazine, a literary hub for outsiders. Their work appears or is forthcoming in beestungVoicemail PoemsEunoia Review, and beyond. They believe trans love will save the world.