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trans poetry: a meta methodology
a poem becomes meta when it shows explicit awareness of its own categorisation. for me a meta metaphor is when a poem’s conformity to, or deviance from, the conventions of that categorisation - a poem’s form - a book’s binding, a piece’s materiality, or a concept’s packaging - frames, colours or augments the content of the piece and carries meaning beyond the content of the poem itself.
as a trans femme, i am excruciatingly aware of the categorisations and the expectations to which my body and soul are systemically subjected. whether it be passing as cis, straight, or neurotypical, passing is the art of perfecting the packaging, and how i package my self, my body, and my story - my experiences - is inextricable from my stories.
denied the representations of our selves, forced to bear the weight and shame of not living up to saccharine modeled roles, queers are left no choice but to deconstruct and reappropriate forms of media we are exposed to.
we understand exquisitely the costs and benefits of adhering to and deviating from conventional forms and expectations - we must constantly temper our need to package ourselves and or stories to attract our fellow queers with the possibility of attracting the wrong kind of attention. we have to package ourselves perfectly to be safe - but once perfected, packaging becomes a perfect playground for subversion.
meta affords me the space to step back and reframe and recontextualise my experiences. how meta manifests in any one piece depends very much upon the medium - and what i am processing and need to express.
part 1: have you ever meta haiku?
lockdown 1 in march 2020 prompted in me, the simultaneous experiencing and observing of my micro, and our society’s macro systems, under intense pressure. i started writing what i came to call ‘meta haiku’ - 17 syllabled, 3 lined poems in which the use, or willful misuse of the haiku form carries with it a deeper level of meta metaphor to explore the greater implications of systems, of language, convention, conformity, iteration, and aberration.
part 2: this is my body, be fucking careful…
in late 2019, i had started deconstructing narrative storytelling with what started as a spoken word piece titled, ‘i remember this one time’. it is a series of 40 or so vignettes from my life, told as truly as i could, in what i call ‘metric prose’ - prose poetry that has all the hall marks of being poetic - metre and rhythm - alliteration, occasional rhymes - yet feels like natural speech. the pieces have no specific order - to perform them, i reorder them depending upon the context or onus of the performance setting, the mood i am in, the story i need to tell on that day, regardless of the order in which they were written and/or experienced.
on a meta level, this is a metaphor for the role of association in memory recall. we do not remember linearly - how our memories cascade from one to the next is very much dependent upon the context of their recall - who we are talking to, what we are talking about and what we are feeling all impact the associative paths our minds may wander in our recounting.
on another level, it is a metaphor for queer narrative - for my trans narrative. after coming out at 38, i had to recontextualise my memories and experiences, i had to reorder them, reunderstand them through the new linguistic lenses of dysphoria, euphoria, dysmorphia, socialisation, and assignation.
in early 2020, ‘i remember this one time’ became a book - a collection of unbound single poems per single pages, held together between two covers and bound with a ribbon.
by the time covid locked us down in 2020, i had started to further deconstruct the concept of book, of page, and of physicality of poetry. i started making what i came to call, ‘book shaped kinetic poetry sculptures’, concrete, interactive poems that require the reader to haptically engage with for the words to appear by use of pull out tabs. whether it be a rock bottom that keeps on digging into the page, a contraddiction in form, or a codependent ‘i’ moving further and further away from my ‘self’, it is in this medium that my concept of ‘meta haiku’ has most consistently manifested. while each poem has it's own individual mechanism and meta conceptual philosophy, they are all underpinned by the concept that:
these are trans poems
this is my body
be fucking careful
but do it right
and we're going to have a really good time
if you approach these pieces with preconceived notions of what a 'book', a 'page', a 'poem', or a ‘body like mine’, is, then we will not get very far and something - or someone - will likely get damaged.
if you approach them with the willingness to engage with them gently and at my pace, to entertain a concept of page - of body - outside of standardised conventions - and are willing to do the work, we really will have a really good time.
part 3: bitter pills and poetry
despite lockdown only allowing us out of our home for the bare minimums of human contact, each time i left my apartment i was subjected without fail to transmisogynistic aggressions, always at the hands of, or from the lips of, men.
i processed these experiences by making absurdist objects - by taking the objects of my day to day life and emblazoning them with the statement ‘i fucking hate men’.
i call these pieces absurdist because it is utterly absurd that there is barely an aspect of our day to day life, that is not explicitly and/or implicitly imbued with, or coloured by, patriarchal ideals. the products we are dependent upon for hygiene, nourishment, productivity, or entertainment have come into our lives because men could profit from them. the overheads that dictated an object’s production or form have been dictated by the need for men to further consolidate their wealth, power, and influence.
i have been given no agency or consideration whatsoever over the heteronormative propaganda to which i have been exposed for as long as i have breathed. i find it entirely appropriate then that i should reclaim those patriarchal objects and imbue them with anti patriarchal slogans.
over the weeks and months of lockdown 1, the need to release and transmute the anger of being hurt so systematically into something whimsical and absurd - transmuted itself into a manifesto - my trans manifesto - an explanation of my pieces, a reckoning with masculinity, and a call to do. the. work.
gorjeoux moon 2022