Each Gutsy Redecorated Cell: Wren Hanks’s The Rise of Genderqueer

by Nov 4, 2018Book Reviews

 

Marginalized people are tasked with living in a society that wants them dead; and genderqueer/trans folks in particular have shockingly high rates of suicide and suicidal ideation. WrenHanks’s response to this reality is as radical as it is effective—pillaging the language of those who seek to dehumanize him and refashioning it into a glorious declaration of vitality and tenderness. Then, having shattered society’s warped mirror, Hanks is able to reflect trans life in all its cacophonous glory.

Hanks responds to would-be oppressors in a voice that’s both playful and incisive, asking in “Dear Daddy Pence, meet me at Olive Garden,” “how long it’s been / really / since one look / at a man’s / brought your pulse up.” There’s catharsis in this reversal, and strength in embracing and flexing the outsized power homophobes ascribe to queer folks, as in “Dear Daddy Pence, A List of My Luminous Indiscretions,” where Hanks asserts, “Daddy, I’m coming / for your daughters / I’m coming for your sons / coming for the dog-whistle genders / in between.”

The collection’s long, titular poem takes a similar tack, repurposing the literal language of dehumanization in the form of the hate group Family Research Council’s “Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement,” and stitching it together with an article about bacteria in corpses by Peter Andrey Smith. This allows for reclamation in engaging with the Council’s language of fear and bursting it apart from the inside, asking, “walk with me into the garden shine like a ribbon snake,” and musing, “If I were Adam I’d be so afraid of these divisions.” There’s humor here too in moments like, “Two psychologically healthy people holding each other close / thinking we, in all of nature, are simple.”

Tender and brutal, luminous and dark, raucous and gutting, Hanks’ poems are so alive that you can almost hear their heartbeat. The true gift of this collection, however, is its deep vulnerability. When the world is set on your destruction, it’s a marvel to stay soft, to be present in a body you’re constantly told is an abomination, and that’s exactly what Hanks does with poems like “The Ghost Incites a Genderqueer Pledge of Allegiance,” where “I place my hand on my bound chest, pledge allegiance to the rashes and the scales, the fold and petal.” This language of the natural world runs through the entire collection, and it’s radical in the face of a narrative that trans bodies are unnatural or a rejection of nature. In “Spring Tells Me,” the speaker asserts, “One day I will not hate myself for being a man.” In fact, Hanks takes it a step further, declaring in “The Rise of Genderqueer (Addendum 1), “I am nature, walking past your mirror, / glory hanging from each gutsyredecorated cell.” This is a glorious and gutsy collection that reclaims the trans body and the self from narratives that would seek to demean and destroy it, and it’s a gift to all of us in the search for liberation.

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Wow! We had the best time at this past Sunday's reading with the San Francisco Public Library Thank you so much to our fantastic readers—@emo.ocean (Lio Min), @real_james_cagney, @charliejaneanders, and Lydia Elias—for sharing their incredible writing and starting a warm dialogue on the importance of queer spaces.We'd also like to give a huge shoutout to the amazing folks who helped make our event as accessible as possible! Thank you to our ASL interpreters Heidi Woelbling and Benny Llamas, and to our live-captioner Jen Schuck. We're so grateful for your hard work!Keep an eye out for a recording of this event on the SFPL Youtube page! We'll announce when it's ready. Until then, please go follow and support these writers and their work!Image Description: A screenshot of a Zoom room with Lio Min, James Cagney, Lydia Elias, and Charlie Jane Anders. They are all smiling and listening to each other. There is some closed captioning towards the bottom, that says "I'm really struck by how much vulnerability you all shared. As a writer, I'm curious how you know when you're ready to put a story to the page?" End description. ... See MoreSee Less
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Our virtual reading with the San Francisco Public Library is tomorrow! Join us at 2PM PT for Generational Treasures: An Afternoon of Queer and Trans Storytelling.This fantastic event will feature James Cagney, Lio Min, Charlie Jane Anders, and Lydia Elias! RSVP here: on.sfpl.org/foglifterFoglifter is excited to collaborate with @sfpubliclibrary for Generational Treasures: An Afternoon of Queer and Trans Storytelling! Join us on Sunday, September 25th at 2PM PT for a virtual reading with @charliejaneanders, @emo.ocean, @real_james_cagney, Lydia Elias. In mainstream society, when we hear the word "generations" we may immediately presume biological progeniture. In the Queer/trans community, however, generations can refer to chosen family, drag mothers, drag dads, ball houses, aesthetic legacies, just to name a few. In either context, generations suggest an era. Foglifter has invited four writers—Charlie Jane Anders, James Cagney, Lydia Elias, and Lio Min—who span generations to illustrate their "era" and the power of queer/trans literature. Live-captioning and ASL interpretation will be provided. RSVP here: on.sfpl.org/foglifterSee you then! Image Description: This is an invitation for the reading, “Generational Treasures: An Afternoon of Queer and Trans Storytelling,” presented by the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center & Foglifter Journal and Press. This free and virtual reading will take place on Sunday, September 25th at 2PM PT. The photos of James Cagney, Lio Min, Charlie Jane Anders, and Lydia Elias are in the middle of the graphic. The SFPL and Foglifter logos are on the bottom. This background has a colorful gradient of pastel hues and various shapes and swirls, with a square containing all of the text and photos in the middle. ... See MoreSee Less
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There's just ONE WEEK until IT CAME FROM THE CLOSET is available wherever books are sold!!! Have you ordered your copy yet? https://bit.ly/3xAnz9k @joevallese @homohorror

WWS Around Town: This Saturday join this workshop with traci kato-kiriyama (@traciakemi) at @BBLitArts from 12pm-4pm.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/navigating-without-instruments-a-workshop-with-traci-kato-kiriyama-tickets-400498530887

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