DANGEROUS SWEETNESS is an online collection of poems by queer & trans* poets responding
with love & rage to the violence committed against those in their queer & trans* communities.
When I began talking to other queer & trans* poets about how they & their communities were responding to what felt, to many of us, like a considerable up-swell in publicized violence against queer & trans* folks around the country, both Mollie Olgin & Mary Kristene Chapa were still alive. Brandy Martell had just been murdered a few blocks from where I once lived in Oakland & while Facebook was frequently littered with posts about white, gay, teen suicides & murder after murder of trans* women of color, it seemed especially challenging for the poets with whom I was in conversation to respond to all this violence in a way that felt at all industrious. As one poet said to me in a voicemail not long after Martell was shot, “Forget grief, I need them to stop killing us long enough for me to catch my breath.”
Up until the shooting of Mollie & Mary Kristene in Texas, very few poets had expressed interest in using their craft to respond. But when the story broke, poems written in response started popping up on my Facebook feed almost immediately, taking on the form of mini-devotions, long epistles to the folks of Portland, Texas, and, like Terisa Siagatonu’s poem, included in this collection, full pieces crafted by folks insistent on being heard. Just as is the case with this online anthology, some poems were written in response to Mollie’s murder & others were written previously in reaction to other instances of violence. Amir Rabiyah, from whose poem this collection gratefully culls its name, posted a piece he read at the Stories of Queer Diaspora show as part of the National Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco.
My inbox flooded with replies when I reached out to queer & trans* poets across the country, asking them to join me in writing poems responding to the ongoing violence against our queer & trans* kin. Countless poets wrote to me about how their queer & trans* communities seemed literally stunned (& sometimes numbed) by the ongoing tickertape of assaults & murders. At least half wrote about violence that had happened in their immediate communities in the last few months. Many folks – & especially the poets I contacted who identify as trans* women – wanted to be in conversation, but felt it was too soon to personally formulate a creative response. For others, the response couldn’t happen soon enough. Twenty-four of those poets – trans* men, trans* women, lesbians, gays, genderqueer folks, femmes & femmesharks, hucks, bois, & queers – are featured here, responding through love & rage with fierce & fragile poems about the dangerous sweetness of being alive while others are not.
I want to encourage you to read these poems in a place that makes you feel supported & safe. Many of these poems directly mention (some with more detail than others) violent crimes, while others evoke different kinds of force & power. Please do what you need to in order to take care of yourself & be sure to offer trigger warnings when reading these poems to others.
I also want to encourage you to read these poems in whatever way feels most empowering for you. Read them alone. Read them with a friend. Read them to your kids at the dinner table. Grieve. Celebrate. Rally. Heal. Share these poems with your students or your teachers or your landlord. Read one into a parent’s voicemail or email one to a sibling. Read them while you hold each other. Read them as a way to hold each other up. Gather friends together to light candles & talk about the violence your community endures as well as the violence your community perpetuates. Talk about partner violence & the violence of misogyny in queer & trans* communities. Talk about police violence in your town or city & the way both the medical industrial complex & the prison industrial complex heft their weight against us. Gather community together to write your own poems & create your own responses in whatever language or medium feels most real to your experience.
And when you do, feel free to tell us about it. Share what you’ve been doing & how you’ve been responding in your own community: dangeroussweetness AT gmail DOT com
This collection launches forty-six years after the Compton Cafeteria riots in San Francisco, California; forty-three years after the Stonewall riots began in Greenwich Village; thirty-eight years after the DSM-II removed homosexuality as a category of disorder; thirty-four years after Harvey Milk was murdered in San Francisco; twenty-four years after Rebecca Wight & Claudia Brenner were shot on the Appalachian Trail; nineteen years after Brandon Teena was raped & murdered in Humboldt, Nebraska; fifteen years after The Otherside Lounge in Atlanta was bombed for being a lesbian bar; fourteen years after Matthew Shepard was tortured & murdered in Laramie, Wyoming; nearly twelve years after the DSM-IV began calling gender variance a disorder; ten years after Gwen Araujo was beaten & murdered in Newark, California; less than a year after an overabundance of queer teen suicides received uncanny media attention in nearly each of the fifty states; less than six months after Paige Clay was murdered in Chicago & Coko Williams was murdered in East Detroit & Brandy Martell was murdered in Oakland; less than five months after Mark Aguhar killed herself in Chicago; less than three months after CeCe McDonald was sentenced to forty-one months in prison; and less than a month after Mollie Olgin & Mary Kristene Chapa were found in a park in Texas with gunshot wounds to the head.
And still, there are so many others. Shelley Hilliard in Detroit. Max Pelofske in Minnesota. Joshua Wilkerson in Pearland, Texas. Daniel Fetty in Waverly, Ohio. Sakie Gunn in Newark, New Jersey. Roxanne Ellis & Michelle Abdill in Medford, Oregon. The group of forty gays & lesbians murdered in Iraq earlier this year, and just this week, a young girl in Louisville, Kentucky attacked by four adults for being “a very proud lesbian girl.” There are acts of violence committed against people whose faces will never end up on the news, whose bodies will never be found, &, because of a variety of systems of violence & oppression, whose absence may not even be missed: in our cities & in our communities, in our chosen families & in our homes. In our beds. In the mirror. These poets call those people up & refuse to forget them. We honor them with our grief, our fury, our love, our words, & our lives.
Many of the poets featured in DANGEROUS SWEETNESS were also a part of the February 14, 2012 project, GLITTER TONGUE, organized by Oliver Bendorf, Tamiko Beyer, Ching-In Chen, Meg Day, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, & Margaret Rhee; thanks to each of you for your support around this extension of your original idea & for your camaraderie from all parts of the world. Huge thanks, also, to copy editor Marie Duffin, without whose sharp eye & insistence on consistency, DANGEROUS SWEETNESS would look a proper hot mess. xo