This list is born out of a desire to meet and connect with other trans* writers and performers. As a person in the midst of not only a gender transition but a literary transition, I find myself watching other trans* performance poets more and more each day. I’m learning from their content, presentation, and even the slightest movements of their mouths. I feel honored to have shared spaces and stages with so many of the brightest and bravest truth-tellers that the current queer slam scene has to offer.
One of my only regrets in putting this list together is that I can’t provide the text to all of these poems for my friends who are deaf and hard of hearing. If I could change one thing about the way that we do slam, it would be to make events more accessible overall. I’m mostly referring to ASL interpreters and stages without steps. There are of course more accommodations that can and should be made. These ten incredible poets are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of of the potential of trans slam poets to create more honest, inclusive spaces.
1. Gabe Moses
Gabe and I met at Capturing Fire, Washington, DC’s queer slam poetry summit. We bonded pretty much instantly over growing up disabled, trans, and Jewish. Not many people write like Gabe does, with an almost painful intricacy and vulnerability.
2. J Mase III
Mase and I also met at Capturing Fire and also bonded pretty damn quickly. He hosts “Cupid Ain’t Shit,” an anti-Valentine’s Day open mic and runs a queer interfaith discussion group on Twitter. Follow #qfaith for more on that. Speaking of faith-related topics, this poem “Josephine” is probably my favorite piece of Bible-influenced literature ever written. Take that, Paradise Lost!
3. Alan Ginsberg
No, not that Allen Ginsberg. Though, if I dare say it, this Ginsberg is one of the best minds of our generation. I mean, who else comes up with a line like, “The kindling in my hips is just embers now?” They weave grotesque imagery into unflinching, heart-wrenching honesty.
4. Dayna “Alley Cat” Smith
Trigger Warning: Partner abuse
Okay, so I’m singing the praises of yet another Capturing Fire family member. Meeting an older trans woman poet, especially one as talented and outspoken as Dayna, was a huge confidence booster. This poem is three solid minutes of hard-hitting reality. I do want to provide a warning here – people who’ve been abused by partners after coming out to them as trans might find this very upsetting. Dayna manages to say all of this without so much as wincing.
5. Cam Awkward-Rich
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Cam yet, but whenever I do, I hope it’s an opportunity to read together followed by an opportunity to talk for a long time. Bravo to him for tackling the complexities of race, gender, and sexuality tactfully while delivering a swift punch to the gut in every line.
6. Miles Walser
The sharpness of contrast between the first half of this poem and the second is enough to get a few good conversations on transmisogyny started. The thing is, though, it makes me hungry for an entire poem from the perspective of the girl who is the subject of the second half.
7. Ollie Renee Schminkey
Trigger warning: Eating disorders, self-hate
Body positivity, inside and out, is no easy task and Ollie takes it head on, spitting vitriol back in the faces of oppressors and coming offstage unfazed. If a judge wanted to be stingy, they could give Ollie a 9.9, but a 10 would be more realistic. Ollie is another person I’d love to share a stage with one day.
8. Dane Figueroa Edidi
Dane Edidi is a renaissance woman. Actress, singer, playwright, poet, priestess, and all around amazing human, I’m so proud to have shared the stage with her several times and call her a personal friend. She’s working on a musical called “Roaring,” about a black trans jazz singer in the 1920’s and has a novel out called Yemaya’s Daughters. She is doing big things and it won’t be long until she’s making waves nationally and internationally.
Like Cam’s poem, this one tackles race, masculinity, tradition, and transition with intensity and a heartfelt personal touch. The text of this poem can be found in one of the comments on YouTube. This kid’s so good that I’m actually intimidated to perform with them. If the opportunity presents itself, I definitely won’t turn it down!
10. Wyatt Kat Fleckenstein
The speaker in this poem has something that a lot of us don’t: a supportive parent. They don’t take that relationship for granted, flaws and all, which is incredibly touching. Wyatt’s frank, matter-of fact delivery is refreshing, as some spoken word poets rely so heavily on the cadence and volume of their voices that their messages get lost.
Editor’s note: Last, but not least, the staff here at Bluestockings wants to highlight the work of our staff writer, Tyler Vile. Tyler’s in the middle of a self-described “transition from page to stage” so check this piece out & keep a look out for live performances this fall.
Feature Image via Campus Pride