Five years ago this year I published the immeasurable fold, a selection of my best poems written from 2000-2015. Several years later during the pandemic, I recorded audio versions of all 42 poems in the book. I combined spoken word with original compositions and soundscapes to create a unique musical and literary experience. Now I am excited to release an album of those tracks.Read More
I like to ask ChatGPT to interpret my poems, curious about what meaning it might pull out. Sometimes I’ve even given it abstract and surreal poems, expecting it to hallucinate something totally off the wall. But, virtually every time, it comes back with an impressive interpretation.
I find this reassuring. It gives me confidence to know that if an AI can pull meaning out of a poem that aligns with my intentions as the poet, then I must have successfully imbued that meaning within the text in the first place. And I know it’s not merely copying what someone else has said because typically, I’ve shown it poems that have yet to be published but never even seen by anyone other than me.
So, asking ChatGPT for its thoughts on a published poem you may have read and sharing that with you would be interesting. I chose “sutras,” published in Amethyst Review. Here’s what it had to say, unedited.Read More
i’ll be 44 years old this year. all the things they say about midlife crises seem to be true. it’s a thing. i haven’t been myself, creative or otherwise, for quite some time. the pandemic, middle age, and work circumstances all collided, smashed together, split apart, ripped me in two. i’m still trying to put things back together.Read More
When Dudgrick Bevins and luke kurtis met in NYC in the mid-2010s and discovered they were originally from the same area of northwest Georgia, they knew an eventual collaboration would make sense. Both were born in the same town, though from different generations. Both made art based on their upbringing in rural Appalachia. Both knew what it was like to be rejected by family, friends, and their communities. The resulting collaboration was a 2017 chapbook titled Georgia Dusk, followed by more books by Bevins and edited/designed by kurtis.
Five years later, both the lives of these artists and the world at large have evolved. But the spirit of their collaboration remains the same. The pair came together to record their poetry just before the pandemic. kurtis later composed the accompanying music. And here we are—five years since the original book—with a spoken word EP celebrating the artists, who they were then, who they are now, and who they are becoming. After all, a life well lived and art well made is in continual transformation.
I was eager to talk with the gracious and witty Anastasia Walker, trans writer and photographer, to learn more about her transition and the inspiration behind her new book, The Girl Who Wasn’t and Is.
SK: Let’s start with the essay that concludes your book because reading it brought everything together for me. You express a longstanding distrust of cameras, yet you thrive in the medium of photography. How does your reappropriation of the medium help shift viewers’ perspectives?
AW: The selfie that essay starts with is a good place to begin. I took it when I was still finding myself and getting comfortable being out. Selfies, as part of the genre of portrait photography, and paintings before that, are informed by cis-normative conventions. A “good” selfie shows you looking and acting in ways that are typical for cis members of your gender. For women, it means meeting standards of beauty set by the movie and fashion industries. Becoming aware of these expectations, I was confronted with questions. Should I try to summon the smile that my friend in the essay chastised me about? Did performing all those expectations feel authentic? In that moment, it didn’t. And I liked that selfie because I was appropriating the genre to express my truth.Read More
I had gone away to spend some time out of the city. We booked a house near the sea because it seemed like a relaxing spot. The goal was to disconnect for a while, spend less time looking at screens all day. I took some creative supplies with me, markers and pencils and such, with the vague idea of, should inspiration strike, being creative in an analog way. And, of course, making photos. But I had no grand plan. I didn’t intend to develop a new project. So this is definitely a case of the work finding me instead of me finding it.
The drawings, poems, and photos I made essentially describe my experience that week. I’m literally talking about hanging out by the beach for a few days, trying to recover from a stressful time. On the surface, it’s not so profound. But it’s the mundanity that makes it relatable. I used that simplicity to tap into the subconscious.
After I got back home and realized I had created all this stuff, I wondered what I might do with it. I put together the video art and designed an experience meant to be seen in person, projected in a dark room with surround sound. I even set up a small screen prototype. The work created exactly the immersive and meditative environment I was going for. But given the pandemic, trying to plan an in-person exhibition didn’t feel right. So I began to consider what I could do digitally.
I’ve always been more comfortable in cyberspace, so it’s sort of odd I never did a digital exhibition before. But the pandemic has changed the ways we connect. Besides, I’ve always been somewhat reclusive and find it challenging to communicate with people in person, making digital spaces more effective. So, I hope other people are more open to this way of connecting than they might have been in the past.
It would be easy to think of an online exhibition as an inferior substitute for something else. But I don’t feel that way about this at all. In fact, I’m excited that I can beam this work into your home, no matter where you are in the world.
Please join me and explore seaside magic from your corner of cyberspace. I hope you will approach it with intention and feel the same sense of calm that I felt while making it.
We’re excited to tell you about the newest title in our ongoing series of poetry books. The Girl Who Wasn’t and Is is the debut collection by trans poet Anastasia Walker. Anastasia is a phenomenal poet with almost obsessive attention to detail that informs every word, syllable, and punctuation mark to the point that her poems are bolted together with architectural precision. Her photographs of the natural world and other surroundings, by contrast, are loose and free, the perfect pairing.
Often deeply personal, Anastasia’s poems explore not only her identity as a transgender woman but also her relationships with her family, the experiences of friends and allies, as well as her community’s ongoing quest for justice and dignity.Read More
The other day I watched a video about how time seems to go by faster the older we get. I definitely feel that. Where does the time go?
As time moves on, I like to mark the milestones along the way.
It’s the second November of the pandemic. That’s kind of a milestone. How many more Novembers before the old ways begin to fade? I already feel that to some extent and mostly feel comfortable with a new way of living, working, and being. Next November, certain things about the before times will seem even more distant. But there is also a sadness.Read More
In the sweaty New York City July heat, I sat down with my friend and colleague, Dudgrick Bevins. We talked about his new poetry volume, Vigil, exploring a new generation’s relationship with school shootings and the unheard voices breathing desperately into a chorus of narrative poetry. Bevins is not only a prolific interdisciplinary artist and poet but a fellow educator. Here he reflects on what it means to navigate the role of teacher when talking to students about gun violence while still processing the chaotic internal emotions that each individual experiences in the aftermath of traumatic school shootings.Read More
How to see art and architecture without leaving home
I’m so excited to tell you about my newest project, Springtime in Byzantium. This book was initially scheduled for release last year but was delayed by the pandemic, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it allowed me to take the project to the next level. It’s what happens when you give an artist more time—we’re bound to come up with another idea! (That’s not always a good thing for editors, but when you are the editor… well, that’s the way things go).
This project has been many years in development and is near and dear to my heart. It’s a bit different from what I’ve published before. It’s also the first title by me in the bd Artists’ Books collection. Up until now, I’ve focused on my role as editor and designer of the series. But now, I am joining the ranks to give you something of my own.Read More
Both of our bellies full of watermelon, I sat down with Michael Harren to talk about The Animal Book, the book that archives The Animal Show, which in turn archives Michael’s multimedia artistic stylings, animal activism, and the culmination of the two: his vibrant, evoking artivism. I was eager to hear about the melding of such diverse methods, but also what lies behind them—the man, the emotion, the existential uncertainty. Michael shared his grief and joys with me in a humorous, self-effacing way.Read More
Twenty years ago this month, I published my first book, like an angel dead in your arms. It was a flawed collection. And really, what else could it be? I wrote much of it while I was still in high school. The book’s imperfection and immaturity are why I distanced myself from it over the years. But a few years back, when I realized the twentieth anniversary was coming up, I challenged myself to reconsider it. When I re-read it, I found, certain shortcomings aside, it was a pretty solid piece of work with strong conceptual underpinnings. I managed to pull together a pile of words that simultaneously shared my experiences as a young gay person rejected by his family and the ensuing struggles with identity, self-worth, romance, and religion, and combined it all with a poetic sense of imagination.Read More
I reached out to the artists and poets I’ve published to see how everybody is doing during the pandemic. Some of us are creating, some of us are crying, and some of us (most of us?) are somewhere in between, depending on the day. The state of the world is a lot to process. But we are here. We are well. We are wearing masks. We are hunkering down and taking the situation seriously. I thought it would be fun to share photos of us all masked-up, socially distanced, and going about our days. Here we are, the masked artists & poets of bd-studios.comRead More