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Grounded in protest and solidarity, Subhaga Crystal Bacon’s Isabella Gardner Award-winning Transitory is a collection of elegies memorializing 46 transgender and gender-nonconforming people murdered in the US and Puerto Rico in 2020.
Epistolary in nature, these commemorative poems are “gleaned sketches” attempting to reconstruct lives and deaths from the typically scarce information made available on the internet. Interspersed with the elegies are personal explorations of gender identities and sexualities from a Queer elder who has lived through the post-Stonewall years of sexual liberation, the second wave of feminism, and the recent rapid increases in awareness about gender and sexualities met almost equally with anti-trans and anti-Queer violence.
Seen through the lenses of whiteness and privilege from the last quarter of a lifetime, these poems navigate the desire to be at home in our bodies, to be loved and desired without danger, and most of all to live free, healthy, and welcome in the world we inhabit.
Excerpt from "This/Sister"
I fold my jewel-tone panties,
file away my bras by cup type—
each with its own small drawer.
I bend and drop stacks of socks
and feel my woman’s body move.
These breasts. The soft belly
over the part of me that opens
inside, layers of labia, flesh
of pudenda, all alive.
White, this-gender, Queer, in this body
sixty-five years. I do not take for granted
those extra thirty years. My clothes run
from boy to matron. I have the privilege
to wear them, to live only dependent on how I feel.
A little butch.
A little femme.
My trans brothers and sisters,
no one should have to die for this.
Praise for Transitory
“Having roots in documentary poetics, and approached with deep lyric intensity, the poems in Transitory stand as elegies to the transgender people murdered in the U.S. in 2020, from Nina Pop, ‘Missouri drawl, the way you drank / from that tall Styrofoam cup and straw, your face lit by car lights,’ to Brian “Egypt” Powers of Akron, Ohio, ‘Paula Abdul back-up dancer was his childhood dream,’ and onward. The poems are written in a whirlwind of forms, containing facts from public records and snippets of dialogue from the murdered victims, their loved ones, and strangers, and the details— ‘fingerless black gloves,’ ‘Her love for My Little Pony,’ that compose a life. The forms provide elegance. Dignity. The details, affinity. I tried to read Transitory as I usually approach books of poetry, but this collection asked me to supplement my reading with research. I sought news stories, faces. I wanted to know. To have known so deeply that I could feel each loss with profundity. I found myself in keeping with Subhaga Crystal Bacon, who writes, ‘I need to name this, the brutality of tallying the dead…not just counting, but incanting.’”
— Diane Seuss, author of frank: sonnets
“Subhaga Crystal Bacon’s brilliant new book is poetry beyond the unrelenting pressure of news cycles, giving names to harrowing statistics of murdered trans people, returning life to the air ---for a moment --- in the breath of a poem. When politicians sanction violence by criminalizing trans and queer bodies and branding us subhuman, Bacon puts the love and the real live beating hearts back into their bodies, turning every No into an emphatic Yes! I love this book!”
— CAConrad, author of While Standing in Line for Death
“Transitory's chronology of hate crimes starts on January 1, 2020, documenting one year of the unending river of names--"Samuel, Bianca, Dominique, Fifty Bandz"--of people we've lost to anti-trans violence. Here beloved bodies are "pulled from the Schuylkill River," hurt "in the parking lot of the Days Inn," on "a bit of grass off the University of Ohio campus," or "on her own block, close to home."
These poems witness these horrors, and honor the dead in the complexity and real joy of their lives, creating a timeline, shared eulogy, and act of resistance. Combining traditional forms and erasures with the pleasures and close calls of her own past, Bacon highlights not just these acts of violence but also everyday moments in the lives of those lost: "studying nursing," "driving a taxi," "showing off in short shorts and shearling boots," or looking forward to cleaning the house: "a Saturday morning deep clean that’s a whole vibe." Slowing down long enough to look at this one year's worth of loss allows us to recognize the enormity of our collective grief.”
— Jill McDonough, author of Here All Night
Publication Date: 11/14/2023
© BOA Editions, Ltd. 2023