The story has a happy ending—of sorts. Boy from Ponce finds companionship, happiness, and his proud gay identity in the Big City. But it also has a sad ending—of sorts. Boy from Ponce finds out he has HIV, almost dies, gets almost well, then meets another illness—Inclusion Body Myositis. He is confined to a wheelchair. And yet—
In the same year he becomes wheelchair-bound, the man rediscovers an old love: writing poetry. He begins to write. He writes more. He becomes adept. His poetry soars. "This," he says, "is what I should have been doing all along."
As you read the poems of Félix Garmendía, you will say to yourself, "This is what I should have been reading all along." You will discern influences from Whitman, from Neruda, and also from the art of Frida Kahlo, with whom Felix feels a particularly strong kinship as a disabled artist. After all, he says, they both fly on invisible wings.
In this book you will discover poems light as the summer art in Fort Tryon Park, poems as down and raunchy as a honky-tonk on Canal Street, poems as pensive and stately as the Statue of Liberty and her pedestal. For in many ways this book also pays homage to New York, Félix's fiercely loved home since 1988.
Happy, sad, frightened, soaring, ecstatic, loving. Moods galore and then some. Images that magic you from deep anguish to utter excitement and bliss. Come fly with Félix. You will never read anything quite like these poems. You may even find your own invisible wings.
Félix Garmendía is a poet, HIV+ survivor, and disabled—currently in a wheelchair—due to Inclusion Body Myositis. He has been married to his husband and caregiver Denis for seven years.
Garmendía writes about LGBT issues, which are very close to his heart. His life was carved around the experiences of surviving his early years in conservative Catholic Puerto Rico of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. He arrived in Manhattan, New York City, in 1988. His poems narrate his life as a gay activist, a poet and a storyteller in the face of illness and intolerance.
"Chicana poet, activist, and witchy folk hero of the disenfranchised. . . . [McKibbens] creates these spaces of witness with her feral and boundary-pushing poems that speak unflinchingly of topics often swept under the rug: rape, domestic violence, body shaming, mental illness, prejudice."—Ploughshares
"McKibbens, a pioneer in the art of performance poetry, presents her audience [with] selfless honesty."—The Rumpus
"Rachel McKibbens . . . reminds us why poetry as testimony is so necessary." —Poetry Foundation
McKibbens's blud is a collection of dark, rhythmic poems interested in the ways in which inherited things—bloodlines, mental illnesses, trauma—affect their inheritors. Reveling in form and sound, McKibbens's writing takes back control, undaunted by the idea of sinking its teeth into the ugliest moments of life, while still believing—and looking for—the good underneath all the bruising.
From "untitled (lost love)":
To my daughters I need to say:
Go with the one who loves you biblically.
The one whose love lifts its head to you
despite its broken neck. Whose body
bursts sixteen arms electric
to carry you, gentle the way
old grief is gentle.
Love the love that is messy
in all its too much . . .
Rachel McKibbens is a poet, activist, playwright, essayist, and two-time New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellow. She is the author of four books and founder of The Pink Door, an annual writing retreat open exclusively to women of color. She lives in Rochester, New York.
Nature Poem follows Teebs—a young, queer, American Indian (or NDN) poet—who can’t bring himself to write a nature poem. For the reservation-born, urban-dwelling hipster, the exercise feels stereotypical, reductive, and boring. He hates nature. He prefers city lights to the night sky. He’d slap a tree across the face. He’d rather write a mountain of hashtag punchlines about death and give head in a pizza-parlor bathroom; he’d rather write odes to Aretha Franklin and Hole. While he’s adamant—bratty, even—about his distaste for the word “natural,” over the course of the book we see him confronting the assimilationist, historical, colonial-white ideas that collude NDN people with nature. The closer his people were identified with the “natural world,” he figures, the easier it was to mow them down like the underbrush. But Teebs gradually learns how to interpret constellations through his own lens, along with human nature, sexuality, language, music, and Twitter. Even while he reckons with manifest destiny and genocide and centuries of disenfranchisement, he learns how to have faith in his own voice.