Readings: They

It was stupidly busy here last week, what with a giant book fair, on the day of which I worked 15 and a half hours, an experience I’m not eager to repeat again any time soon.

Aftermath of said fair is still felt and being dealt with, so today is my only day till Thanksgiving that can be used for art-related pursuits. My goal is to write a bunch of stuff and then go to the Book Riot Read Harder book group. I’ve already had an altercation with a rogue can lid this morning and am now learning to live life temporarily left-handed, which did not prevent me from polishing one of the stories that got rejected in one place, but will be submitted to another, specifically to this. If you are a trans writer writing spec fiction, take a look, the deadline is December 1st.

Incidentally, Sigur Rós is excellent writing music.

But let’s move on to recent readings, specifically They by Sue Ellen Thompson. It wasn’t really on my radar until someone mentioned that the poet’s child was trans, and that a lot of poems in this book were about the poet dealing with her child’s identity.

I did not go into this hoping to like it or not, but the definite verdict is that I could not like it and in fact rather hated it. To me, the entire collection sounded like a long list of complaints by my own mother who denied and fought against my coming out for months (and in a sense, still does, but more passively). I hated the ‘daughter’-ing in the first part of the book, appalled and appalling turns of phrase like ‘what she’d become’. If I were to play a drinking game with this book, I would be drunk halfway through if I took a sip every time the word ‘daughter’ came up. Daughter. Daughter. DAUGHTER. It is an innocent and touching word, but I know how it can grate. How it can hurt.

The writing seemed whiny and pouty and self-absorbed. It gets increasingly hysterical as the collection goes on, the final part simply a litany of wrongs and ills:

uncertain what to call her

when speaking to my friends

(still with her business, really?).

The only time Thompson calls her child by the correct pronoun seems to be in the title (at some point it is mentioned that they/them are the preferred pronouns).

And finally, the problem I have with They is that Thompson, while describing her own reactions, is really telling her child’s story, making the collection feel offended and offensive, dismissive and erasing. It’s all bewilderment and bitterness at the fact that her child did not turn out the way she wished. I just hope that perhaps writing this collection was therapeutic, and she will finally be able to let go and let be.


And stylistically? Most of it reads like one poem, with the same rhythm, same turns of phrase, same same same.

After this disappointing poetry read, I am attempting to tackle my now ridiculously large ARC pile and see if there are any good things in there. How it has grown is beyond me, since I barely had a chance to look at galleys at work this week. Oh, and I finished Molly Crabapple’s memoir (once again, when?), so maybe I will write about that.

One comment

  1. *I also had a can incident this week. I am unharmed, but the can and I had words.

    *I love Sigur Ros.

    *Never heard of that poet, but will remember to AVOID.

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