Queer Writers Showcase 3: Staceyann Chin

Hello, it’s JM again. Welcome back to the regular scheduled programming for Beautiful Blasphemy. Last week I was in a really awkward funk because I steeped myself in bad news. I just couldn’t tear myself away from the negative news and I had to get all of that out of my system somehow.

Now I’m feeling refreshed and ready to bring you make you guys aware of another awesome queer as hell poet. This week, It’s Staceyann Chin. Staceyann Chin was born in 1971 in Jamaica. She’s half Chinese and half Afro-Jamaican. She’s an LGBT activist and professional artist. Her on her website, you can buy her memoir The Other Side of Paradise, which is a book I am eager to get my hands on. The poems I am going to share with you today are just a few of the amazing pieces I’ve dug up by this wonderful woman.

I can’t say I found this one on my own. I was introduced to her work by a fellow PRIDE member earlier this semester. They posted a video of her poem Feminist or Womanist on the Facebook group. I instantly fell in love with her voice and material. In the narrative of this poem, Staceyann is approached by a student who asked her is she is a “feminist or a womanist”. She than goes on to explain the complicated navigation of lesbian subculture. Then, she goes on to say what primarily concerns her is issues of equality, race, gender, religion, and love. My favorite section from this poem is:

“That blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus in the Vatican ain’t right. That motherfucker was Jewish, not white. Christ was a middle-eastern rasta man who ate grapes in the company of prostitutes and he drank wine more than he drank water. Born of the spirit, the disciples loved him in the flesh.”

I love this view of Jesus, and I love everything else Staceyann has to say about how we define ourselves. This poem is a wonderful tribute to feminism and humanism.  It’s beautiful. The last few lines lingers with you

“In the morning, I am all I ever want to be: rain and laughter, bare footprints and invisible seams, always without breath or definition. I claim every single dawn, for yesterday is simply what I was, and tomorrow even that will be gone.”

The second poem I want to discuss with you guys is If Only Out of Vanity. Staceyann talks about what kind of old woman she’ll be. She wonders if she’ll still be a raging political activist, or even still homosexual or if her parents will have convinced her to “settle for a man with a smaller dick than the one [her] lover uses to to provide [her] with violent and multiple orgasms”. She wonders if she’d still be writing poetry. This poem is full of Staceyann’s trademark graveling voice. I was listening to this poem a few times in preparation for writing this blog, and Morgann asked me “Does she scream like that in all of her poems?” The answer is no, but she does do it in a lot of them and and it shakes me in a way that I can’t get enough of. There’s so much passion when she gets to yelling in that voice. I melt.

The third piece I want to show off is her Catalog the Insanity. This poem is about a break up. It catches all the the intense feelings one goes through when getting over a significant other. I can relate to this one a lot. The more sexual aspects of this make me knees buckle, reminding me of times with some of my exes. The the catalog of insane thoughts she goes through is very much the same as the ones I go through after being dumped. It’s poems like this that make me not even want to try and write a poem about the subject because she does such an amazing job that I don’t even need to. Someone already wrote all that I would say and more in a way I could never write it. This piece is beautiful, sexy, and heartbreaking all at the same time.

This last video is actually 3 pieces. The first is a “Haiku on Bush’s Second Term”. It’s pretty funny, and reiterates my thoughts on the subject to a tee. The poem after that is an excerpt from the aforementioned memoir. It’s a very interesting and personal story about her first period. It’s uncomfortable but I feel it’s very important and insightful. Honestly, being born as a male – I have no way of relating to the subject matter. I’ve never had a period. I’ve never smelled the dead flower smell of s a Stayfree pad. But I can understand and sympathies. She goes on and tells the story about how she put the pad on backwards. This is rather funny and very intense story I’m sure many of you vagina having individuals understand the pain she is talking about. I also love how she’s like “hug a boy” right after reading it.

The last piece she does is called “It’s Not My Fault” and in this she discusses a very personal story about womanhood and how she was sexually assaulted by her cousin. It’s deep and and powerful. My skin crawled listening to it. I actually cried listening to this poem. The part that hits me on a personal, and unfortunately relatable note are the lines:

I only think of him when I’m sad or angry
or afraid of things that do no make noises in the dark.
Stark raving mad, he showed me his dick.
Told me, you smell like a woman in that little girl’s body

Years letter he still smiles at me
Even now, no apologies necessary
I was only a girl.

Holy shit, guys. How do you not shake at those words? But then she goes on to own her power. She talks about the power of vaginas. The ability to make life. She talks about she wants to have children someday. It’s intense. She ends the poem screaming the words “WHAT HAPPENED TO ME WAS NOT MY FAULT!! GO OUT AND CHANGE THE WORLD YOU LIVE IN. IT IS THE ONLY WORLD YOU HAVE, CHANGE THAT MOTHERFUCKER!!!!!” I’m still shaking from those words.

By the way, Staceyann is has gotten her wish. She wrote an article for Huffington post last year about how she is finally is pregnant. The baby was due in January. I assume that the child is well and healthy based on her Facebook profile picture, showing her breastfeeding a newborn. That is fantastic! I hope she’s living well, and loving life. Staceyann Chin is a beautiful woman and an amazing poet.

I know my three poets were all female. I didn’t do that intentionally, but in the spirit of equality I promise to write more showcases showing off more poets of other genders and and walks of life. Male writers, Trans* writers, Genderqueer writers, etc. The series will go on, because I’m having a fun researching all of this and writing it for you. I hope you are all having fun reading and listening along. I’ll see you guys next time, until then – live with all the intellectual and emotional honesty that you can muster and have have a wonderful day.

-JM Romig

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