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Stemmy Things


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About the Author

imogen xtian smith is a poet & performer. They live & work on Lenape lands / NYC.


“In this resplendent debut, selfhood is fluid and ungovernable. [...] A lyric meditation on—and reckoning with—the author’s experience as a trans person, this collection delivers a provocative and original study of queer embodiment, and a sensitive exploration of grief.”—Publishers Weekly
“imogen xtian smith’s queer ecopoetry debut, stemmy things, includes prose poems and free verse organized across couplets and quatrains or spread more organically across the page, all of it imbued with the sensibility of a DJ (there are references to Nirvana, Coltrane, and R.E.M., alongside the Jesus and Mary Chain and SOPHIE), as smith illuminates how transness is and was always-already natural and part of our ecology.”—Layla Benitez-James, Harriet Books
“smith doesn’t hold anything back, cussing frequently and creating their own words out of conjunctions and abbreviated words, but the result is a tapestry of language that beguiles, tricks, and teases. This is a collection which will be meaningful for every young person just starting to find what it means to create their own sense of personhood and a collection revolutionary for every adult who has already done so and never had the language to explain what it felt like.”—Joanna Acevedo, GASHER Journal“There is such an electricity to the lyric of Lenapehoking/Brooklyn-based poet and performer imogen xtian smith’s full-length debut, stemmy things. [...] Through a book-length lyric, smith writes an extended sequence of sharp moments across narrative thought, one deeply engaged with numerous threads, all of which wrap in and around identity, self and gender.”—rob mclennan's blog
“In imogen xtian smith’s poetic imaginary, tears are phrased as genders. In other words, we can only hurt ourselves into reliable languaging. After all, I’ve never known a queer who didn’t—in mulling over the body’s horrific (and ecstatic) illegibility—find themself embroiled in the hellish, scrambling landscape of the word. As transsexual babes, then, we issue forth as alien encounters, both in embodied life and on the page. And so, stemmy things is that alien encounter. This collection is a velvet-draped gift, a study of queer morphology, a little gay edge. In poem after poem, smith lovingly mirrors back our impossible trans darkness.”—Anaïs Duplan“A fever dream of desire, trans/formation, and becoming. A reckoning of histories collapsing into the sweaty, sweet, peripatetic body of a poet who’s ready to talk about now. Smith’s stemmy things is for the mis-recognized and misunderstood, a guidebook of grounded and fertile imagination for the rigors of accountability and feeling. It is beautifully perverse self-care, wellness kink for girl they/thems. I argued with this book, cried with it, wrapped myself in its affirming queerness. It’s a living thing.”—Miguel Gutierrez“stemmy things is for lovers: lovers of poetry and its history as a renegade art form, a queer go-to for the centuries. Reading imogen xtian smith deepens my belief that there are old souls — even Orlandos among us. I’m thinking of Woolf’s proposition that poetry is a secret transaction, a voice answering a voice. In imogen’s work, secrets are broadcast into the realm of the civic, where voices answer voices multitudinously, loving secrets and gossip but not so romantically as to accept the loneliness of staying underground. There is something about their sense of language that is so innovative, so curious, it feels unprecedented to me. Add to this, they are devoted to recording their queer trans femme life and times during late capitalism. I’m grateful for this record, this book, and to share time and space with this poet.”—Stacy Szymaszek“I’ve read many of these brilliant poems half a dozen times now and still find some unexpected texture, some slippery new layer at every turn. The magnificent imogen xtian smith sticks tongues and fingers in earholes, pigeon holes, rabbit holes, pillage holes— any holes that need feeling. These poems fill our vacancies with company, they fill our hollows with music. stemmy things is a verdant, fervid, worldly debut. It fills me with words. It fills me with feeling. It’s extraordinary.”—Terrance Hayes

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