Queer Femme Poets – Avery M. Guess

So I’ve been working on a poetry manuscript for a while now. A series of glosas riffing on the poetry of other queer femmes. Femmes get a lot done with a little, draw inspiration and strength from each other, collaborate with each other, and generally lift each other up. I think the poetic form of the glosa – a style where you take four sequential lines of someone else’s poem and write your own four-stanza, forty-line response poem incorporating one of the lines into the same point of each ten-line stanza (usually as the last line of each stanza, but not always) – works really well, in and of itself, as a metaphor for femme solidarity and mutual inspiration.
To that end: A small series talking about the poets and poems that are inspiring my manuscript.

Cover of Avery M. Guess’ chapbook
“The Patient Admits”
An out-of-focus image of a white person with shoulder-length hair who is wearing a black tank top and a veil(?) over their (her?) head.
Title and author’s name appear to the right of the image.

Some Thoughts About This Book: First off, I won this book in a draw. The author did a give-away and I was the lucky recipient. It felt pretty great to win a thing. 😉
Second, like a lot of poetry written by femmes – or maybe like a lot of poetry written by queers – this is poetry about trauma survival. About incest survival. So, y’know, there’s a content warning for the whole chapbook.
There’s a repeating form that moves through the collection, a series of poems with titles that go “In Therapy, The Patient Is Asked To Define: []” and the [] is a particular word. The poems consist of a definition coined by the author, the use of the word in a sentence, and then an acrostic on the word that relates to the definition and/or experience described in the sentence.
I really like them.
The way the definitions are so personal. They way they do or don’t dovetail with the sentence the words are used in. How the author has embedded a poetic form – one that typically gets taught to kids in primary school – into this new structure that, I think, gives it a much sharper form while also linking the whole poem through the inclusion of this specific form, and its content, to the reality of “this is something a child had to endure”. It’s like the poems, themselves, are having body flashbacks.
They’re fucking brilliant.
Which poem I chose to gloss and why: So maybe it’ll come as a surprise to you that I didn’t choose to gloss one of the “In Therapy” definition poems. Instead I chose to gloss “The Patient Attempts to Explain Cutting”, which is a series of couplets each one building on the last. I chose it because of how well the imagery conveys the building pressure under the skin.
I took two of the couplets and built (or tried to build) a poem about how I have used self-harm to center myself or to cope with feelings and experiences around un/worthiness.
I have to admit, the poem I wrote feels like it might be two different poems that have been haphazardly sutured together. A finished draft that might need to be split and started again. We’ll see.


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