TODAY by Taylor Steele

i peel today’s underwear off

like a mask

let it sink to the floor & stay

i scratch my thigh in the process

bleed & go about my business

which is the business

of failed forgetting

            he says he wants more but not from me

            & i can’t unsee furnishing the nursery

            so i drink until i can’t cry

                                    &

            the news said i died again

            but really it was just some other nigga

            a black recluse caught in a web of white

                                    &

            i wear a sports bra under the flannel

            i stole from my dad to feel like the boy

            i’d want to have love me right for once

                                    &

            i’d go to the gym more often

            but self-hatred is a ritual i am loyal to

            & there are more precious things to burn

                                    &

                                    &

                                    &

i remember everything

            how many times i came the second time we fucked

                                    &

            not leaving my house on jan. 21st

                                    &

            the first time she felt a wrongness to this body

                                    &

            the taste of thin mints on the way up

                                    &

                                    &

                                    &

the panties beg for a laundering

the bleeding stops before i want it to

i am a corpse of a dream i had once

            in it

                              i was a god

 

What does the title, “Emerging poet,” mean to you?

 

I think the more fixed definition of “emerging” in a literary context is one who has not published a full-length book or have an MFA. So, technically, I am emerging on both of those fronts.

 

In the dictionary, though, one of its definitions is to manifest oneself. I find that definition interesting because, in the literary world, “emerging” entails someone else manifesting you. Whether that be by granting you publication or access to a retreat or fellowship. Yes, the work you produce is entirely your own, and, if it’s won a thing, that speaks to your work and its merit. Still, to emerge, then, means someone else found your work worthy of existing in their space.

 

Do you consider yourself an “emerging” poet? Why or why not?

 

I consider myself to be an “emerging poet” in part because that is how so many contests would categorize me. I don’t have a full-length book or an MFA. Therefore, I must not have emerged yet. However, I have a lot of published work (poems and essays alike), videos of my performances online, a chapbook, and I’ve been told that some people think I’m cool. But I still feel invisible to some degree. So, I wonder to what extent my “emerging-ness” is a state of mind. If my name is known and being said in spheres I am not privy to, what does that mean about my “emerging” status? And now this is getting unnecessarily meta.

 

What do you think it takes to be “recognized” in the poetry community?

 

What I want being recognized to take is a sole interest in a poet’s work. But, sometimes it is about who you know and what pedestal they’re on; having the right (well-known and prestigious) people cosign you and your work. Sometimes, it’s good ol’ fashioned hard work and consistently putting your work out there, submitting to hundreds of publications a year in the hopes of getting upwards of 10 acceptances.

 

How do you think power politics shape the poetry community?

 

Similarly to the question of being “recognized,” I think nepotism is a factor in power politics. I think a lot of people want to put their friends on, which is lovely, but so many of those poets have already made a name for themselves, have books, agents, sold-out tours, and “fellow” statuses. They’re poets who would no longer be deemed “emerging.” Not that their work doesn’t deserve to still be seen and lauded.

 

I also think the politics of poetry are inherently capitalist. So many of these book contests, fellowships, retreats require submission fees, which is inherently classist and exclusionary. I find that particularly interesting given how often I see these organizations and publications state that they want to hold space for marginalized people and their voices. I don’t know a lot of blk, brown, queer folx who can consistently afford to submit work. Myself included.

 

What does community mean to you?

 

Community is a tender place that holds space for you but isn’t afraid to hold you accountable, either. It’s building together. It’s unlearning together. It’s home — even if the rooms are a mess and someone didn’t do the dishes. It’s being told you’re not crazy for all the people you are. It’s being told you are loved. It’s love.

 

  

TAYLOR STEELE is a Bronx-born, Brooklyn-based writer and performer. Her work can be found at Apogee Journal, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, Rogue Agent, Blackberry: a Magazine, and more. Her chapbook Dirty.Mouth.Kiss is available on Pizza Pi Press. Taylor has written for The Body is Not an Apology, Drunken Boat Journal, and Philadelphia Printworks. An internationally ranked spoken word artist, she has been featured by Huffington Post, Brooklyn Poets, Button Poetry, and is a 2016 Pushcart Nominee. Most importantly, Taylor is a triple-Taurus who believes in the power of art to change, shape, and heal.

 

 

 

 

 

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