the homies blog//INTERVIEW: talking with transqueer author H. Melt about their new book “The Plural, The Blurring”

h.melt bio photo

Photo by Kiam Marcelo Junio

H. Melt is my friend. It feels really good to say that! H. Melt is also an inspiration and role model to me as an activist and queer person and human being. Their new book The Plural, The Blurring – out November 20, via The Neutral Zone & Red Beard – exemplifies a lot of the things that make me love H. so much. There is the craft of their words, the memories, sometimes shared, that are weaved throughout the book, and the progressive, startlingly impactful documentation of their work writing to institutions for better treatment. Theirs is an intimate kind of activism, one they identify with the Chicago school of poetry writing, and one I have taken to heart as a queer revolutionary. Reading and being with H. Melt makes me feel excited, it makes me feel sad, it makes me feel the spectrum of emotions but knowing that H. Melt is out there, anywhere, just makes me feel safe.


THE INTERVIEW

The Plural, The Blurring largely focuses describing a very specific place and time. What’s the significance of having that setting at the center of the book?

The book is about Chicago’s queer arts scene between roughly 2012-2014 and how the art and activism going on in the city during that time coincided with my development as a trans writer. The book is largely about place and community, the ways in which they can influence an individual’s sense of self. For me, that period of time is when I am meeting and forming relationships with other queer and trans artists for the first time. I’m starting to take myself more seriously as a writer, as a trans person, and end up writing and publishing about the people, performances, and spaces that are most influencing and inspiring me. I’m also starting to grapple with queer loss and trans death, the ways in which loss can impact a community.

How have you been changed by the loss you’ve experienced and the gains you’ve seen achieved? Do you feel weaker and stronger at the same time?

I think that loss is inevitable. Sometimes it’s necessary. Sometimes it’s painful and unexpected. The queer community is not stable, I don’t think that any community is. There will always be people leaving and spaces closing down.  This can open up room for growth, for new spaces and new relationships to form but at what cost? What’s being lost? I think the people mirror the changes going on in the city and vice versa.

In your review of the trans & genderqueer poetry anthology Troubling the Line (included in The Plural, The Blurring), you write about your roots in the Chicago tradition of poetry and how that has affected your own work and what you tend to relate to as a reader. Have you found other queer poets who similarly embody that tradition?

I have never read a book of trans poetry by someone from Chicago. That’s part of the reason that I wrote the book. Many of the queer and trans writers that I’ve connected to most are not based in Chicago. While Chicago is a very literary and even poetry focused place, I don’t feel like there’s a queer poetry scene here. A queer arts scene definitely exists, and that’s very present in the book. But something about the literary scene hasn’t always facilitated a place for queer writers. My writing community and queer community are more separate than I would like.    

Where does the inspiration for the essays and letters to institutions you include come from? Are you still writing those?

Yes, I’m still writing essays. A lot of them came out of feeling powerless, especially the ones directed at specific institutions. I actually sent or performed most of the pieces in the book about specific places directly to people who work or spend time there. That’s part of my practice. In some cases, those writings actually sparked real change, new relationships, and projects. For example, there is now going to be a trans poetry category at the Lambda Literary Awards and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has improved their trans healthcare and now has a student-led group called the League of Extraordinary Genders. In other words, the essays and poems are part of a larger movement to create more access to resources for trans people. To help keep us alive.

“Part of your practice,” can you talk more about that?

The letters and essays felt more urgent–they were tools as part of my larger vision and hope to make more space for queer and trans writers and artists–by critiquing institutions that could be more welcoming to us, and reviewing exhibits, books, and plays that had some relationship to myself and the larger community. That’s really what I see my real work as–supporting other queer and trans writers and artists.   

The Plural, The Blurring is now available for pre-order.

the homies blog//THREE POEMS: h. melt

photo by Kiam Marcielo Junio

What is normal is what urgently needs serious and radical inquiry and profound re-consideration. H. Melt’s SIRvival in the Second City: Transqueer Chicago Poems is a guide and lightning rod; a contestation of every border imaginable and a celebration of the necessary and ingenious spaces created by the public presence(s) of courageous Trans & Queer people(s) engaged in the construction of new culture(s) and identities for us all. – Kevin Coval

 


When I read a poem from H. Melt, I often feel terror. Sometimes it’s looking into a mirror to a runny nose and eyes wet and red from throwing up; it’s a body trying to take care of itself. It’s -survival- and beautiful at its core in what it wants for all of us. These are the effects of fighting an ill state of being- to be riding with, and reading H. Melt is a treasure.These poems do not appear in SIRvival: they are fresh produce.

photo by Amos Mac


MAKING OUT WITH WES PERRY & FRIENDS
Upstairs gallery, 3rd Wednesdays of the month

Wednesday nights
up a steep second floor
stairwell in Andersonville

Wes Perry
is making out
with friends

making music
with a two piece
band in the corner

making laughs
with Super Human
all female improv troupe

making comedy queer
stopping straight mouths
from snickering at us

making intermission
long hallway line
for the bathroom

making me squeeze
next to strangers
stay the second act

making me dance
between bubbles
Kiam & Janie

making me trip
over Mister Junior’s
red heels & chest hair

making everyone
share their stories
a suggested donation

we all can afford.

***

ARE YOU A LESBIAN?

in high school
in the H hallway

my home base teacher
struggled to make us shut up
during the pledge

no one ever stood
or faced the flag

Precious sat behind me
on the black side
of the class room

straight white boys
nerds and jocks
sat on the Other

one morning
Precious turned around
her pierced tongue hissed

Are you a lesssssssbian?

I froze
awkwardly
answered no

wondered if
that was a lie

because no body
taught me trans
in high school.

***

FEAR OF A GAY PLANET

Queer people exist in multiple worlds. We come out at night. Like the moon. We are most visible at night. Most vulnerable at night. Most active at night. We walk fast past straight bars. We stay awake searching for each other until the sun comes. Then we disappear into our corners. The streets where we don’t blend. Can’t blend. Need to blend. Need to bend back. Keep the blinds open and the lights dim. Who’s watching. My back bend.

They didn’t teach back bending in school. They taught math and science and grammar but I don’t remember any of it. I wanted to learn what they weren’t teaching. So I taught myself. Found people to teach me what I didn’t realize I needed to know. I want to ban straight only education. I was raised straight and cis and still came out queer and trans. I was taught by mostly straight white women but never wanted to be them. I love them still. Sleep next to them still. Am treated like them still.

I can’t go anywhere without seeing straight people. They are everywhere. So are we but they never see us. We come together in small groups. Congregate around small stages. If there is a stage. I will always share the stage. Break the stage. Step off the stage and watch from the side.

I am sick of being watched. Questioned by my own people. I don’t feel safe or understood on planet gay or trans or queer. They all have their own set of rules. We have created our own universes out of necessity. Our own bookstores, magazines, films, gayborhoods, health clinics. This is only a temporary solution. What does building our own separate institutions teach other people, outsiders about us? It is not effective to create more outsiders.

I fear a gay planet. I fear that creating our own worlds, thriving and hiding within them avoids the reasons why we need those spaces in the first place. It does not transform those people and spaces where we feel unsafe when we avoid them altogether. We need to be there. We need to be places where we are uncomfortable and leave when it’s too much to handle.

I do not want to live in a queer utopia. It’s not easy living in a mostly straight world. Being present in one allows us to witness the problems within, to confront them and figure out a way, ways to do better. For other people to do better. We can’t fix every ignorant schmuck but we can’t ignore them either. Most people don’t even realize their wrongdoings, our pains and joys.

We can’t abandon the world we live in. we can’t keep dying in it either. We need to live in it as ourselves. There are times when we need to escape but we must always return. We must always return.   

// You can purchase H. Melt’s SIRvival in the Second City here. They will be appearing at The Encylopedia Show: Origin of Life tonight. Find more
H. Melt everything at hmelt.tumblr.com.