Poetry News

Queer Poets Write Letters to Their Younger Selves

By Harriet Staff

Guess we can't get enough of Stacy Szymaszek, nor her friends at the Academy of American Poets site, at which is published a great feature (reprinted from The Letter Q) called "Queer poets write letters to their younger selves." Includes SS, Eileen Myles, Dawn Lundy Martin, Ching-In Chen, Timothy Liu, and Ely Shipley.

AND there are some adorable nostalgia photo-trips here on the Academy's Tumblr. Never thought we'd write "Academy's Tumblr," but there you have it. That's Stacy, all early nautical, above.

From Eileen's letter to herself:

...You should look for other kids who are into what you are into and stick with them. The kids who are mean to you are a waste of time. Don't let them talk you into quitting ballet class because it’s "queer." Do you know what queer means? Obviously you are secretly a boy in a way that is turning you inside out, which is part of why you are standing there stuck in the cafeteria today, but you know—so many people are mixes of male and female—and despite the fact of your secret boy, you probably also have secret female parts you don’t even know about yet. Gender is the great mystery of the world (like love) and all the ways you let yourself be terrorized by your friends who think your discomfort, your tomboyishness, your awkward energy is something you should be shamed for is a giant waste of time. They are suffering and they have YOU to pick on. If you just walk away from them and remain the mystery you are, the mystery will draw other kinds of people to you. Some you already know, some you will meet in a few years. By the way, most of the people in your family are queer and that's part of the silence you feel around the house and part of the creepiness you feel in your family from one person to the next. Everyone's afraid of what queer means and you will be the first to find out. You can be the first person in your family who lived frankly. So don't give up. Write in your diary, go where it's warm, i.e.., toward people who act like they like you, and bear in mind that some of them will also seem weird. Pay attention to how the person FEELS when you spend time with them, not how you will look when you show up with them in your world. The world you are in today is really small. Think of the kids you meet on the bus to Harvard Square. Think of how good it feels to be one of them, getting out of town to go hear music. Do not, above all, let your family ever convince you to stay home when it's time to go. That thing in you that feels like you are ready to leave them—for college or after or even just at a family party—feeling trapped there—always know that you have the right to go. Just as you have the right to be yourself here (and everywhere). The fact that you might not have the means to go AT THIS MOMENT is hard but know that you are ready and that your destiny is to live your life, not theirs, and though it hurts to leave home you will always find a bigger better one that is your own. The world is open to you, unbelievably. You are great, funny, beautiful, and completely wild. And you are already big enough and strong enough and wise enough to make a go in it and become part of its story. So start talking now. Meet yourself. Meet the people. And if they can't listen to you and can't hold your attention, then go talk to someone else. And someone else again. You'll find the right ones....

Originally Published: July 18th, 2012