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I used to be a Poet, or, Pudding, proof, clutter, claptrappings of a life spent spinning like a broken wheel on fire.

Field Notes In/On Transition.

I used to be A Poet, or, pudding, proof, clutter, claptrappings of a life spent spinning like a broken wheel on fire.

Well, a week or so after having a few weeks worth of hormone aided trauma come crashing and burning in my face, things seem to have balanced out, at least in terms of the hormone part, no crying jags, or unchecked crankiness. It’s so difficult to try and slow my mind down to match the physical and emotional processes that my body and mind are going through right now.

I feel like all the outlets I used to have to vent my excess emotional trauma in life (not just the gender stuff either) have ceased working. At least for me, there is this overwhelming urge to change every aspect of my life, which is obviously impossible. My escape valves have always been both healthy: reading, writing, dreaming of positive change for myself, friends, the world, and unhealthy; binge eating, drinking, drugs, “Collecting” (I’m a tidy hoarder) things, avoiding any kind of adult responsibility in life.

I’m standing on the precipice of change in almost all these things. The amount that I read has been steadily decreasing since I left Japan where I read maybe 1.5 novels a week for 3 years to the point now where I read maybe a novel a month. I haven’t read a book I thought was amazing in a few years. Maybe since reading Joseph Boyden’s “Three Day Road,” but for me the biggest outlet of my adult life (as a kid, it was drawing) has been my own writing, mostly the writing of poetry, as I have never been able to finish any kind of fictive prose composition.

I haven’t kept a journal, a longhand diary/whinefest since maybe 2007. 30 years of daily getting my “arrghs” out on paper has been consumed by a real giving up of being able to do anything more with my writing. I used to get sentence fragments, lines of poetry coming at me so much that I had no choice but to sit in a cafe and burn through these (mostly based on my self loathing and gender dysphoria) words, writing and rewording the same thoughts, ideas and emotions, sculpting them into poetry.

Now, of course I’ve published a couple of books on my own, and feel good, very good about those. But the writing is not that current, and it’s harder and harder for me to get where I was going with a lot of my poems that are just sitting on my computer in cleverly named folders. I’ve submitted to journals casually over the years, but not with the kind of intensity and fortitude that you need to actually get published by so called “legit presses.” Of all the submissions I’ve sent out, only a few even merited a form rejection letter. If all of them had been rejected, I feel like I might have been able to grow that thick skin you need in terms of trying to publish. But, I was roundly ignored.
This fed into my own self loathing, and lack of real confidence in what I was doing. I’ve never been an “academic” poet, I write how I write. I really don’t care about anything other than the words I use. Poetic forms are of almost no interest to me. My lines end

i (proudly fighting Capital-ism since 1988)

want them
          end .

I’ve written a bit about how in the 90’s Vancouver poetry scene I felt like I was part of “the scene,” until I realized that I really wasn’t part of the scene. I was on the edge, the periphery, looking in and wanting oh so much to just once be asked to be on the bill, have my name on a poster. I did a few times, indeed, though, all but two of those times were readings I organized myself, or organized with writer friends. Maybe my stuff wasn’t good enough? I have no idea how any of the promoters really felt. I was asked to participate in almost every open mic that happened for about 10 years.

 And I went to most of them, more often than not offering to read first, because no one else wanted to. Not the primo spot on the bill, opening, especially in Vancouver, then, as almost all the poets (this is all pre slam era) were freaking amazing. There really were an amazing amount of good to great poets, just in East Van, or The Drive, let alone the rest of the city.

I did write a fair amount of poetry whilst I was in Japan, some of my best, in my estimation, but by the time I returned to Vancouver, the Mojo seemed to have vanished, less and less did I get the inspiration to write. In the previous 20 years I hadn’t needed to develop the discipline to write everyday, because I wrote every day already, it was never an issue. By the time I went into the hospital with high blood pressure at the end of 07, I was not doing a journal, which I felt was just an endless recitation of trying to psyche myself up, or make myself feel bad about being Trans. Endless whine.

I started doing videos of my poems, and mashup video of public domain footage, on my computer in Japan, as well as taking photos, being online evermore with facebook, etc. The poetry just faded from my mind, inspiration just gone, like it had never been there. You could even say that my creative output became more and more about the visual, the images I chose to attach to what were/are becoming old poems. It’s definitely a similar creative impulse/discipline, editing film or video and poetry use the exact same part of my brain, it seems.

What I’m getting to is that while I seem to be trying to purge most of the “Joe” outlets from my life, (over eating, lethargy,contrariness/crankiness, hoarding, drinking and so on) I’m also becoming keen to find my voice again as a poet. My poetry has always been pretty raw, and honest, I think. I want to continue that, in the same way that I want to commit to continuing this blog, which I feel has really been my greatest tool in fighting the fight I am fighting; to be the woman I have always wanted to be. A poet, I’m not a trans poet or a woman poet or a Vancouver poet, I’m a poet, except lately, I’m not.

Baby Steps, Josie.

And once again, it’s taken me a thousand or more words to get to the actual “field note” part of this field note. A friend of mine, that I haven’t seen or heard from since the summer, really, dropped by the store the other day. He commented on how I was never going to be a beautiful gal. Sigh, thank you Captain Tact. Also he told me how his wife should give me some tips on the makeup. Again, Le Sigh. 

Yes, my eyebrows are in need of some work, thanks for reminding me that I keep forgetting to do these small things, that I keep promising myself that I will do. In fact, my makeup looked pretty decent that day, as a facebook profile pic from that same day that saw me called “lovely,” by one of the loveliest women I know, should prove. He really did mean well; his tone was that of friendship, if not love, but really? I just nodded and mumbled, agreement to hanging out sometime.

I let this encounter really bother me for a day or so, but am now, simply taking it as him showing real concern, friendship, but with a lack of understanding of how to respond to someone in a situation you have no grasp on, yourself. I get how hard it is to change how you relate to someone who goes through as big a change as I am. I am completely amazed, myself,  that this all seems so natural and right for me to be doing, right now.

My advice if I have any is that you should (other than making a small effort re: pronoun/name) keep relating to me, or any trans person in the way you/we always have done so in the past. I’m the same nerd you always knew. I’m just slimmer and sexier, is all. 

I miss being a poet, though, as much as I get out of this blog, I miss that kind of creative spark, that I sort of get with my videos, (where I’m starting to repeat myself, I feel as well.) and even more so from taking photographs. I’ve started taking my iphone out on the weekends and capturing bits and pieces of my neighbourhood, but this weekend, I’m adding in some cafe sitting, coffee drinking poetry/journal time. 

If I can write anything longhand, it will be a success. The photo jaunting part has the bonus of getting some wee cardio in maybe, and this weekend perhaps some rarely seen January Vancouver sunshine. The journaling/poetry, if any comes, and has in it that rekindling of the best parts of Joe, who is ebbing away before my eyes, as I become more and more myself. One of the best things Joe was able to do was so effortlessly sit down every day and just let the poetry pour out of himself into an endless stream of notebooks. 

If I have to work as hard as I do to affirm myself as Josie to the world, to be able to find that poetic spark again, I am maybe trying to persuade myself to salvage the good bits of a life spent dreaming of the greener grass on that pretty side of the fence. I am physically finding my voice as Josie, even if I haven’t mastered sounding as Josie as I look, I’m getting there. I’ve turned my hated chore of calling the “late list” at work, into an exercise in “Josie phone voice.” I try to speak a bit softer, without raising my pitch, or being too affected. 

I’m happy with my sure but steady progress in this area. It’s a big part of passing, which is only something I care about in the most basic sense, of not having passing strangers give me looks, or chuckles. To be “girl enough” that people get what I’m doing (or actually “pass”), spurring them to make those small efforts at pronouns and so on. That is all I need in terms of passing. 

I’m very up front about being a Trans Woman (Trans is my label, the rest are for other people), in part because I know my friend is right to a point, I am not a ravishing beauty, nor was I George Clooney as a man. Who is? George Clooney, Cameron Diaz, and others, but not the rest of us; the rest of us are Lena Dunham, and Seth Rogen. 

If someone wants to ask me about “it,” I am always very up front. Why wouldn’t I be? Shame is something I discarded when I started transitioning, occasionally it crawls back and peers in my window, making creepy, “You know you love me” type noises, But I try to ignore it as best I can.

I have a metric fucktonne of work ahead of me to become the person I’ve been sitting on my ass hoping to become for 40 odd (not that odd) years. It’s a bit overwhelming as I’m generally one of those people who not only sweats the small stuff, but the medium stuff, the large and extra large, as well. You got it, I’ll sweat it. As Joe, it took me making the same mistakes over and over for years, decades, to see what I was doing. Now it all seems laid out for me like a star chart. I just have to plot a course or two. 


  1. Such an interesting post Josie.

    The average person might find small changes over a lifetime affecting their interests, or their inspiration to do certain things, but of course you are changing so quickly that you are actually aware of how your feeling and thinking is altering profoundly.

    Isn't it amazing how much inspiration seems to come from struggle!

    Don't worry that inspiration seems to be absent at the moment. It seems likely to me that you will find a new and definitely interesting voice as you continue this journey.

  2. Thanks Halle, I agree that it will come back, my inspiration, that is.


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