we cry out against isolation: a look at glamourpuss
Glamourpuss by Cat Fitzpatrick. New York, NY: Topside Heliotrope, September 2016. 106 pages. $10 paperback.
As poetry editor for Topside Press’ Heliotrope imprint, Cat Fitzpatrick has published work from a number of remarkable trans poets over the past two years, including Charles Theonia, Lilith Latini, Tyler Vile, KOKUMO, and Kay Ulanday Barrett. Fitzpatrick’s first full-length collection, Glamourpuss, recounts fragmented moments from the author’s life in playfully structured verse, and her voice is a strong addition to the growing Topside Heliotrope catalog.
Through varied experiments with form – the ballad, the ode, the sonnet cycle – Fitzpatrick maintains a consistently musical tone. These poems should be read aloud, and loudly, their lilting rhythms given voice. Style is not separate from content but an integral part of the stories Fitzpatrick tells. In Glamourpuss, the present converses with the past in terms both poetic and personal.
Specific to place and moment, the poems in this collection meander through the crumbling ruins of Roman forts and romantic relationships, down country roads and dark city streets. In all of these places, Fitzpatrick finds herself: a trans woman inhabiting a world that wasn’t built for her. She finds me too, uncomfortable in my metal chair on the patio of a local bar, in my office typing out disjointed notes, crying on the couch in my living room. I make a place for her poems, and her poems make a place for me. We find some common ground in the mess of our respective pasts.
Glamourpuss centers Fitzpatrick’s experiences as a trans woman. She reflects on her relationships to other trans women, to cis people, to work. She recounts her mistakes. She looks back at connections made and severed as a way of finding new connections and new patterns. I reflect on my own past as I read, holding these poems up like a mirror, looking through them like a lens. Fitzpatrick’s experiences differ greatly from my own, but they resonate in places. This is no small thing for me as a trans woman who grew up reading poetry written by cis men and wondering why it so often seemed dead on the page. Glamourpuss feels real and alive, even as its settings are unfamiliar.
In a triptych entitled Fuck You Amy, Fitzpatrick writes:
Never fuck another trans woman
They are all crazy bitches
They bite scratch hide hate things
Just like I do oh my god
I recognize this feeling, the feeling of finding and losing myself, resentment and longing and reluctant self-realization. I hold on to it, let it guide me through the rest of the book.
In Truck Stop, part of a series of short poems that make up a kind of travelogue, she writes:
They notice us in packs but let them look,
Sometimes you need to take that risk. Every
Truck stop should have a few of us, stealing
Wasabi peas and telling noisy jokes,
Demanding very complex sandwiches.
I recognize this feeling, too. Let them look. I’m not sure if it’s real confidence or something else, but I wrap it around myself like armor. Let them see us. Let them hear us. We exist, not alone but in packs. We cry out against isolation. That cry is the beating heart of this book.
Every truck stop – and every literary magazine – should have a few of us.
—Sarah M. Bess
Sarah M. Bess is a neuroqueer poet from rural southeast Missouri. She is a 2017 Lambda Literary Poetry Fellow and a 2016 Topside Press Trans Women Writers Workshop Fellow. Her poems have been featured in The Wanderer, The Fem, and Matrix. She is a contributor to Resilience, an upcoming anthology from Wormbook Press. Follow her on twitter @smbess.