‘Subject To Change’ Puts Trans Poets in Conversation in Necessary and Exciting Ways


“Subject To Change” (Courtesy Jesse Jacobs via Sibling Rivalry Press)

By Whit Fuller, Arts Writer


Transgender and gender non-conforming poets deserve to take up space on bookshelves, not just as a way share their experiences but to start a dialogue. Chicago poet and editor H. Melt’s anthology “Subject to Change: Trans Poetry and Conversation” is comprised of five poems and interviews from five queer and trans poets, putting their work in conversations where they can speak for themselves.

Melt on “Subject To Change”

The name “Subject To Change” comes from a queer dance party that ran in Chicago from 2011 to 2013 at different bars in Logan Square. Melt cites the importance of addressing this history in their editor’s note, where they share how names are important in queer and trans communities. “Queerness is always subject to change and trans people are, too. We all are,” Melt says. 

Melt’s interview questions in the anthology are simultaneously professional, poetic and personal in nature. They create a dialogue with each poet that provides an insight into the processes and experiences of truly moving queer and trans voices. 

Trans Poets in Conversation

Some of the names in this anthology were familiar to me, but most weren’t, though each poet’s work cemented their names in my brain and featured the necessity of queer poetry in and outside of queer communities. 

beyza ozer’s “I still have very old hands and here is that letter I promised” is a long and beautiful documentation of family, love and identity. Ozer’s words are honest and personal, culminating in a flourish of belonging. Cameron Awkward-Rich’s “The Child Formerly Known As ______” is a poignant and sometimes painful remembrance of former selves and the complicated relationship between parent and trans child.

YOU are SO Brave” and “When The Chant Comes” by Kay Ulanday Barrett are some of my favorite pieces from the anthology. “YOU are SO Brave” explores and deconstructs perceptions of people with disabilities. Barrett pulls no punches and isn’t afraid to frankly discredit and point to problematic notions of disability. “When The Chant Comes” is a poem of love and a song of acceptance. Barrett’s struggle with relationships amid transition and their ability to lean on friends and members of their community is beautifully felt in this poem.

Rounding out the anthology is “Home [Chaos Theory]” by Christopher Soto, a longer free form poem that explores the concept of homelessness. At the heart of the work, Soto asks what it means to be home and answers the question with a chorus of diverse experiences. Additionally, Joshua Jennifer Espinoza’s “A Guide To Reading Trans Literature” deconstructs the portrayal of trans women in literature and breaks down the notion that reading texts about trans people absolves the reader of potentially problematic and complicit behaviors. 

Not all work by trans and queer poets is or should be expected to be about their trans identities. While these identities should be acknowledged when engaging with the work of such poets, there are other stories that they have to tell. Making space for them as readers and allies is important. 


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