The Student News Site of Ithaca College

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Ithaca Week

Queer Poets of Color: Beyond a Tokenized Blimp in History

Jasmine Reid discussing, with audience members, her new chapbook (Photo by Noa Covell/Ithaca Week)

On a frigid Valentine’s Day in Ithaca, Jasmine Reid invited warm faces and eager ears to come to Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca for a reading and release party of her new chapbook “Deus Ex Nigrum,” which translates to “God out of the Black.”

A chapbook is a small collection of poetry that focuses around one theme. In Reid’s 60-page book, she writes poems revolving around self-exploration and renewal of the body, which are all led by the voice of a trans speaker.
Reid, an MFA candidate at Cornell University, is a queer poet of color. She was not only selected as the winner of the 2018 Honeysuckle Press Chapbook Contest, but also has had her work published in a variety of publications, including Muzzle Magazine, Apogee and the Shade Journal
Throughout “Deus Ex Nigrum,” she artistically takes the reader on a journey through urban landscapes like Baltimore and Brooklyn to illustrate the internal and external struggles of femme, trans women.
Her inspiration for this type of story narrative came from other queer poets of color, including Paul Tran and Fatima Asghar.
Reid said she feels as though the poetry industry is now in a “renaissance” that is being led by queer and trans writers of color.
“People who are some of the biggest contemporary names in poetry are queer and trans people of color, and that is very much the consequence and the beauty of seeing such visibility for ourselves in poetry.”
Ishion Hutchinson, a Cornell University professor, read original poetry at the release party (Photo by Noa Covell/Ithaca Week)

Before going into poetry, Reid thought that she would pursue a career in fiction writing. But, she said she soon found herself in workshops that were very white and “whitewashing.”

Reid said that she quickly realized that she did not want to be in those types of spaces. She had a pivotal experience in college when she participated in a spoken word team that consisted of all queer people of color.

This helped strengthen her love of poetry, she said.

From working alongside other women of color and queer people of color, Reid said she knew that these were the types of environments that would provide her with the biggest sense of community. In her MFA program at Cornell, her cohort is also all women of color.

Reid said the racially and ethnically diverse poetry workshops and retreats she has gone on have given her incredible encouragement.

“I knew I didn’t want to be somewhere where I was the only person of color. Much less so the only woman of color. So, I try to surround myself with folks I consider to be kin and family in that sense.”

Historically, poetry writers and teachers have not been racially or ethnically diverse. However, the poetry industry today is increasingly embracing more people of color and people who identify as LGBTQ+. According to the National Endowment for the Arts, poetry is even growing the most in its readership out of all other literary genres.

Reid acknowledges that though the poetry industry is evolving in terms of inclusivity, there is still a fear among some that this renaissance and “tokenization phase” is only momentary.

Reid thinks otherwise.

“I don’t think we’re going to let it pass. I think we’re too powerful and there’s too much of a desire from ourselves and from people like us to have our words.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to Ithaca Week

Your donation will support the student journalists of Ithaca College. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Ithaca Week

Comments (0)

All Ithaca Week Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *