Taking to Water
Conlon Jennifer Conlon
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Belletristik / Lyrik, Dramatik
A debut collection of poems that question gender and embrace queerness through the natural world of North Carolina. A tender imagining and devastating reckoning, Jennifer Conlon's debut presents a poetry collection of gender questioning, concerned with the survival of trans and nonbinary kids who live in places that do not allow them to thrive. The speaker of these poems wrestles with and envisions a life beyond their traumatic childhood as a genderqueer child in a small Southern Bible Belt town. Through retelling and reinterpreting moments of sexual shame and religious oppression, while navigating impossible expectations from a gender-binary society, Conlon shows readers that queerness and the natural world are inseparable. In their poems, Conlon comes to reject oppressive patriarchal figures, turning their gaze toward the natural world that catalyzes dreams of possibility, transformation, and safety-wasps protect them, an oak tree contains a new god, and flathead catfish guide them to a newly imagined body. Through thick North Carolina woods, Conlon searches for a language to celebrate queerness, finding it in ponds, hillsides, and within themselves.Taking to Water was selected by Carl Phillips as the winner of the 2022 Autumn House Poetry Prize.