cover image Gephyromania


T.C. Tolbert. Ahsahta (SPD, dist.), $18 (104p) ISBN 978-1-934103-52-4

Tolbert’s debut collection, named after an obsession with bridges, bends both lyric and theory-driven poetics to their breaking point as it explores the limits of and territories between desire, will, loss and gain, and the experience of moving from female to male embodiment. Shifting quickly between abstraction and concreteness (“To remove from the frame of/ reference the referent... // The story of cleavage unwritten./ Erased. (perhaps.) but still missed”) Tolbert’s poems play with form and page-orientation, line-length, and diction—a celebration of and elegy for identities lost and gained. “We are a bedrock of antecedents.// (& sing. & sing./ & sing.)” Addresses to a lover blur with Tolbert’s own encounters with the self (“Come closer love, and do not diminish me./ ... you who are a fistful of duet.”) and a multiplicity of selves emerges (“I is so many words.”). Throughout, Tolbert charts a moving away not only from being physically female (“That ____________ was born Melissa Dawn Tolbert, December 24, 1974”), but from a troubled past where “my grandmother who// despite my parade of girlfriends and her profession/ that nobody should be mean to them, still doesn’t believe in being queer.” As hardened attitudes toward queerness begin to erode, Tolbert relishes that “It’s finally my turn as the wind.” (May)