Composed using words chosen from children’s early to mid 20th-century readers and from early 20th-century natural history textbooks, Men & Sleep exposes hidden currents and meanings in teaching materials from the past. The two long poems presented in this volume draw readers into a strange yet quotidian world of ordinary wonder and transformation. Inhabiting creaturely life & plant/animal co-embodiment--queering sexual, gender & even species distinctions--this book invites readers to mix (in) their own evanescent experiences. Moving beyond the limits of linear narrative or cause and effect, Men & Sleep requests and makes space for repeated engagements, just as if readers were exploring a forest or a marsh. When it’s never quite clear whether the being you encounter here is a human, a tree, an insect or some unique combination of all of these, how do you behave? How does their behavior impact you? How do you both change in the encounter? Perhaps these questions will help Men & Sleep reveal itself to you.
“Can poetry be both mysterious and physical? I am utterly intrigued by Jay Besemer’s Men & Sleep. It is an immersive book that hums with the sensuality of “spore-filled organs” as it meditates on the relationship between language, masculinity and nature. While it is a book of trees, it’s also a decidedly horizontal book: we creep through the mosses and leaves, smelling the ‘puzzling odor.’”—Johannes Göransson
“When I see a tree I think “Trees enjoy being trees.” Or maybe it's more accurate to say I feel them; their commitment to the vitality of struggle and survival as enjoyment and pleasure. As I was reading this collection I thought, Jay Besemer understands what I mean by this, even though we’ve never met or had a conversation. Human beings are also this way, like trees, or are we trees? The word “like” here doesn’t feel quite right, to designate separateness. In “the sexual autumn” we respond to change entangled with the earth beings we’ve othered through language. Poetry brings us back home to where we belong.”—Nikki Wallschlaeger
Poetry. LGBTQ+ Studies.
Poet and artist Jay Besemer is the author of numerous poetry collections, including the double chapbook Wounded Buildings/Simple Machines (Another New Calligraphy 2022) and Theories of Performance (The Lettered Streets Press, 2020). He is also the author of a long-form hybrid essay, On Being Half-Imaginary (Beir Bua Press, forthcoming 2024). He was a 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist for Transgender Poetry, and a finalist for the 2017 Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature. Jay was included in the groundbreaking anthology Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. Find him online at www.jaybesemer.net and on social media, mostly Twitter and occasionally Tumblr and Mastodon.Author City: CHICAGO, IL USA