November 25, 2014

Alt Lit and Rape Culture - Rape Culture Roundtable - Part One: Alt Lit Destroys Itself

Part one of two in a roundtable discussion. Kat Dixon, Sarah Certa, D. Dragonetti, Alexandra Naughton, Kia Groom, Jos Charles, Sarah B. Boyle, and Eunsong Kim dig into the death of alt lit, including how alt lit contributed to the oppression of minority voices and brought about its own destruction.

Rape Culture Roundtable, Part One: Alt Lit Destroys Itself

Sarah B. Boyle: There has been much talk about the death of alt lit in the wake of the rape and abuse scandals of the past year. So, what do you say, is Alt Lit dead? Why?

Jos Charles: Communities come together in the midst of violence. The question is less ‘is there violence’ than what are we doing within it, to upset it, disempower those at the top, empower victims, and so on. I would like to think alt lit existed, at least in part, in resistance against the gatekeeping within the academic writing/publishing world, a system largely built on nepotism shot through with white supremacist and patriarchal fuckery. I say this to say: alt lit existed in  in the context of the academy, in the context of white supremacy, in the context of patriarchy, in the context of rape. People who say “alt lit doesn’t have a problem, our society does” try to shift away from this. But alt lit had a problem precisely because this society that produced alt lit has problems. We’ve inherited our power and disempowerment. We’ve been materially grouped.

Alt lit was white supremacist, patriarchal, full of colonialist shit, transmisogynistic, defended rape, and was generally creepy as hell. Not taking a stand against these things, proactively, is to default. Alt lit defaulted to disempowering victims of rape and assault, to empowering those who assaulted, and, even during the aftermath, focusing on the behavior of the rapists and abusers over and above empowering and defending victims. We still haven’t finished the conversation about ethics, about what is right for men to do or not do, to move on to repair, recovery, and collective responsibility to trauma. I don’t know if that means alt lit is dead, was dead from the beginning or what. I would like to see writers I came to know and respect continue working with and beyond the voices they developed within it. Everyone should care about gender and sexual violence. Not everyone should care about alt lit.

Kat Dixon: I would argue that alt lit is not dead inasmuch as it has been violently dismantled. I don’t think this is simply an issue of its having an unsustainable number of scandals; rather alt lit has sort of thrived on what might be traditionally labeled “scandal”—you know, the normalized use of heavy drugs, “awkward” sex or the forward display of (possibly large numbers of) sexual partners, etc. Remember that time Tao Lin and Megan Boyle eloped in Vegas for publicity? Alt lit was never a vanilla community. But the outing of so many of its altar boys as rapists, abusers, or men who found other ways to abuse their power or to exploit women isn’t “scandal” so much as it is an unveiling of the troubling dynamics operating within the community and the overall rape subculture that it has fostered.

Alt lit’s subsequent decline is important for everyone, I think, to take note of; it was a time when women and trans individuals collectively began to say “enough is enough” and were, amazingly, taken seriously. It was this incredible refusal to continue to endorse this kind of behavior within literary circles, and it was widespread. There’s power in this, and it’s certainly a model that can and should be replicated in other circles.

Sarah Certa: The dismantling of Alt Lit has so clearly exposed the oppression, exploitation, and celebration of rape culture on which so much of it thrived that at this point anyone who wants to defend Alt Lit or “save Alt Lit” in any way has either been living under a rock or is part of the problem of Alt Lit to begin with. (And honestly if you live under a rock and then come out from under the rock without educating yourself on what has happened the whole time you were under said rock—you are a part of the problem, too.) At this point anyone who takes Alt Lit seriously as a literary scene worth time/energy/praise is complicit in rape culture. And it’s not because Alt Lit has been ruined—it was ruined to begin with, operating on tired tropes, rape culture, centered on the same systemic privileges much of greater society operates on, and was simply disguised as being “progressive” with its emotional aesthetic and seemingly liberated approaches to talking about things like drugs and sex. We’ve just peeled back the disguise, is all.

Alexandra Naughton: Alt lit never felt very real to me as a literary movement. It wasn’t serious. If anything, it was a brand, a  message board I posted on because other people were posting on it and sometimes a cool conversation happened. Alt Lit Gossip is synonymous with alt lit for me, because that is how I was first introduced to alt lit, through facebook. Alt lit was something for me to mess around with while at my day job. Shit talking that sometimes involved literature, shit talking that maybe felt poetic at times. Some of my friends are there. I tagged things on tumblr as ‘alt lit’ sometimes, not because I felt the writing was ‘alt lit’ but because it’s a brand that I associated with.

tl;dr: Rape culture is still a thing and a prevalent problem regardless of what we’re calling whatever literary movement.

D. Dragonetti: Yes, “alt lit” is dead, because, at this point, “alt lit” is most known for its scandals. Inter-community dynamics aside, its public image (e.g., via the Gawker coverage) has become arguably synonymous with rape culture. “Alt lit” is neither redeemable nor worthwhile enough to recover from that. Why try to revive something that was rife with problems when you could more easily create something new and better?

Kia Groom: I don’t know if literary movements ever ‘die’, honestly. And there have been, already, articles published that wax lyrical about how great the movement is/was, how writers like myself and D. and Alexandra, the folks at Gawker, all of that—how we’ve chronically misrepresented Alt Lit, how we’ve cherry-picked and cast it in an unfair light. Is that true? Hard to say. But I think it’s definitely the case that the poetics of the movement were mired in a really damaging worldview that dismissed, objectified, and marginalized women. That female identified poets belonged to the movement does not negate that. So is it dead? Shit, probably not. Probably not as long as the boy’s club keep summoning it from the grave with these halcyon eulogies.

SBB: How has alt lit treated minority voicesfemale, trans*, POC, queer, etc.? Do you think that treatment has shifted in any way through the ongoing outing of the abusers in the community and movement?

KG: The impassioned eulogies for Alt Lit certainly like to invoke the names of prolific minority voices within the scene. I’ve read many articles over the last few weeks that harp on about zines like Illuminati Girl Gang and Shabby Doll House, or writers like Mira Gonzalez and Melissa Broder. Look, I don’t think anyone was ever saying “there are no women in Alt Lit,” or “women have/have had no place in the movement.” That’s obviously and blatantly incorrect. But just because women and minorities have a marginal representation within a scene doesn’t mean they’re not being exploited and objectified by the manchildren who write poems reducing them to body parts—sometimes reducing them to body parts by name (I’m looking at you, Janey Smith). It appears to me that it was always a toxic environment for underrepresented groups. Personally, I’m curious why women, trans folk, and POC were ever attracted to the scene in the first place. When people spend that much time writing poorly conceived poems about their dicks, I for one just see an array of giant red flags...

DD: “Alt lit” has never been good to minority voices. There has always been lot of obvious neglect and silencing, and there was incredible tokenization, which I feel actually increased as abusers were outed. On the one hand, it was incredible and unprecedented for call-outs of notable gate-keepers to be taken at least semi-seriously, and the solidarity of survivors/allies like Alexandra Naughton, Sophia Katz, Tiffany Wines, Isabel Sanhueza, and myself actually gave us considerable clout. It became so obvious, so pressing, that people were forced to really face and interact with problems, many of which had been previously and casually enabled (Janey Smith/Steven Trull’s presence is a good example). And that is what ultimately “killed alt lit,” that continual confrontation, splintering the community.

On the other hand, the months of “scandal” really drew out and reified “soft exploitation,” co-opting of the cause. I mean, how many times did we see cis/het/white men, who used to pal around with and publish  the alleged rapists, post heart emoticons on victims’ posts and share articles captioned “brave,” “must-read”? I wrote about this in my Salon piece: “As a trans and non-binary survivor of sexual violence, I do not feel any better or any safer when I see a heterosexual white man marking the posts of survivors as ‘important,’ or lamenting the horrors embedded in our reality.” It amazes me how often I’ve been called “opportunistic” when people, as in the case of “alt lit,” will literally only recognize abuse when it conveniences them. This begets tokenization, when a few people become the “go-to” survivors—read: “go-to” outsiders—and then others defer to their authority, or invoke them to seem aligned with “progress.” I feel this had already happened in “alt lit” with people like Stephen Michael McDowell (prior to their confession of abusing people themself) and Safy-Hallan Farah criticizing its racism/whitewashing to mixed responses, or Joshua Jennifer Espinoza becoming tokenized as a trans woman author, undermining the value of her work and voice.

SBB: Can you point me to a couple of those articles that wax on about the greatness of alt lit? I read Emily Swanson on HTMLGIANT and found myself persuaded. She wrote, “This ‘boy’s club’ narrative of the alt lit community also distracts from the real problems at hand – that rape, sexual abuse, and destructive understandings of consent and power can and do exist in all communities – even those widely populated and helmed by women and individuals uniquely committed to addressing feminist issues.” And this echoes what Kia says above that just because there are women in a movement doesn’t mean that the movement isn’t dangerous to women. And I absolutely agree, Kat, that “scandal” is a trope baked into the alt lit aesthetic/movement. So, what I wondered, after reading Swanson, was if, at the same time alt lit trafficked in scandal, in fact creating more scandals to feed its own endless appetite, it also created an atmosphere conducive to exposing scandal (or oppression). The question then would be: how do we salvage the part of alt lit that led to people taking minority voices seriously and replicate that model in other circles, as Kat suggests?

DD: I wrote my response to Swanson’s piece because I found her analysis to be misrepresentative, which is also what makes it dangerously persuasive. It’s a fallacy that “alt lit” was conducive to exposing/remedying oppression. I discuss this in my Tusk response (and, to an extent, in my Delirious Hem piece, because that was context of my experience of the “manifold rape”), juxtaposing Swanson’s fallacy against the reality of what happened to me and Alexandra. Also, mainstream publishing is a “boys’ club,” so I don’t find that narrative irrelevant at all; the“scandal” surrounding “We’re Fucked” and Plain Wrap Press was well-aligned with this. If there was any semblance of an “anti-oppressive” atmosphere, we, the survivors, created it.

KD: I agree with D. Swanson’s “boys’ club as distraction” argument is itself a distraction—and a justification for inaction. Just as the presence of women within a male-dominated group does not negate that group’s male-dominance (um, Congress anyone?), the existence of male privilege abuse in larger circles does not make its existence in subgroups any less palpable or its interrogation and dismantling any less necessary. Alt lit may have trafficked in “scandal,” but the systemic abuse of women—I say systemic because, apart from the instances that have been revealed, the literature produced within the community has itself been used to objectify women and to perpetuate damaging tropes, which D. has outlined in the past—is not scandal; it’s an affront to human rights. If alt lit had ever been a community that fostered real freedom of expression outside of what was deemed patriarchally acceptable, especially for its minority members to express grievances, we wouldn’t have seen the reproduction of tropes that misrepresent and mistreat women, and we would have seen more outings sooner. Word went round that Tully had been carrying on rape behavior for a long time and that there were a lot of people staying hushed about it. That’s not an environment that encourages victims to come forward.

SBB: In other words, there is no part of alt lit that is conducive to outing abusers. It is only the strength of the survivors, which allowed them to rise above and break out of a literary movement that, by its very nature, is built on scandal and oppression.

SC: It depends on what the voices are saying, because people can be marginal yet still uphold the patriarchy and are thus more likely to be celebrated and given spotlight. I’m thinking about Elizabeth Ellen in particular, since she’s had the gall to defend outed abusers on more than one occasion, and even mock victims who have spoken up—she is one of those women who, because she doesn’t upset the patriarchy but plays right into it (under the guise of some pseudo female liberation, of course), is without a doubt included in Alt Lit and perhaps even championed as something “new” when really there is nothing new about patriarchy at all.

And yeah that whole interview between Ellen & Juliet Escoria in which they joke about being “bad feminists,” defend abusers, and say anyone who calls their interview “sexist” is an “asshole” who needs to focus on “bigger issues in the world” as opposed to these “tiny, mostly-imagined instances of oppression.” Even though the abuser they defended was MY abuser at the time this interview came out, and of course he immediately found it (Googling his name with every morning & afternoon cup of coffee), and used it to further gaslight me and control the narrative of what was actually happening. I don’t know if I can give you a more concrete example of rape culture in play. The attitudes of women like Ellen & Escoria normalize oppression, normalize domestic abuse, and those in power, those doing the abuse, sweep up their words like gold & wave them like flags, proclaiming innocence & silencing victims.

AN: Alt lit is like an in-joke, exclusive and navel gazey and disapproving. Everyone wants to be popular and buddy-buddy so when someone brings up legitimate dissent (and by legitimate dissent I mean not someone just playing devil’s advocate to be net-edgy) it is frowned upon. Think about the way Andrea Coates has been derided for sharing her work in the alt lit sphere. I talked about this subject a lot with Luis Silva, who runs Electric Cereal, in a piece we did for HTMLgiant a while back. Seems like hardly anyone really cares about fresh writing or including minority voices, and by minority I mean anyone not a straight white cis male or catering to that gaze. I think some venues are, but it’s not widespread. The standards should be higher and the reach should be more encompassing, particularly if you’re going to brand yourself as ‘alternative.’ Alternative to what? It’s like tuning in to the college radio station and being lambasted with commercial-laden muzak. If you’re going to play by the same rules as the oppression, you have no business calling yourself ‘alt.’

I don’t necessarily feel any sort of sense of community or camaraderie with alt lit as a whole, but I am happy to know the people who I do know from alt lit. I feel like the roots for a healthier community are beginning to take place.

SBB: Perhaps it is that very “navel gazey” stance that masked the problems in the movement? As in, it sometimes seems in alt lit as if no one is listening, only waiting for their turn to talk. Is it crazy to suggest that in simply “waiting to talk,” not enough people were paying enough attention to what other people said to be offended? And that’s how we got some high-profile women, trans*, and POC voices in a movement sometimes obsessed with the voice of the patriarchy?

KD: There is always a certain faction of women (and probably a faction of all oppressed groups) that is attracted to this sort of boys’ club. Simone de Beauvoir calls them “liege-women.” Becoming complicit with men, especially those who claim a level of power, even if it is within a very limited community or space, yields its own set of rewards and privileges—namely inclusion, publication, promotion, the works—so long as the non-white-cis-men in question bought into the culture that was already in place (a culture conveniently prescribed by men). I have no doubt that alt lit’s liege-women were championed—at least until they broke some unwritten rule and stepped outside the in-house normalized boundaries of acceptability, as I believe was the case for Safy-Hallan Farah and others previously mentioned.

SBB: I’d love to dig a little deeper into Safy-Hallan Farah calling out alt lit out for its “fake” and “real” race problems. Mostly, I wonder how we take that criticism and move past tokenism, which Dianna points out has real negative consequences for the community and the individual “tokens.” These are the questions where I always get stuck. I know tokenization is a problem—and can recognize it. But what actual concrete, steps do we take to fix it? And, to build on what Kat said, how do we help “liege-women” fight from the inside?

JC: Tokenism, in my experience, happens in shitty microaggressive ways which work to establish it as a structure. I’ve certainly been published or included in stuff cause I’m trans. I imagine some of those times I might not have gotten published if I wasn’t trans. Sometimes this is communicated explicitly and sometimes not. Largely, for me, I don’t mind being published somewhere because I’m trans if one, there are other trans people being published, two, I am given equal access or power (within the capacity of the publication or scene or whatever), and/or three, people involved are working on their shit. However, if all that shit is in place, it’s not going to alleviate that awareness of the structure of tokenism, not going to change that I’m navigating that space as someone who is tokenized, read as a trans writer before being ‘just’ a writer. I think we work to dismantle that precisely by those examples—talk about and commit yourself to equitable publishing, give not just equal representation but equal power, then consistently do it.

SC: Can we help “liege-women” fight from the inside?

SBB: Ha! I was just about to add that question: is fighting from the inside even possible?

SC: In some cases I highly doubt it and wouldn’t waste much energy in doing so. I’d rather put that time and energy into helping victims reclaim their narratives, speaking with those who truly want to learn, help, etc. Not that we shouldn’t take opportunities to educate each other, but there comes a point when you just have to let it go, when you realize that some people, some “liege-women,” don’t WANT to fight from the inside. They like being on the inside. Just like the men who have no interest in examining themselves and how they might help dismantle patriarchy. As an example: When Elizabeth Ellen wrote her beyond troubling open letter to the internet, once again defending outed abusers, writer Kate Zambreno shared the article and when Kate was called out for it, she took the post down and wrote a lengthy apology in response. She listened. She took responsibility for her ignorance in this situation, and, in doing so, called for others to do the same. I then wrote a detailed response to Elizabeth Ellen and soon came to learn that Elizabeth Ellen is not someone who has any interest in dismantling rape culture. She has no problem with her role in rape culture.

And it’s not just Ellen & Escoria—we see these attitudes everywhere all the time, and I am starting to call this blatant dismissal of abuse allegations harassment, because that’s exactly what it is. When someone comes forth with an abuse allegation and you interject your opinion as grounds for dismissing the victim, that is harassment. That is further belittling the victim. It’s bullying and it needs to be called out as such.

“Liege-women” who want to fight from the inside ultimately will have to decide to do so for themselves. Those who want to hear us eventually will. I think continuing to bring these conversations to the table, like we’re doing here, is a great concrete step. Continuing to write, speak, dismantle, and expose. Bringing in voices from various social circles, widening our audience and reach.

KD: Haha I’ve been trying to think of a way to turn a liege-woman double agent style. But what do we have to offer them? Risk losing the scant privileges you’ve garnered through complicity with men and rejoin the oppressed masses! It’s not the most compelling bid. But we’re also not only fighting patriarchy for the souls—so to speak—of liege-women. There’s all of neoliberal ideology to contend with—that insidious, self-help-movement-stylized individualism that keeps us mired to ourselves to the detriment of any possible collectivity. I think the best we can do under these circumstances is to hold liege-women accountable for their choices, especially when those choices come at the expense of other women, as is the case with Elizabeth Ellen and her penchant for victim-blaming. And let’s not forgot Juliet Escoria, who joined Ellen in blindly denying allegations against Sherl when I outed him earlier this year and then went on to call Alexandra and D. “fascists” for discussing their experiences of abuse and supporting other victims (instead of perpetrators).

SBB: The crumbling of the alt lit scene has been a tempest in a teapot in that, while it has rocked everyone within alt lit and many writers adjacent to the scene, it has gotten very little attention in the broader culture. Why should people outside literature care? How do we get them to notice?

AN: I’ve been trying to think of ways to get people to notice and get people to care. It’s shocking for me to deal with some of the aggressively negative responses I received after bringing the abuses I experienced from Janey Smith/Steven Trull to light. It was shocking to see women writers actively defend rape culture and known abusers. It was shocking to not feel solidarity from the writing community, to feel like some people totally had my back but there were also quite a few who were stone silent or spitting nastiness. Coming out about anything is not easy to do. Making yourself really vulnerable, in public, is anxiety inducing. It is not a ticket to popularity, it’s not something you just do for funsies or because you want to join in on the pile on. I’ve been victimized by people who want to accuse me of a great many things maybe because they feel defensive and threatened because maybe they have really shitty values too and maybe bringing this topic up in conversation makes them feel self conscious. But I don’t really know what’s going on in their heads.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that we have to keep talking about this and making an example of these bad behaviors.

KG: So, when I first heard about Janey Smith & PeterBd’s “We’re Fucked,” through D., I wrote a little article about it, and about this wider problem I saw, within indie lit and indeed literature in general, of using women and women’s bodies (not to mention trans* bodies, and the bodies of POC) as props. My mentor asked that I bring it up in MFA workshop as a point of discussion and, wouldn’t you know it, some dudebro felt the need to shrug his shoulders and say, with exactly the degree of practiced boredom you’d expect from a young, white, male writer, “Yeah, but like...why are we even talking about this?”

SBB: Argh, fuck that!

KG: I think it can be difficult to make folks see that this is not an isolated incident in a small scene. Those of us who live this experience? We already know that. We know that being abused and harassed, having our bodies and our identities consistently appropriated, is pretty much just what you can expect to happen when you leave the house in the morning. It’s hard to make people who have not had that experience understand that “Alt Lit” is a recent, pronounced example of the entire history of Western literary tradition, which in turn reflects behaviors and norms reinforced by the patriarchy. How do we get them to notice? I wish I had the answer to that, but I absolutely think step one is speaking. Shouting. Screaming. Making a goddamn fuss.

I’m also at this wonderful point in my life where my “give a fuck” meter has been tipped so far past maximum threshold that I could care less about dudebros policing my tone. I am done talking about these issues “nicely.” I am done holding my tongue in MFA workshops and tiptoeing around misogynist faculty members. I am just done. For me, the answer right now is sometimes anger. It’s being confrontational and not letting shit slide just because maybe the person doesn’t know better or maybe he’s just too old to get it or he means well or he’s trying.

SC: People outside of literature should care because the core issues—institutionalized forms of oppression, rape culture, etc—exist outside of alt lit. Alt lit isn’t special in any way. And one of the only blessings (don’t use the word blessing—it is not a blessing—it is a way to build from the destruction) I see in having been involved with Gregory Sherl is that he was known by some as alt lit but also had his foot in almost every literary scene (big press, small press, indie press, corporate press) and so I’ve seen the whole issue as one of the ways we can link the conversations between the alt lit scene and the bigger literary scene. Sherl is included in some of the alt lit discussions (and publications) but also he’s published by Algonquin Books and is now featured in Oprah Magazine, which is another reason I have been pushing the discussion as much as I have, hoping to shed some light on how systematic oppression is a problem everywhere.

I’ll also add that we get people to notice by continuing to tell our own stories. To fucking scream our own stories, if we have to. Because we have to. I feel pretty certain in saying that I’m mostly here because I heard the stories of others, and I know my stories have helped others open up their own stories.

DD: People should only care about “alt lit” as far as recognizing it as a textbook example of rape culture under kyriarchy, and that’s exactly why it’s relevant to people outside of literature. Canonical publishing—a facet of literature which permeated “alt lit,” as it does all literary communities—is literary, but informed by and reflective of social mores. Canon came into existence as cis/het/white and male because those were the people in power, i.e. those power dynamics exist and are active in every context. This is much bigger than “alt lit” or even all lit. It’s just a tangible exemplar, rife with dynamics that can be criticized as part of a larger pattern. People don’t notice because this pattern is intentionally sublimated through “norm” and assimilation. I am not sure there is a categorical solution to help people to notice, but I think prioritizing the voices of marginal people in major media is a good start.

SBB: Man, isn’t that always the problem with the hegemony? No one sees it because it is as invisible as the air—and just as important to everyday life, too.

KD: Everyone should care about this because these are the people who are actively creating, participating in the creation of, or have the potential to create our contemporary culture. Alt lit may seem no more than a blip on a relatively limited radar, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t or doesn’t have the potential to influence the larger culture in some way. It’s probably reasonable to say that most alt lit-identified writers will never be household names, but their work still exists; it’s still accessible. Tao Lin may be the atypical alt lit member, but he has been heralded by numerous publications as one of the major writers of the era, has published with a large, mainstream press, and has had his face plastered all over the internet. And guess what? All statutory laws aside, he emotionally abused and exploited a then-16-year-old-girl to get there.

Women, POC, trans people, we have been the backs on which literature has been built for centuries, and the reckoning of alt lit for its abuses and literary crimes against women and trans individuals is a largely isolated instance. I, for one, have never before seen a literary community rise up and say fuck this on such a scale. Sure, alt lit won’t make the literature textbooks, but if its demise is precipitated by a disavowal of cultural creation that comes at the expense of the actual well-being, the actual lives of marginalized people, then yeah, everyone should damn well take notice.

Eunsong Kim: I'm less interested in people "outside the scene" (whatever this may mean) noticing, and more concerned about how the writing community responds. For the most part and from what I understand, the state (the police) has not been brought into this situation. [Note from SBB: some people have attempted to use the law to help them—Sarah Certa and Alexandra Naughton, for two—but as so often happens when victims go to the police, the police could not and/or would not help.] For better or for worse, those affected by rape and gendered violence in alt lit did not get help from the outside. They wrote articles, they posted on social media, they told their friends, they told US—those who have a vested interest in contemporary writing, its community and ethics. Now that we know, what are we going to do next? Is this the time for restorative justice that’s beyond lip service, that’s strategic and ongoing? How will we create and maintain safe (not civil, safe) spaces?

One thing that I think the writing establishment can do is actively  push back against male centered, misogynistic “poetics.” Publishing and reading series can stop exceptionalizing the banal yet violent political dreams of cis male poetry. Male identified poets must understand that they are not exceptional—they are actually so overwhelming filled with the master’s narrative it’s actually quite underwhelming. Writing poetry is not exceptional. Having desires and then privileging them to the detriment of another is not exceptional. Poetry circles are not exceptional and will be filled with the same rape culture dynamics of our current world unless we use our energy to fight for a different space.

Have something to say? Email comments, questions, responses, and links to relevant articles and literature elsewhere to: rapeculture.and.altlit [at] gmail [dot] com. For background and the original call for submissions, see here. To read all the responses in the series, click here 


Sarah B. Boyle is a poet, activist, mother and high school teacherHer work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Menacing Hedge, Sugar Mule, Cheat River Review,and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. 

Sarah Certa was born in Germany in 1987. She is the author of the chapbooks RED PAPER HEART (2013) and JULIET (I) (2014). Her first full-length poetry collection, Nothing To Do With Me, is due out from University of Hell Press spring 2015. Find more online at

Jos Charles is the founding-editor of THEM – a trans literary journal.  They have poetry published (and/or have publications forthcoming) with BLOOM, Denver Quarterly, The Feminist Wire, EOAGH, Metazen, boosthouse’s THE YOLO PAGES, as well as variously online.

Kat Dixon is the author of the full-length poetry collections TEMPORARY YES (2012) and BLACK RACKET OCEAN (2014), the novella HERE/OTHER (2014), and four chapbooks. She lives in Seoul and online at

D. Dragonetti is an angel boy, creator of Post-Alt, and co-founder of Empath Lit. He has written for SalonFanzine, and published a chapbook of poetry, Tangier (2012). Find him online @aliteralwerther on Twitter and @angelboyangelboy on Tumblr.

Kia Groom is founding editor of Quaint Magazine and an MFA candidate at the University of New Orleans, where she teaches freshman composition and works as associate poetry editor for Bayou Magazine. Her work appears in Westerly, Going Down Swinging, and Curbside Splendor, and she tweets @whodreamedit.

Eunsong Kim is​ writer and educator residing in ​southern California​. Her ​poetry and writings on contemporary culture have appeared or will be forthcoming in Minnesota Review, Interim, Coconut Magazine, Iowa Review, Seattle Review, Tinfish, Denver Quarterly ,​ AAWW's The Margins​, The New Inquiry, Model View Culture ​​amongst others. She tweets occasionally @clepsydras.

Alexandra Naughton is the boss at Be About It press and zine and co-founder of empathlit. She wrote a book called I Will Always Be Your Whore and writes things for different things and for herself.

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