Alien Pink, a chapbook by Spencer Williams
gown is snagged on one thin
branch, burning but
a single, red stretch
of toothless mouth.
Spencer Williams wants to teach you about blood, about burning, about the confines of veins and marrow. In a way, this is a book concerned with mothers—alien mothers, rabbit mothers, human mothers—but not in the way you think. Rather, it is a meditation on the violence of deliverance. Spencer rummages through her inventory with spectacular clarity, but the objects she finds are disturbed, filaments of abuse that buzz and flame. Spencer gives us the America we know about, the one that buries the names of trans deaths while cis male actors safely play their parts; the one that hides trauma inside VHS cassettes, etymology, and geographies otherwise known as home; the one that stalks rifle-forward in the long grass for the mother rabbit. Spencer's mind is cinematic, a flickering Kenneth Anger hellscape. She beguiles and explores the terrain we know until the landscape deranges, derails, queers into lush killing bloom. Physical and devastating, Alien Pink promises to "digs the flesh /out from the body / and holds it like an apple towards / a camp of flies."
Praise for Alien Pink:
Part coming-out narrative, part post-traumatic dreamworld, part Flannery-O’Connor-gothic Americana for the 21st century, Williams’ poetry both incorporates and arms itself against the violence of a nation where one must ask: “how does one begin to write / about trans bodies / lining the sidewalk without / reducing them to symbol.” Williams turns the tired tropes of mainstream trans narratives inside out by sitting down in the discomfort of what it means to be born (or reborn) not just as a gendered individual, but as one ghost in the hive-machines of national identity, kinship, commodity, and desire.
—Liz Bowen, author of Sugarblood (Metatron, 2017)
Spencer Williams captures the unique loneliness and trauma of trans life through poems that become bodies unto themselves, unabashedly showing their wounds while rendering the body as a space palpably damaged by a world uninterested in listening, in hearing, in understanding the struggles trans people face. In striking and intriguing imagery Williams is able to find the essence of what it is like to claim a girlhood that no one wants you to have, while simultaneously (and beautifully) staking this claim for herself.
—J. Jennifer Espinoza, author of There Should Be Flowers (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2016)
Alien Pink sets out with a set of fundamental questions about representation, its capacities, it’s violences, its limits: “How does one begin to write” about trans life and death, asks Spencer Williams, “without / reducing them to symbol”? Her answer, I think, is to eschew closure and beautiful surfaces, to instead enter “the gash” and train her attention on surreal and alien forms—curdled, clotted, lawless, crusted, pocked. Though things here are very strange, what Williams’ writing gives us, ultimately, is a kind of realism, a dutiful rendering of what it feels like to inhabit trauma, transformation, alienation, a doubled-over self “made to overflow.”
—Cameron Awkward-Rich, author of Sympathetic Little Monster (Ricochet Editions, 2016)
About Spencer Williams:
Spencer Williams is from Chula Vista, California. She is currently an undergraduate at University of Iowa, where she is studying English and Cinema. Her work has been featured in Potluck, Ink Lit Mag, Fractal, and Periphery.