CUMFLOWER by Noah LeBien
125 x 190mm, 44 pages, single colour risograph printing throughout, saddle stitched, 2020
Noah LeBien’s Cumflower, their first book of poems, is consumed with desire: to know the self, to make oneself known, and to undo that knowledge and the authoritative voice that shapes it. Caustic with irony, contradiction, failure, confusion, and violence—both against macho-intellectualism and the male-identified body—LeBien’s poems overflow and inescapably manipulate their author. Working within and against the gauze of confessionalism and the mythos of the American Poet, LeBien interrogates the possibilities of speech without authorship, vulnerability without use, and selfhood without delimitation.
LeBien explains “The poems in this book were written the year or so before I started transitioning. At the time I was still subconsciously saying to myself: I know what I am, I am comfortable with it, but nah... I don't really need to go through all that, I don't want to become such a spectacle... I was terrified of people knowing me, as in, knowing my desire. So I thought I could continue to live through my poems, that these were my expression, my spectacle, because I had control over these poems, since I could control what I'm saying and the rhythm of the words and how the ideas and emotions will inform the reader about me. Of course, poetry doesn't work that way. In that sense this collection is kind of an endpoint: the last gasp of the attempt to be an authority on myself, in which the words are the gauze of an attempt to control what the reader thinks about me, in which I am performing with an authoritative voice my personal experiences in an attempt to manipulate how my identity is formed in the mind of the reader... Is that really what "confessional" poetry is supposed to be? Because then all we've done is used our personal experiences as a means to the end of establishing an authoritative voice--which is the essence of macho-capitalism. At the same time as this collection is flexing its American-Poet-identity, the poems are also caustic with irony, contradiction, failure and confusion, violence against the macho-intellectual me in my brain controlling it like a slug, violence against my body but also as a way of tearing my maleness apart to get to something more authentic--which is to say, pure desire, unformed. Now I'm taking testosterone blockers and estrogen pills not because I know myself and am a firm (phallic) entity but because these poems tore apart my desire to know, to let my true desires flow out. To be a spectacle, to be open, vulnerable, known but, because vulnerability is so rare in our society and only thought of in terms of its sociopathic use, fundamentally unknown. Anyway, whether or not it needed to be this way these poems were essential to making that happen.”
Noah LeBien is a trans poet and performer living in Brooklyn making noise from poems/poems from noise. Music at https://noahlebien.bandcamp.com/
Published by Genderfail and Wendy’s Subway