THE SISSIES by Evan Kennedy
152 x 203mm, 104 pages, black and white printing, perfect bound, 2016
Composed on bicycular excursions through San Francisco, Evan Kennedy’s The Sissies aims to ‘be subjugated’ and speak as animal—wolf, ox, sheep, donkey. A ballpark seagull settling on the Giants’ outfield. The casual, mannered pun on St. Francis of Assisi (patron saint of the city and of animals) and ‘a sissy’ undergirds Kennedy’s argument against the ‘crummy superiority’ of humans, and for the ‘dissolution of animal taxonomy.’ The speaker strives toward, but does not reach, a creaturely transfiguration: ‘when I say wolf I mean something else I want to reach,’ a horizon continually vanishing. Amid echoes of the medieval argument against homosexuality as ‘contrary to kynde’ or against nature, Kennedy suggests that our species-exclusivity (homo, human) is our apparent peril—‘we have only kept identical to ourselves.’ Like the troubadour’s desire for another’s spouse, by definition unobtainable, or the longing for one’s creator and that-other-shore, these poems bray and graze toward a fuller empathy with creatures, a beatific meekness in the face of queer-bashing, where the body can be ‘stilled as meat.’
— Julian Talamantez Brolaski
The Sissies sings the body stigmatic (pummeled, benevolent, maligned) though it knows better than to hold out for unearthly transcendence. As a peer, I am envious and relieved to read poetry that is bare-chested, electric, and rare in its merger of poetic intuition with rigorous thought. ‘Let me speak as no one’s captive,’ Kennedy writes, unfettered by trend or pretense. This book makes me believe in our vocation again.
— Corrine Fitzpatrick
The triple body of the text, like any sanctified uni-trinity worthy the name, ‘perform[s] a superhuman etiquette toward the rest of creation.’ Here the trinity is queer/poet/urban cyclist whose body speeds with nervy fragility across cityscapes of bursting apotheosis. The body and its relinquishment, never-ending sources of mystical wonder, occasion subjective transcendence according to a cyclical template: that of the praise song, especially St. Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer, paying pan-theistic tribute to all elements of creation, from the cockroach to the dog-masked boys that litter the uni-trinity of his life, which, like his body, his mind and his text, are an exhilarating eco-system, a linguistic ‘wildlife sanctuary.’
— Maria Damon