Welcome back, Kristy Bowen!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired during 2018. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods. Today we bring you Kristy Bowen, author of the poetry collection sex & violence, which will be published in the spring of 2020. This will be Kristy’s third title with Black Lawrence Press.
Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies) and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

The Author

A writer and book artist working in both text and image,  Kristy Bowen is the author of  a number of chapbook, zine, and artists book projects, as well as several full-length collections of poetry/prose/hybrid work, including the recent salvage  (Black Lawrence Press, 2016), major characters in minor films (Sundress Publications, 2015) and girl show (Black Lawrence, 2014).  She lives in Chicago, where she runs dancing girl press & studio.

On writing sex & violence

I tend to work on a number of small projects at any given time and realized late last year something beginning to constellate around similar themes—sexuality, love, feminism, toxic masculinity, violence against women.  It was on the heels of some weird and troubling times for women in general, during which I’d been working on some prose poem series centered on some of my favorite things—Plath, horror movies, the work of Salvador Dali, while also working on a series of pieces about relationships and how difficult it is to reconcile love as a straight woman with male privilege and violence. I started to notice threads of ideas connecting all these disparate bits and suddenly had a manuscript that made sense thematically as an encapsulation of all sorts of anxieties that I foster as a woman in the world—about love, about violence and fear, about artmaking itself.



In the months after the election, no one can get comfortable in their skin.  This wolfish thing inside me scratches at the door each night and howls.  Growls at cab drivers and racist cousins in Oklahoma.  Makes friends with any window I can climb out of.  Anything that can get its hooks into my hair.  When I was a kid, I kept getting tangled in the blackberry bush in the yard, scratches on my thighs, my arms, my hemline reddening with juice. Even my fingers sticky for full-on fever, that twinning under some July moon.  I’d love to say I don’t hate men, but sometimes it’s hard.  Each one before you, grooves in the same record—the ones with ex-wives and el caminos and whiskey in their voices.  I’d love to say I loved them, but really, I was game for anything that could swallow me whole in one bite.

It’s summer, and on the news, men continue to do horrible things to women. I am writing poems and eating cherries til my lips stain.  Afflicted with the kind of lonely that hollows out the lungs.  Makes the body hospitable to ghosts and paper boats floating the surface of some still pond.  My hand is another girl’s hand. My heart is another girl’s blind panic. Her father the kind with too many sons and not enough daughters.  Another girl’s name on my t-shirt, bloody beside the tracks.  Another girls broken clarinet in a storm drain. How all of this fills a space we did not know existed, much less that it was large enough for a drowning. And worse, that I could make a harbor here, take my slice of cake and spread out a blanket beneath it.  What is, in fact, the weight of love?  Heavier than a heart?  Heavier than the hand?  By now I should be waving goodbye.  But my palm catches the wind like a sail.

I am really bad at telling jokes.  Mixing up punchlines and losing my train of thought.  Loosening my vowels and mucking up the perfect machine. I write poems called “How to Care for Your Princess Monster” and “How to Be an Emotional Ventroliquist” but I worry that while I’m pointing at my ribs, everyone is looking at my feet. Still I dream a lot about being trapped inside an enormous wedding cake—a claustrophobic swirl of sugar and lace. House fires and horses jumping from cliffs are easy, but where is the omen in so much sweetness? What else is there to do when the man comes looking for me with a bloodied shoe and a bottle of bourbon? Except hide inside the body of a huge, feather-bellied swan? I broke my ring finger once and it was all over for me. Understand that I am only looking for the sharpest item in the room to cut the girl from the swan that is the cake that is the swan.