Published March 15, 2016:
Call Me by My Other Name,
published by Sibling Rivalry Press!
Call Me by My Other Name is a fierce, unforgettable book about bodies and desire. Told in three voices—two historical figures, and a meta-poetic third voice that connects past to present—Wetlaufer's story weaves a brutal narrative of how we are taught to masquerade queer gender and yearning. Deeply affecting, the inventive language of these crucial, well-crafted poems transports at the same time as it transcends, embracing ambiguity, balancing intimacy and reserve. This much-anticipated second book by the Lambda Award-winning writer demonstrates that poetry, at its best, is capable of deliverance.
cover art by Sharon Gochenour
"Call Me By My Other Name is a triumph of contemporary poetry, persona poetry, feminist poetry, trans poetry, and poetry at large. This book is what happens when aesthetics and activism are yoked in the finest possible literary form. To my mind, it is a collection that should be read and taught as widely as possible—in every kind of literature, creative writing, and cultural studies course."
"By bringing a strange tale from another century into a book of poetry of the new millennium, the poet suspends gender roles in a clear gel of time that allows the reader to examine the issue from a place of intimate detachment, if that could be possible. Like science fiction uses futuristic settings to pay attention to real-world problems, Wetlaufer uses a singularly arresting event in the past to address issues of gender norms, sexuality, individualism and community plaguing American culture today. "
"In Valerie Wetlaufer’s poems, the body is the ultimate mystery: a complex and paradoxical site which generates both pleasure and pain, delight and shame. It is political as well as personal, though inherently tied to no specific set of gender roles or types of desire. This is a book that questions our ideas of intimacy and marriage, at a time when we still imagine that certain bodies must live outside the bounds of “normal” life. A book of historical monologues as well as documentary and personal lyrics, this book is raw, funny, tender, and razor-sharp. Wetlaufer’s is a bracing, and necessary voice."
“We’ve been digging graves, we’ve been pressing / dirty palms together and aiming vain eyes skyward,” writes Valerie Wetlaufer, whose striking second collection resurrects historical omission & delivers it with refined urgency & narrative grace. Call Me By My Other Name is direct in illuminating the archival holes in our queer & trans lineage—always already complicated by bodies & the ever-changing names we give them—& skillfully guides the lineated possibility of poetry to refashion presence in multiple selves at once. Wetlaufer is dexterous in sidestepping anachronistic projections & inflects instead a precise & thoroughly investigated socio-poetic translation that showcases her poetry’s agility in allowing the power of naming to literally translate corporal embodiment. “Give everyone a new name,” writes Wetlaufer, & I can only think: Yes, yes—please. Me, first.
Call Me By My Other Name is a trans book in the best sense of the word—one in which forms follow bodies, in which poems mutate from lyric to narrative, from voice to voice, and from margin to margin with the ease and grace of song. Here, through the stories of Frank/Anna and Gertrude, Valerie Wetlaufer reveals a secret history that resonates into the present as she takes it in, takes it to heart, and makes it her own—and, in doing so, she shows us that human love knows no single time and space but insists on itself.