Normal Sex & Home in three days. Don’t wash.
by Samuel Ace / Linda Smukler
Belladonna* Collaborative’s Germinal Texts are works that trace feminist avant-garde histories and the poetic lin-eages they produce. The series focuses on authors and texts that serve as generative grounds for other writers. Germinal Texts gesture, then, to networks of affiliation; to alliances, inheritances, sites of community; to the unfolding of a work through its readers; and to always pro-visional origins without ends. Germinal Texts are works that gather dense histories and, for this reason, the series is designed to open discussion, through contextualizing front and back matter that launches new conversations.
The first text in the Germinal Texts series, Theory, A Sunday (2013), is a translation of La théorie, un dimanche, first published by remue ménage in 1988. Theory, A Sunday is a mixed genre, multiply authored work of feminist auto-criticism, poetry, and fiction by Louky Bersianik, Nicole Brossard, Louise Cotnoir, Louise Dupré, Gail Scott, and France Théoret. Belladonna’s translated republication brings the work of these Quebecois writers to new audiences (generationally, linguistically, and geo-graphically), with an introduction by Lisa Robertson and an afterword by Rachel Levitsky and Gail Scott.
The second work in the series is Lyn Hejinian’s Positions of the Sun, a book of twenty-six interlocking “essays with characters” that explores the mid-2000s financial “crisis” through the movements and daily lives of a wide-ranging cast of characters located in the Bay Area. In Positions, Hejinian plays the bricoleur, bringing together whatever’s needed in her to approach to the subject—whether the paratactic tactics of poetry, schol-arship’s critical patchwork, dramatic action (but not plot), or characters set in time that evokes but frustrates narrative. Earlier iterations of essays 4, 14, and 17 appeared in Belladonna’s Elders Series #5, edited by Jennifer Scappettone.
Samuel Ace’s / Linda Smukler’s Meet Me There is the third volume in the series. Meet Me There is a paired repub-lication of Normal Sex (Firebrand Books, 1994) and Home in three days. Don’t wash. (Hard Press, 1996). In the present edition, the texts are accompanied by a new introduction and poem by Samuel Ace, and by a collection of short essays and reflections on Ace and Smukler’s poetics. Meet Me There brings together Ace / Smukler’s remarkable explorations of the interplay of language, desire, sex, and identity, and repositions this work, 25 years later, in the midst of burgeoning contemporary conversations about gen-der, sexuality, sociality, language, politics, and poetics.
Praise for Meet Me There
The timely reissue of both these books is cause for rejoicing. I know no more moving evocation of a child’s interior life and spirited resistance than the poems in Normal Sex. Linda Smukler, like Samuel Ace, is a master of metaphor, and the trans child’s brilliant acrobatics of imagination are nothing less than the key to his survival.
Home in three days. Don’t wash. is a book of desire, as radical today as when it was first published. Nothing about it is coy or prurient. Utterly specific, it sings the brain on sex with a voice that’s breathtakingly honest and exposed. It takes us home to the dream-dark source of poetry, the longing for wholeness.
The candor and depth of Samuel Ace’s introduction, a dialogue between Linda and Sam, is a generous addition and in itself is an extraordinary contribu-tion to trans literature. From first page to last, this book delivers news I’ve been craving.
This re-release of Normal Sex & Home in three days. Don’t wash. is beautifully framed by a love letter between the authors: “Dear friend who is me and no longer me, dear love who I have never left behind.” Sam and Linda’s exchange underscores the deep vulnerability these collections open, as they invite the reader into their intimacies—from the shame of not being seen or understood, of being unsafe in a body, to moments of courage, fed largely by faith in the imagination, and to the raw ecstasy of exploring gender and sexuality from childhood into adulthood. Sam writes to Linda, “In so many ways, your writing helped bring me into being.” I cannot help but feel I am witness to the germinal stage of a sacred rite.
The Ace of Spades represents the ancient spiritual hinge of transformation, but Samuel Ace transfigures or transforms to exalted beauty. One of my favorite literary minds, Ace, in his extraordinary new book, lingers long enough along the horizon while waving that we catch the light to watch his limbs her life loved into.
The beautifully composed “author’s note” tells us that even though Linda Smukler began gender-related therapy in 1997 and began physical transition in 2000—in other words, after both Normal Sex and Home in three days. Don’t wash. were originally published—it would be wrong to omit either Smukler or Samuel Ace from author credit, now that Belladonna* has so brilliantly reissued these books, bound together for the first time. Writing as a gender nonconforming woman desiring other women fiercely, and writing through a “lost boyhood” with the power of a great novelist, Smukler astonished all of us who read this writing hot off the press. Twenty years later, it retains the heat not only of sexual possession but of clear and definite speaking. “oh girl I choose you see? It is ours to step forward ours to heal the run of the wheel” In their note, the two authors reflect that this work was composed not in isolation but in the midst of a clutch of amazing women determined to write the truth about sex and, thus, about life and work. The architectonics of these books seem even more remarkable from our present vantage point and will, I imagine, inspire generations of new poets and lovers and activists, long into the future.
With Meet Me There, Sam Ace begins a new dialogue with the past, though it has long been his country—the way we embody and misunderstand it, long for it and desperately cast it aside. Meet Me There teems with violent honesty, beauty and horror, lust and stillness. An underground classic, it now radiates with added dimensions, a time-traveler, a crucial contemporary text.
Samuel Ace is a trans and genderqueer poet and sound artist, and the author of several books, most recently Our Weather Our Sea, (Black Radish Books, 2019). He is the recipient of the Astraea Lesbian Writers and Firecracker Alternative Book awards, as well as a two-time finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award and the National Poetry Series. Recent work can be found in Poetry, PEN America, Best American Experimental Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. He currently teaches poetry and creative writing at Mount Holyoke College in western Massachusetts.