Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Book Review: Transmigration

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | November 28, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Joy Ladin, New York, poet, poetry, Sheep Meadow Press, Yeshiva University

Poet Joy Ladin's new collection, Transmigration, will soon be out from Sheep Meadow Press.

This is from her poem Secrets:

You discover them every day,

Leaning toward you, trying not to laugh. As guilty
Of the truth you never told
As of the truth you share, your face

Is huge with secrets
You pretend to avoid
You think you are passing

As a normal person,
Being silly, talking on the phone, giving
The gift of pain
Your friends see you
As completely lost, a menorah of need and love

(Click here for more.) "Transmigration" is a word that suggests transmigration of souls, and this poetry reveals the pain of the soul going through it. We all have experienced change that hurts, and have sometimes lived to see the humor it in. That's why this volume spoke to me so deeply.

It helps that Joy Ladin is a transgender woman who understands change at the molecular level. She's also got more poetry awards and publications than I can comfortably list here. She'll be reading her poetry next week at the new NYC gallery 25CPW. More exquisiteness after the jump.

Every adolescent poet writes of pain, but its complexities are not easily expressed. "Life is a comedy to those who think, and a tragedy to those who feel," said Horace Walpole, and truer words were never spoken. But rarely do we get a glimpse of both at the same time like this.

Somewhere between male and female

The soul gets lost
Where are you calls the mother of the soul
But the soul never had a mother

Get back here this instant the father demands
But somewhere between male and female
The soul failed to be fathered

All this talk of souls and pain can benumb one's sense of empathy. Tragedy is so wearing, it even wears itself out. For those of us who have considered suicide, I think this expresses the feeling in retrospect spot on:

The Soul is a Threat to Herself and Others

The soul has decided it would best
For all concerned

If she didn't exist.
This is harder than it seems.

Bullets mean nothing to the soul.
She has no veins to open.

And yet, this is not merely gallows humor. The humor is not jokey or ham-fisted. It's the best kind of humor -- unintended and yet sweet, as in revealing a tender side that makes one want to draw your two year old near and laugh through the tears at the distress.


You lie awake rubbing against the future
The pain is mutual
The future doesn't love you either

It's not always humorous. Sometimes it opens a hole in your chest, but in a way that you makes you feel your own humanity.

When you leave your children

To become yourself,

Your self leaves

To become your child. Calls to ask

When you'll come home.

Sobs when you answer.

Your self will never understand

The emptiness

You couldn't bear

This is the uber-key lime pie of poetry, made with real key limes and found in a little bakery in Key West, not that synthetic stuff you find in Costco. The reading will be held on Tuesday, December 8 at 7 pm. I can't wait.

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rapid butterfly | November 29, 2009 9:07 AM

thanks for the heads up on this, Jillian. Merely the fragments you've shared let me know I must read this book.

Those are great extracts, Jillian. I hope Joy Ladin gets the attention she deserves for her work.