Poet Of The Week

grace (ge) gilbert

     January 30–February 5, 2023

grace (ge) gilbert is a hybrid poet, essayist and collage worker based in Brooklyn. They received their MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh in 2022 and were named the MCLA Under-27 Writer-in-Residence Fellow at MASS MoCA. Their most recent collections are the essay chapbook the closeted diaries (Porkbelly Press, 2022) and the poetry chapbook NOTIFICATIONS IN THE DARK (Antenna Books, 2023). gilbert’s work can also be found in the Indiana Review, Ninth Letter, Passages North, the Offing, the Adroit Journal, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Diode, TYPO, ANMLY and elsewhere. They currently teach hybrid collage and poetics courses at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, and they are a 2023 Visiting Teaching Artist at the Poetry Foundation. They are passionate about making the hybrid arts accessible to all.

Author photo by Emily Dunn

Today Is Looking for the “Right Moment”

for awhile i made coming out my world

my freshly-wet solstice

rowing through the blue 

homily of a life i felt these bones 

an unencumbered 


Then after the frozen 

Lake gave way 

to lightshow the gaudy

beveled christmas steeped

in Rainbows

my mother says

You just 

don’t want that

for your child

on the radio are so 

many Bee Gees songs

about fools

and they all last 


in our silence. 

I want to rip it out of me, 

my mortal coil, 

one of the many 

lasting architectures

of God, 

that ashen highway


of guilt. 

I imagine the life I’d lead there

as a coward. 


a beach house

a child in the lawn. 

I see the wisteria

our Crystal champagne

Flutes my mom 

so proud 

inspecting them. 

the sign says Here 

is the love 

you might want 

for your child. 

So mild, 


An aggregate Myth 

with petals.

—Originally published in TYPO, October 2021.

Brooklyn Poets · grace (ge) gilbert, "Today Is Looking for the 'Right Moment'”

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I wrote “Today Is Looking for the ‘Right Moment’” near the end of 2020. I’d been locked up with my family Upstate over the holidays. Spending time with my family is one of my favorite things, but that doesn’t mean I always belong or am seen for who I am. I had a weird moment of going through a drive-through Christmas light show, peak pandemic, and for some reason we were talking about my mom’s friends’ kids who came out as gay. The warmth of home fizzled into something else, and I was really devastated by that conversation. The actual writing of the poem was easy. But the tendrils of it are hard to beat back.

What are you working on right now?

A few things, but I’m most excited about a potential poetic memoir project. I’m working on a sequence of hybrid poetic flash essays about non-binary/etcetera life. I felt a need to resist the coming-out narrative as a necessary part of queer literature, so I just started writing these weird essays about life before, life now, life later. I try not to edit consciously, so I just get these blocks of text that are very jagged and raw. It’s been interesting watching it all come together. I hope as I continue living it unfolds into a sustained project. But who ever knows. I’m also working on a prose poem sequence about estrangement and family. I’ve been taking Elaine Kahn’s “Poetry Field School” workshop and tinkering with that sequence a bit. It’s always helpful to be in workshop to get some other voices around these sorts of insular projects. Audio producer Boen Wang and I also recently started a podcast called Jesus Wept—it’s about unearthing some of the truly fucked parts of American evangelical Christianity. That’s my fun mistress project.

What’s a good day for you?

A day where I eat a good breakfast, my coffee turned out good, and I have time to collect and organize my thoughts. Potentially into writing or art. Or I can just enjoy them being there. A day, preferably multiple day(s) in a row, where I do not have to work or try too hard to be any sort of way. I’d like to take myself on a little adventure, maybe get a nice coffee or a plant or a book. That’s sort of the dream.

What brought you to Brooklyn?

I finished my MFA in Pittsburgh and felt the itch. Honestly, in Pittsburgh, a bridge collapsed in my neighborhood and separated my partner and me from the rest of the city. We were pretty isolated after that. I love PGH more than life, but for some reason the bridge collapse acted as a sign for me to move to a place with fewer bridges.

Tell us about your neighborhood. How long have you lived there? What do you like about it? How is it changing? How does it compare to other neighborhoods or places you’ve lived?

I live near Flatbush/PLG. It’s a vibrant and rich community with many families and local shops. It’s also facing incredible amounts of gentrification, which I know I play a small part in, even if I don’t mean to. Instead of talking about my personal experience I’m going to share some on-the-ground community groups and resources I love that you should support: Equality for Flatbush and Flatbush Tenant Coalition. These are POC-led rental equity, tenant rights and anti-policing groups that are accepting donations and support.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad, or in between.

Being catcalled is so strange to me because I feel like such a nonentity. Not in a bad way, just like … you don’t really even know what you’re looking at, pal. There’s been a lot of that, even on (especially on?) ugly days. I fell down the stairs once at the Winthrop St station and soon after that I threw my back out for the first time. But one of my favorite Brooklyn moments was when my partner and I went to the legendary Metropolitan in Williamsburg. We were trying to find something cheap to do and there was a free gay jazz concert. We huddled around in an outdoor garden and warmed our hands on some tea lights. It was cold. Jazz played. It was all very beautiful.

What does a poetry community mean to you? Have you found that here? Why or why not?

I’ve found some of my greatest friends through art—we collaborate on work together, share resources and support one another in our careers. My writing and art friends from various workshops and jobs are now my best readers, and I theirs. It’s everything. As for community in BK, I’m still finding my people. I’m teaching a lot of online courses in some cool places, so I hope I can start teaching courses in person. I’d also love to get on the reading circuit and find ways to collaborate with other writers. Though I feel really connected in a lot of ways, I have trouble “networking” and trying to put myself out there. Some people are really good at the online presence and the literary community presence. I must admit I’m really not, though that’s not much of an excuse. I want to be as generous as possible while I’m here. I have so much I want to share and so much I need to learn. I need to get moving in real life, in Brooklyn, on the ground. That’s my goal for this year. Get outside, be a bit uncomfortable, volunteer my time and find community.

Tell us about some Brooklyn poets who have been important to you.

Oh, man—I don’t even know half of the amazing artists who’ve come from Brooklyn. Audre Lorde. Marwa Helal. The late Bernadette Mayer, who was born here, has been such a model for my work. And then there are all the poets whose books I’ve carried with me to and across Brooklyn. That seems to count for honorary residency. My heart is in the Pittsburgh School, which my friends and I have affectionately begun to call it, but it’s now in Brooklyn too. I’m excited to engage with more Brooklyn-based poets and see how my work shifts and transforms. There’s so much energy in this community.

Who were your poetry mentors and how did they influence you?

I’ve had kind of a changing of the guard after being in institutions for so long. But every mentor I’ve had has really made such a major impact, it’s hard to express how important those connections were to my growth as a writer—and as a person. My first mentor, Lytton Smith, just so enthusiastically believed in my work. He was my professor in undergrad, and I was only eighteen, so definitely new to the writing world. But he championed my work and made me believe in myself in a very genuine way. He is one of the most generous people I know, and still the best teacher and mentor I’ve had to this day. He wrote a feedback letter to each student for every poem they submitted for workshop, and I’ve kept all of mine. Bless that man. Diana Khoi Nguyen and Dawn Lundy Martin were my mentors over in Pittsburgh. I’d admired Dawn’s and Diana’s work for so long that when they became my advisors, I was terrified and awestruck at the same time. But Dawn especially really took me under her wing. She gave a lot of critiques and insights in a no-bullshit way, which was refreshing and helpful. Once we went on a walk in the cemetery, and she sprayed the steps to an obelisk with hand sanitizer before we sat down. That’s beside the point, but she really saw my vision for things even when I couldn’t. I owe a lot to Dawn, who also once gifted me a free session with a medium (which was very helpful for my thesis development). And Diana, who would generously host us students at her beautiful house when none of us had any money. I hope to become a mentor that leaves the kind of impact that these poets did.

Tell us about the last book(s) and/or poem(s) that stood out to you and why.

I recently read Renee Gladman’s Plans for Sentences. I was in awe of her (literal) construction of a hybrid text. I found the book in my hometown bookstore and taught it the next week in my hybrid poetics class, which I teach for the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and will soon teach for the Poetry Foundation. I’m always looking for great works of hybrid poetry—books that combine text and image in surprising ways. Gladman’s work offers a dialectic of hybridity that I am still trying to figure out—how images and text function in relationship to one another. It’s one of the best things I read in 2022. Other than poetry, I’ve been reading some collage textbooks and collage/hybrid poetic theory. I’m in a very self-imposed, self-directed study phase right now. But I always indulge in a novel here and there, like Elena Ferrante’s The Lying Life of Adults or, most recently, Lily King’s Writers & Lovers.

What are some books or poems you’ve been meaning to read for years and still haven’t gotten to?

I want to tackle Middlemarch for some reason. It’s been on my bookshelf for years and I just never reach for it. I think TikTok has eviscerated my attention span, so I want to build that muscle back, as pathetic as that sounds. I have a running list of books I’d like to read, but when it comes down to it, I reach for whatever I have at that moment. It’s usually something I found for free or for very cheap or whatever my partner brought home. I’m kind of chaotic in what books I end up reading in a year. I don’t do Goodreads or anything like that. For poetry, I used to go to Barnes & Noble and sit there all day flipping through collections. It was so magical when I didn’t know what a Ruth Lilly or a Stegner or the Iowa Writers’ Workshop was. I just sat in the poetry section feeling stuff. I built my love for poetry that way, though it’s hard to go back to that magic now that I’m more privy to the “industry.” For this reason, I’ve taken a bit of a natural break from poetry collections, though I always return.

Describe your reading process. Do you read one book at a time, cover to cover, or dip in and out of multiple books? Do you plan out your reading in advance or discover your next read at random? Do you prefer physical books or digital texts? Are you a note-taker?

I find the process of reading a poetry book so different than the process of reading fiction or nonfiction. With poetry, I’m often reading the same book over and over for months. I just don’t see how to engage with poetry in any other way—I’ll bring the collection with me everywhere and keep opening to random pages. Most recently, it was Adrienne Rich’s Collected Poems. I’m such a slow poetry reader in this way, so I would be exhausted if I only read poetry. I think I read Eileen Myles’s Evolution over a period of four or five months. I’ve retained entire poems at this point and feel so intimately connected to the work after it’s traveled all around with me. Though I’m a slow poetry reader (and poet), I devour prose, and often write it quickly, too. I always have a novel or a memoir on hand that I breeze through in like three days. These are for reading on the train and when I feel like getting completely out of my head. I love physical books, but it’s hard to keep them in a shoebox apartment. I’m trying to embrace the Kindle now. And though I respect writers who annotate in the margins, it makes me queasy and gives me flashbacks to Bible camp.

What’s one thing you’d like to try in a poem or sequence of poems that you haven’t tried before?

I’m mainly a hybrid poet/writer, so I am always thinking about different ways to eschew genre and form. I’m working on prose poetry now, which I never have before. I like how direct and obvious the language is, so I’m leaning into that a lot more. I’m trying to say exactly what I mean, and still keep the language surprising. I’d like to try and write more formal work that has elements of prose, too, maybe some haibun or abecedarians. I also want to embrace visual poetry that forms a relationship with text—and see how to sustain a project on that relationship. I guess what I’m really looking for is a challenge. I think after writing poems for a bit, you can get locked into your “voice” and not push the edges. I want to always be pushing the edges, reading all kinds of work, and seeing what is possible with language. So here’s me manifesting more poetic experiments in 2023.

Where are some places you like to read and write (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

Yes, I do like to be home. Probably too much. I mean, the obvious answer is transit. But it’s not a given that you’ll find a seat on the train, so it sort of depends on how many bags I’m holding and whatnot. Reading-wise, my ideal would be on a beach in early spring or in a bay window somewhere. With writing, though, I’m very unsophisticated. I write pretty much everything in my Notes app. It’s always the most immediate option. I think writing in the Notes app has made my writing very immediate, too. I’ve come to really like the tone it produces rather than just using it for function. I’ve never been the writing-on-paper type, though that seems a lot cooler and more obvious. When I have tried writing in a notebook in public, someone has always come up to me. I don’t know why that invites conversation. When I’m writing in my Notes app, I just look like I’m absorbed in my phone because I am. I like the unglamorous writer-in-public thing a lot more.

What are some Brooklyn spaces you love? Why?

Central BK is beautiful. I really love the Ditmas Park area. I walk around there a lot. I adore Prospect Park, too, and everything about it. If the 5 train counts as a Brooklyn space, then that too. There’s a lot I haven’t seen in Brooklyn. But even in my short time here, I’ve had some amazing food and seen some great performances. I like the Owl Music Parlor and the intimacy it provides after a long day full of people. Mostly, though, I like the daily life stuff, like going to my favorite produce stand on Flatbush and Caton. Or going to the little plant shop on Cortelyou. Or my yoga/Pilates studio in Crown Heights.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate the conditions of an earth love, unholy, aware of time

And with what I mourned of God you filled back the basket of my mourning

For every way you’ve held me is as good as they say God might, could, would hold you.

Why Brooklyn?

It’s there when you want to have the best day of your life and it might just be the cause of your worst day. I’ve never lived anywhere like this before.