Rosebud Ben-Oni with Christopher Soto (Loma)

Rosebud Ben-Oni and Loma
Rosebud Ben-Oni and Loma

This conversation between Rosebud Ben-Oni and Christopher Soto (Loma) is part of Variant Dreams, a Conversant series celebrating artists of color who identify as trans, intersex, genderqueer, and gender-non-conforming.

Rosebud Ben-Oni: You begin Sad Girl Poems with a Preface:

I always wanted to be a sad white girl. I wanted to be sad like Lana Del Rey… Lately, I’ve been thinking about the contextualization of POC sadness… Most people do not know how to interact with my sadness. My sadness is so multifaceted, it speaks twenty languages… Everyone was talking about Citizen and micro-agressions and feelings. But I didn’t see any of the white people in my MFA program marching next to me when Mike Brown was killed by the police in Ferguson, when Erica Garner was killed by NYPD. I didn’t see any of them working to dismantle the systems of oppression which created my sadness, my community’s sadness… I want people to act, I want people to mobilize around POC sadness.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the act of writing itself and how does one enact change without the use of force. In “Ars Poetica,” I see this struggle play out: “I grind his wings into glitter/& throw him into the air // like a child.// I grind his wings into ash/ & throw him into the earth // like a casket.” You testify both existence and erasure here, just as the sole photo of you at the end of the collection “my father deleted all photos of me from our computer.” Do you think language and/or poetry alone can change the violence within culture, particularly in the U.S.? (I’m particularly thinking of the line “Language is where the tongue fails itself over & over again” in “Aluminum & Dusk.” ) Can we transform violence into something else—something even transcendent—through the act of writing?

Ching-In Chen with Koomah

Koomah
Koomah

This conversation with Koomah is part of Variant Dreams, a Conversant series celebrating artists who identify as trans, intersex, genderqueer, and gender-non-conforming artists of color. The interview was conducted in person on October 21, 2015 and recorded and transcribed by Cassie Nicholson.

Ching-In Chen: Last month, Cassie Nicholson and I saw part of your show, “History of a Happy Hermaphrodite: part 1” at Super Happy Fun Land as part of the Houston Fringe Festival. Could you introduce yourself and talk a little bit about the show?

Koomah: Sure, so I’m Koomah and, goodness, it’s always fun to be like “who are you?” I am an intersex-bodied, trans-identified, queer artist and performer. I’m also a filmmaker, clothing and costume designer. I do spoken word, performance art, visual art, sculpture, a little bit everything. I also do burlesque and other forms of adult entertainment and sex work.