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Queering Chaos Poetry

Updated: Apr 24

Started: Sunday, September 17, 2023. Finished: Sunday, September 24, 2023.

Guiding Question for Sunday

What are some follow up questions I can ask during my seven-hour durational performance of Chaos Poetry at Haight Ashbury Street Fair that will help facilitate vulnerability and candor?

Reference

Bornstein, Kate. (1998). My Gender Workbook. Routledge.



Introspection

NOTE: This post took care and consideration to create, so it is Jason's Sunday School post covering both Sunday, September 17, 2023, and Sunday, September 24, 2023. 


Sunday, September 17, 2023, was the Haight Ashbury Street Fair. I am part of a crew of artists organized by Andrea Fuenzalida that had a row of booths. This was my third year doing the fair, and my second doing Chaos Poetry. I’m definitely doing it again next year. I love everything about it.


Chaos Poetry is named as such because it is about the infinite possibilities made possible by two (or more) random things colliding (chaos) and the singular result resulting from that collision (poetry). I am incredibly comfortable amidst this chaos, and that on Sunday I got to channel its poetry through colliding with so many wonderfully amazing people is what I understand to be the actual essence of the cosmos, of magic, of not just surviving but of truly living amidst the death and decay and atrophy of the universe.


Chaos Poetry is sparked by two things: consent and a question. Consent establishes a positive bond between two (or more) random things / strangers. The question determines the trajectory of that bond. Thus, I spend a lot of time sitting with questions trying to figure out exactly where I want to go with others.


The initial questions for the fair were lumped into two categories: Explicitly Queer and Not Explicitly Queer. Chaos Agents (aka the passersby who said yes to Chaos Poetry) got to pick a starting point from one of the two columns of questions. From there, our journey began.


Here’s the questions they got to choose from:


Explicitly Queer:

  • Who decides who or what is QUEER?

  • If you could QUEER one thing, what would it be?

  • Where are you most connected to your QUEERness?

  • When did you first feel QUEER?

  • How deep is your QUEER?

  • Why is QUEER queer?


Not Explicitly Queer:

  • Who is your CHOSEN family?

  • What is a DESIRE you have yet to name?

  • Where are you most at HARMONY with the cosmos?

  • When have you felt overly AWARE of your body?

  • How do you know who YOU are?

  • Why is NOT QUEER not queer?


On Sunday morning, I woke up and reviewed the list of questions. While all meaningful, I realized that I wanted some follow up questions prepped. People’s responses can sometimes be short, and I didn’t want to solely rely on asking questions inspired by the moment as inspiration can be fickle.


I took Kate Bornstein’s My Gender Workbook from off my bookshelf and started thumbing through the pages. I got my copy from A Different Light Bookstore, which was the queer bookstore in the Castro, in 1998, the year it came out. It shaped and widened my understanding of my queerness to include my gender. It was no longer just my sexuality that was queer. I’ve been genderqueer for over 24 years.


My eye stopped on the chapter “Fuck Your Gender! Love, Sex, Desire, and Gender,” and I read, “Gender over the past couple of millennia has been twisted into a lop-sided arena as represented by the gender/identity/power pyramid. Within that framework, gender is virtually useless beyond perpetuating its own system.”


I realized that my upcoming durational performance was an opportunity to disrupt the system and invite chaos into gender. As I kept reading, I brainstormed questions that could do just that.



Here’s the questions that emerged:

  • What are afraid to let go of?

  • Who remains if you let go completely?

  • What drives your fears?

  • When have you lost a piece of yourself?

  • Who don’t you want to be?

  • When have you been aware of your gender?

  • Why question your sexuality and gender?

  • How do you practice compassion for yourself? For others?

  • What controls you?

  • What attracts you?

  • Where do you look for love?

  • What offends your tastes?

  • How valuable is identity?

  • When have you changed for someone else?

  • If you are you, who is not you>

  • Who do you choose to be?

  • What causes you to change your tastes, interests, desires?

  • How are you stopped from expressing yourself?

  • How do you police yourself?

  • What does it feel like when you express your desires?

  • What makes you feel desirable?

  • When have you transgressed what others expected you to be?

  • Where can you utterly lose yourself?

  • What about yourself have you been avoiding?

  • What must die for you to transform?


I was now ready to embrace the chaos of the Haight-Ashbury Street Fair.

I stood on a six-inch high soap box for almost seven hours inviting people into conversation. Over that time I interviewed 23 people and created 23 poems. One teenage poet with whom I co-created a poem asked if she could return the form to me. I invited her to stand on the soapbox and ask me questions. A few minutes later, I received her Chaos Poem. The whole day was an experience of deep listening, bearing witness, and giving testimony. It was chaos made flesh through poetry.



Here are (some of) the (edited) poems:

Kelia This is a space where the dark is welcome where chosen family gather across great distance where Mom & Amelia & Happy & Me all have one another’s backs where two things are held simultaneously where there is ease


Djin Deep connection is inevitable. (I have a Scorpio moon.) Even in a world that seems to not want us we subvert, we commune naked in the woods, create ritual in the rivers, we transmute anxiety & isolation into radical love


Cyrus

Consensual touch sharing breath & co-regulating with another reclaims & repairs what generations of violence has stolen, lost, denied, silenced & makes possible Izzy & Connie & Clark & all my beautiful & loving Family of Choice


Claire

Smell that rock climbing gear take a deep whiff after it’s been vigorously used Then, pick up a fruit one you’ve never eaten & BITE deep & hard let its juices spill But…yeah…It’s still an ongoing process


Kai That feeling of accomplishment when the numbers come together quickly in my head & the puzzle gets solved… I know: math


Jason by Clo no mere existence no mere truth a soul no two growing old growing in love like a dream shepherding the way for light the way for the future lead well for how are you to love without others?

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