Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Handmade Love - Julie R. Enszer (A Midsummer Night's Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Handmade Love.  Julie R. Enszer.  Body Language 05.  A Midsummer Night's Press.  New York, New York.  2010.


Julie R. Enszer's erotic poetry turns up the temperature of the room while gender politics clash against the day to day struggle of being human, straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender - which could make for a muddled dialectic but unlike this opening sentence Enszer doesn't get bogged down or falter.  

These poems are lightning flashes of sultry love.

Morning Pant

I know what women want to eat in the morning.
On Sunday, in college, I would cook eggs,
scrambled or fried, potatoes, and bacon--
pork then was still a subversion. Breakfast

for my best friend and the man she slept with last night.
I knew what women wanted to eat in the morning.
Alone on Saturday, I found ways to feed them on Sunday: eggs,
scrambled or fried, potatoes, and bacon.

The prospect of seducing a woman seemed simple, but
my best friend seduced the man she slept with last night
leaving my bed empty, my hands idle, my lips
alone on Saturday, until I found ways to feed them on Sunday.

Sauces can satisfy the need to break from the mundane.
The prospect of seducing a woman seems simple:
wine, marinara arrabiata, raspberry coulis. Delicious dinner still
left my bed empty, my hands idle, my lips

dry. I could only imagine the shimmer of gloss
sauce. Satisfy the need to break from the mundane
on my lips: a wax or paraffin base. Vaseline in a pinch.
Franzia, tomato sauce, berry puree -- a delicious dinner still,

but I imagined more -- a peak that would not leave my pussy
dry. I could imagine only the shimmer of gloss
from a woman's juices on my chin after licking and licking
her lips. No wax or paraffin. (Third) base; Vaseline; a pinch.

Then I met a woman one Sunday, in college.
Finally I had more -- a peak that left my pussy
weary but satisfied. After rest she begged for more:
I know what women want to eat in the morning.


Enszer is so matter of fact clear at every turn that we never get left behind, we follow her as she bids, along a clever trail of anger and lust and discovery.  As new as some of this is for the reader it seems Enszer is making some discoveries along the way as well.  Love and desire both get big workouts in Handmade Love and joy gets in there too.

Enszer makes no apologies for her feminist agenda (nor should she) which is clearly, eloquently and humorously laid bare with panache.

Absolutely No Car Repairs
In The Parking Lot

Three people are working on old, American cars.
One man with a white van -- his mobile mechanic's shop --
has pulled the engine out of a black Monte Carlo.
Another crawls from under a Sunbird
rusted and battered tail pipe in hand.
The third, an Escort, hood open, unattended.
Owners ostensibly inside the auto supply
searching for the proper replacement part.

Although I didn't need one, I've brought a man.
Newly minted. Nine months ago, breasts removed --
scars from the surgical drains healed quickly
now the only skin rupture from needles
delivering daily hormones he refers to as T,
and the resulting faux-adolescent acne pimpling his face.
He's more of a man than me. Still, it takes us two tries
with a return in between to find wiper blades that fit.


Now that all of the Today's book of poetry staff are back from holiday adventures we were all crackling with excitement at this morning's read.  Handmade Love made for a heated and spicy reading.  The consensus around the room was that Julie R. Enszer is an eloquently fearless poet and there are never enough of those to go around.

These poems are a genuine celebration of love and diversity.  These celebrations of love and diversity make for good poems.  The day to day of supposedly alternative lifestyles and cultures does not sound unfamiliar in Enszer's capable hands - and why should it?  People love and lust pretty much the same regardless of their performative gender.  And that's the truth Ruth.

Terms of Endearment

I mistakenly called you "missy"--
an inappropriate term of endearment for
a butch lesbian, the identity I assumed

you to have with your cropped hair, hip-riding
jeans and top buttoned down. Let me confess:
I assumed your identity for my own purposes.

I have an entire fantasy about your body and
what I could do with it based on your being
lesbian and butch. Then I learned you consider

yourself to be male -- transgendered.
Yes, "missie" seems inappropriate.
Yet without diminutive feminizations

I am left with few options to coo affection.
Immediately, I'd like to say "FTM trannie" and cast
upon you my feminine wiles, but can I?

I try Buddy? Pal? You chide me not to stoop to
Bubba. I won't. Still, all the phrases I think to utter
with cloying appreciation are wildly sexual--

How's it hanging? If I, an avowed fem lesbo,
flirt with you, now a man but still in a woman's body
(and, of course, with a woman lover),

Am I still gay? Or just queer? And if I don't
stoop, linguistically, that is,
but I would like to be on my knees and

have you fuck me from behind with a
big purple strap on like my wife does,
am I a homo? I just want to find

a word to address you and imbue it with affection.
I want to respect your gender identity and not reconsider
my own sexual orientation and erotic predilections.

That is probably too much to ask, which is why
my pussy is wet, my tongue is tied, and only my mind
has been fucked. Understand gender? Good luck.


Today's book of poetry believes that poetry this good blows right past simple discussions of sexual orientation stereotypes. This is a celebration for Enszer and a primer for the rest of us, one that opens up the door to every audience.

Handmade Love is strong and primal poetry, ultimately generous and humane.  With a side of hot sauce.

Julie R. Enszer

Julie R. Enszer, PhD, is the author of Handmade Love (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2010). praisedHandmade Love noting, “Anyone who’s loved Dorothy Allison’s early chapbook of poetry, The Women Who Hate Me, will recognize the same brash confidence and articulation in Julie Enszer’s work.” Rigoberto Gonzalez said, “This poet is fierce, politicized and not afraid to point to the flaws even within her communities,” and Richard Labonte said of Enszer, “With seductive clarity, she celebrates sexuality – her own, that of other women, and of men.”

Enszer is editor of Milk & Honey: A Celebration of Jewish Lesbian Poetry (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2011). Hila Ratzabi said of Milk & Honey, “This collection packs a punch…. This anthology is endlessly valuable as a collective voice of celebration and even protest.” Milk & Honey features beloved poets like Ellen Bass, Robin Becker, Elana Dykewomon, Marilyn Hacker, Eleanor Lerman, Joan Nestle, LeslĂ©a Newman and Ellen Orleans, as well as new and emerging voices.

With language and imagery that moves from the sensual and political to the tender and serene, Milk & Honey , a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Poetry, explores the vibrant, complicated, exhilarating experience of being Jewish and lesbian—or queer—in the world today.

Enszer’s second full-length collection of poetry is Sisterhood (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2013).

Enszer, who holds an MFA and a PhD from the University of Maryland, is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland. She is writing a history of lesbian-feminist presses from 1969 until 2000. Her public scholarship on lesbian poetry has been featured by the Poetry Foundation, the Poetry Society of America, Ms. Magazine, and The Huffington Post.

Enszer is the editor of Sinister Wisdom, a multicultural lesbian literary and art journal, and a regular book reviewer for the Lambda Book Report and Calyx. You can read more of her work at

Julie R. Enszer
"Beginnings", "Bed", "Dishes"
Video: Center Arts



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