Bettina Judd | Author of Patient

Bettina Judd

Art. Feminism. Femme Fire.

Filtering by Category: Poetry

We Never Noticed She Left: Cave Canem Reading Statement

A few people have asked to read the short statement I made at the AWP Cave Canem reading in Portland back in March. This statement is in response to the aftermath of the outing of Thomas Sayers Ellis as a habitual abuser and predator within the poetry community—and more specifically as it relates to young Black women poets. Here it is, posted below. (With some edits, I wrote it on my cellphone the night before.)


This taking to task, shedding of light might appear to be “railroading” as I have heard what happened to one of us be named, because we cannot imagine, do not wish to imagine or accept that there is an abuser among us. We believe in community so we say, “You, the survivor, are separating us.” Abusers cannot be (as in should not and therefore cannot have been) one of us. We say, “This person accused of being an abuser is one of us.” Excision is the real sin—it is the terror of not belonging that drives this response. To be disowned within by the harm this man has caused puts us in crisis. So, we must remove the accusation. 

Accusation is the rupture seen, the rupture felt, the rupture experienced firsthand. We cannot imagine that it is anything but an excision, but a rupture, because an abuser cannot be one of us, cannot be me. This is a lie. We are so imperfect.

The rupture, the real rupture happened in the dark, stowed away for our plausible deniability. That rupture distracted if not outright silenced a young poet’s voice and we never noticed. I deign to say we never cared. I think we want to be understood as a community who cares. If one were to ask us right out if we cared we would be shocked at the gall of the question. Of course we care—but we never noticed. 

It never seemed odd to us that the air sucked out of the room when his name was said—when he entered it. We mistook what was menacing for magnetism. We fixated on him and didn’t notice who was choking, who was gasping for air. We never reflected on the overrepresentation of women in our workshops and the underrepresentation of them on our bookshelves, our readings, prize panels and recipients of those prizes, the national stage. When we listened to what we called, “women’s poetry” we never thought of what could be written if that writer didn’t have to, return always, beautifully, and fearlessly, but constantly to the site of their terror. 

What could she have written instead of that poem that gutted us beautifully and with her splayed flesh on the page? What could she have written otherwise? We never noticed. We never thought to imagine.

What ever happened to...? 


You seen her? 


She sure could write a poem.


Imagine a world where that beautiful language could be used for the intentionally frivolous. For anything else but the site of our unseeing.


What is more intimate than a secret?

DC Queer Studies Symposium

April 25, 2014

:: My body is visible. Confident. High femme. ::

What if gender had the blues? By this I mean, what if gender was affected the social life that we know is responsible for the development of the blues as an art form? As much as we bring attention to the conditions of Black folks on the basis of race in the blues, (we talk about a blues people having blues bodies) what of the conditions of being gendered Black folk? 

I am being a bit facetious here. Of course gender was affected. Of course gender was affected. There are songs about love—songs that tell us something about the differently gendered conditions of the lives of Black men and women. There are even blues that tell us something about the conditions of romantic love between women and women, men and men. Some blues even hint at other genders.

Here, I take up the blues as an aesthetic practice and gender itself as something that has the blues. I do so by focusing on the erotic in the blues aesthetic.

In the blues, worrying the line means to highlight a phrase by changing its pitch, breaking it up—maybe even hollering through it. To worry the line is to operate within a frame of fixed structures: notes, phrases, and rhythms to take up a universe of meanings. These meanings circle around the structure. The song continues. Meaning is amplified.

BINDING is a metaphor for an aesthetic practice of loving. It takes up the core concept of Audre Lorde’s erotic and love as a navigating force in this practice of the erotic. Love, as in Irigaray’s formation of “I love to you,” or Sandoval’s, “subjectivity [that] can become freed from ideology as it binds and ties reality,” also operates as a politic of self-shaping and self-definition in the context of lesbian gender. A politic that is altogether erotic, altogether aesthetic in its circling round and round the body of the lover. The act itself is a process of shaping bodies into something closer to truth. At each turn, both are changed. These changes are gendered. The change is yet another kind of intimacy. 

I begin the book with a excerpt of a lecture I have been developing on Queer Femininity in the Blues Aesthetic:

So now, it is about time that I present my thoughts on exactly what this gender thing is, why WOAmn is so important to thinking through gender and how I am doing it here. WOAmn is a signpost of the function of the sexual, the erotic in our lives. WOAmn is an archetype, a practice, a goal (not particularly inevitable, not always attained but certainly learned). WOAmn is a manifestation of the erotic as an aesthetic practice. An aesthetic practice that has to, like the blues, do a lot of work, as she too is rooted in her own survival. Survival of her body, harmony of her mind, and keeping of her spirit.




Oh dear.


What I want to say now, I cannot say in this way without it turning into nothing. So from here on, let everything be just between us.


:: play videos with intermittent text ::




When I say that I love you, I mean that I am caught in the rapture of our dance, that I adore who I am with you. The way that I feel myself touching you. How you allow me to make me with you and our adoration of this making. At every turn of this dance, I am succumbing to centrifuge and there is a core at which we may meet. My twirling—the way I pull my fingers through the length of my locs, the careful touch of my own skin in the morning (whether you are watching or not) how my thumb nestles in the tuck of my waist is a note in the song I sing of desire. You may hear it.



(Cixous, Davis, Lorde)


:: Read from the final poem, Gravity. ::

"The thing that split apart the marble/ which blew up the stars, drew them close to each other, dancing in violent heat..."

Purchase a copy of the entire eChapbook below.


A multimedia eChapbook. 

B̶I̶N̶D̶I̶N̶G̶ considers how love shapes gender, how gender shapes love. Debuted at the 2014 DC Queer Studies Symposium (Queer Intimacies).



Add To Cart

© Bettina Judd 2002-2019. All rights reserved.