How to Tell If a Poem Is Trans or Not

A helpful guide for slam poetry judges.

Look directly at the crotch

Gently wave away all

thoughts about how

you never cared about crotches of poems

before this poet


Consider the subject


is it about love    loss

surgery    hesitation

breath    death threats

surgery    surgery?


Does it rhyme?


Look at the crotch again


Don’t look up to see the poet looking

at you looking at their crotch

there’s no need to involve them

in this ruptured universe


Grasp for any gendered word

Is tree bark about being a man?

Are they saying anything about blood

or ribcages? Ribcages are a trans thing now?


Stare at its chest

They’re saying

something something

            inclusion now

or was that

            foregone conclusion


Wait    don’t you have to score the poem?

How can you score if you don’t know


Oh why did they write about a Jack pine

it’s all so unfamiliar just words like an apogee

with no point of gender reference


They look trans

why aren’t they talking about that then?

Talk about that then


Time’s almost up

Their crotch is telling you nothing

Do you score them like a cis person?


Maybe they’re straight    dear lord

did you get it all wrong?

How low a score can you give them

if they might not be trans?


They warned you about slam

now here you are



Bibliographical info

Charlie Petch, "How to Tell If a Poem Is Trans or Not" Copyright © 2021 by Charlie Petch

Source: "How to Tell If a Poem Is Trans or Not" From Why I was late (Brick Books, 2021)

Start here: