What scares you? Who is scared by you? What’s the difference between those two questions?
Throughout this course, we’ll look at techniques from horror film, art, poems, and novels as specifically trans/gender tools—ways to write into structural trans-antagonism, moments of gender euphoria and dysphoria, and capture both quotidian and traumatizing moments with verve.
Readings include poems, essays, and films from writers and artists both trans and not: Wu Tsang, Greer Lankton, Susan Stryker, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Shinya Tsukamoto, Chase Berggrun, Joey De Jesus, Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, Eli Clare, Kai Cheng Thom, and more. Movies shown in excerpt include The Witch, Tetsuo the Iron Man, Silence of the Lambs, and more.
This will be a discussion and writing-heavy course. Be prepared to talk about some intense and potentially triggering topics.
This class is open to queer and trans writers of all experience levels, with especial encouragement for trans writers. In other words, you have to identify as queer or trans (or both!) to take this course. If you feel you’re queer and/or trans, you’re queer and/or trans enough for this class.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Explore a range of trans-y horrific art, contextualizing them within your own lives and writing
- Hone the use of horror as a writing technique through specific exercises inside and out of class
- Generate new work
- Build a space together to hold vibrant, complex, and (sometimes) difficult discussions with one another, in addition to workshopping pieces produced during the class
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students should be expected to read several pages of reading per week outside of class time as well as complete occasional viewing assignments. Students should also be prepared to participate in weekly writing assignments, which will be brought in during classes—receiving verbal feedback from the class and instructor, in addition to cumulative written feedback from the instructor.
Week 1: Introducing horror poetics & its history
Week 2: Naming horrors, writing from own experiences
Week 3: Writing from a source text (a horror movie or outside document)
Week 4: Building out concluding rituals; ending workshop
Zefyr Lisowski is a disabled trans Southerner living in New York City. She’s a poetry co-editor at Apogee Journal and the author of the Lizzie Borden queer murder chapbook Blood Box (Black Lawrence Press 2019). Her work has appeared in Waxwing, The Offing, The Rumpus, and many other places. She lives at zeflisowski.com and elsewhere.
"Zefyr Lisowski’s BLOOD BOX is as much ouroboros as box, employing a circular structure to revisit the famous Fall River murders from alternating perspectives. Bookended by Lizzie Borden’s voice, the collection shimmers with uncanniness as Lisowski channels the dead. The result is an exquisitely constructed danse macabre that shifts between reportage and invention, avowal and disavowal—an assembly of voices tethered together by a grisly loss. Moving us between the ghastliness of a father who 'twisted the heads off pigeons' to the radiant beauty of a 'pear tree’s bright plumage,' BLOOD BOX is disturbing, dazzling, and riveting."
"If it is possible to queer a murder, Lisowski does it here, wearing the persona mask of Lizzie Borden, the familiar familicidal subject of too many jokes and skipping rhymes. Swinging non-chronologically from branch to blood-stained branch through the convoluted and uncertain history of the Borden murders, Lisowski discovers a kind of friend in Lizzie. These poems, sometimes quiet and demure, sometimes sung confession, sometimes full of hot desire. Each poem a pear, uniquely flavored, hanging barely from a tree in the balmy wet air of a New England summer. Inventive, sexy, self-aware to an almost dangerous degree, Lisowski applies layer after layer of powder foundation, demanding: 'Look at me: I wear / my suffering on my skin. I wear my skin / on top of my other skin.'"
"Dealing in secrets, Zefyr Lisowski’s BLOOD BOX stands at the threshold of a violent domestic silence. Unknowability generates a hybrid text of multiple methodologies, all of which circle around its empty center. Lisowski writes, 'The God I know / lives behind a locked door, and only hoards / His good things. If He has children, / He beats them without fail. If He has neighbors, / He chops apart their houses. Tell me, / who wouldn’t believe.' The fear that characterizes coloniality haunts the Borden family, trapping them in a labyrinthian coffin, where death generates death in a way that is neither spectacular nor foreign. The brilliance of this text lies in its guilty blood, housed in grayscape littered with the familial."