I. “How does a writer look back?”
Samuel Ace/Linda Smukler’s first two books have been reprinted for the Belladonna* Collective’s Germinal Texts series under the collected title: Meet Me There: Normal Sex & Home in three days. Don’t wash. The Germinal Texts series is archival in nature, releasing works that “trace feminist avant-garde histories and the poetic lin-eages they produce. The series focuses on authors and texts that serve as generative grounds for other writers.” The re-release of these two books is a reframing move: both Normal Sex and Home in three days. Don’t wash. were first published as lesbian literature in the 1990s—a canon that is almost entirely cisgender. While Ace doesn’t want to erase what the works were in their time, they also need to be received with the language we now possess to describe Smukler/Ace’s trans subjectivity.
Ace engages Linda Smukler, the name he used to live within, through a series of letters that act as the books’ introduction. And Smukler writes back. Their epistolary form challenges norms such as one’s pre-transition identity cannot be openly discussed, or that past and present identity cannot be contradictory in the minds of cis people as going against these norms would diminish one’s current self. Ace and Smukler are parts of each other, but Smukler can only be physically present in past materials or in letters as Ace’s ghost. He writes, “I desperately want you to come back, for you to be the one who gets up and reads the poems in these books.” (15-16) Ace finds empowerment in presenting time as an overlapping, as opposed to linear, force.
II. Normal Sex
Normal Sex started in a workshop hosted by Gloria Anzaldúa in her living room. Writing with what Anzaldúa called the Coyolxauhqui imperative, Smukler/Ace’s writing style “transmits and transforms inner energies and forces, energies and forces that may come from another realm, another order of intelligence.” (13) In Normal Sex, Smukler/Ace recreates childhood by gathering dehumanized energies to transmit and possibly heal them.
The poems are interior, stem from previous events in Smukler/Ace’s life, and are not directly representative. Rather, the relationship Smukler/Ace has with the poems’ events is more that of a conduit. Events are summoned through association, images and symbol layer upon each other and muddle straightforward interpretation. What remains is an emotional affect, a felt understanding of the speaker’s personal symbolism. “Monkey Boy” shows the creation of these personal symbols:
in Wyoming my name is Ace Jim Ace the monkey
boy who can run forever and climb the tallest trees
whose hair is dark and whose eyes can see
rattlesnakes a mile away… (31)
The Jim Ace character is protection for
when I open my eyes and my stomach hurts and the
bed is wet he’s here when I’m high on a pole stuck
right up through me and people are laughing and I can’t
get down… (31)
Smukler/Ace’s style manifests a child’s interiority by using associative leaps. Persona becomes a tool to formally experiment and to cope with ongoing physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.
Poems can often be like Russian nesting dolls of selves, and Smukler/Ace’s writing in this section experiments with how far one can bend the framing tool “I” to convey emotion and energy. An interesting component in this section was to track the frames as they layered on: 1) Ace looking back at writing as Smukler, 2) Smukler’s channeling the energies of childhood into a speaker, and 3) the speaker opposing assigned gender by mapping onto a new identity: “I’m really a drummer. I drum most of the day. If I drum dinner will be over. My mother tells me to stop drumming. If I drum, all dinners will be done and I can take off my skirt” (43). The drummer is unattached by the restrictive feminine gender roles imposed on the speaker, due to his kinetic energy being at odds with what is deemed appropriate behavior for a girl in a homo- and transphobic family unit. Smukler, though not having the language to describe Smukler’s trans-ness at the time, shows that gender is not only gender expression—it is deeply personal and simultaneously reinforced by oppressive hegemonic structures that are concretized in everyday actions.
III. Home in three days. Don’t wash.
Smukler/Ace’s second book, Home in three days. Don’t wash. is, like the title suggests, subversive and horny. These poems were written during second waves feminism’s Porn Wars (17), and breaks social taboo to highlight an alternative to gender and sexual essentialism. In other words, Smukler/Ace is clearing out lesbian cliché to make room for gender non-conforming, earthy sex:
when bad is good when I put my cock to your throat
when you are a man and I am a little boy and you suck
me off when you are a woman my mother humiliating
me with dresses and stockings… (145)
Age-play blends with gender-play and Smukler/Ace doesn’t explicitly analyze either one. If Normal Sex highlighted identity exploration as means of survival—this collection crafts sex as a kind of green world where adults find empowerment by trying on identities and, if they lose their sex appeal, discarding them. Any deep gender-based traumas touched on in the work, and still in mind after reading Normal Sex, are processed physically between the speakers in their sexual fantasies and hook-ups. Basically, who has time to analyze identity formations when you and your consensual partner desperately want to fuck each other?
Smukler/Ace’s style is insistent in its “stumble when taking off your pants” and “make sure your strap-on is on properly” fumble. The effect is strangely one of urgency and yet one that gives the reader control to pause at whichever stop they’d like:
it take for you to stride across the snow? to plant
you my heart next to yours on the couch to plant
one to invade us my voice in your ear all of our… (154)
In previous analysis by Trace Peterson, Ace reflects: “I find that punctuation is kind of like gender; that it is an agreed-upon thing, that we agree a comma means this kind of breath, a period means this kind of breath, and I’ve never wanted to impose that on my readers.” What is now a more common practice among trans poets, that is, to interrupt gender reading with avant-garde punctuation based in somatic poetics, is still being teased out in almost isolation here in Smukler/Ace’s work.
Smukler/Ace experiments with form further by including stills from collaged videos of Smukler reading from Home in three days…. Linda resurfaces in a series of vertical tetraptychs that resemble film strips. Ace is again making sure to situate the poems in Smukler’s context, but, the blurred and collaged nature of the images shows the difficulty of this time travel. Similar of how the brain recreates pathways to retrieve memories bit by bit when recalling them, each attempt at retrieving an image of Smukler is recreated into a new image. Adding these stills harkens back to what Ace wrote in his letter to Smukler: “If this current iteration of me, the beard, the lower voice, the small, trans-masculine me, should give a public reading from Home in three days. Don’t wash., a work about sexual obsession I fear that the poems would take on meanings that were never intended.” (16-17) Ace is careful about his new social privilege as a genderqueer trans-masculine person who passes as a man.
Ace’s caution is understandable, since the poems are sometimes graphically violent in their power play, such as:
I am so far inside you I no longer care if I tear you apart
I am only a part of a hundred trains like the
rise of buffalo stomped up your groin at the edge of a
The speaker writes of culminating desire and loneliness that transforms into a violent, almost mindless, need. Like other emotional contexts mentioned earlier, Smukler/Ace doesn’t delve too deeply into what these violent transformations mean about desire in the universal. Instead, and the speaker and reader are swept along for the lonely, sexy ride.
IV. “Yes, Samuel. Yes, Linda.”
Several writers of various ages and identities contributed essays that describe the impact of Ace/Smukler’s books. The essayists opinions of Ace/Smukler do not always align with their peers, and lack of clear categorization may be frustrating to those hunting for a clear category for the two books, and therefore, a clear categorization of Samuel Ace. However, a lack of coherence when looking at the past is refreshing. In the demand to be one-specific identity throughout the entirety of Ace’s life, Ace presents the past and present of existence through co-authorship. As I mentioned earlier, Smukler/Ace’s collection reframes the books as trans and lesbian literature. The works, like people and our desires, do not easily fit into a single gender or genre.
Additionally, the reprint highlights that trans avant-garde work was written before literary and identity categories could hold it as such. While we have a wide range of young trans poets to read and celebrate currently, earlier writers did not get the same amount of attention when starting. Trish Salah has pointed out: “It is exciting for there to appear, seemingly suddenly, trans presses, journals, dozens of poetry books and novels, and while I truly love the new trans literature, I’m not much persuaded by claims of vanguardism, the vision of progress they imagine.” Writers and presses like Belladonna* are working to connect with these creators, find lineages, answer questions, set up archives. It is wise of us to look at what the other trans poets around us have already done, and, if we’re lucky enough to have them, ask them questions about it. With that knowledge, and perhaps with multi-generational collaborations that are mutually beneficial, we can continue to enrich the art form.
 I use “trans” in this review to discuss people who have gender identities that are different from the gender identity they were coercively assigned at birth.
 Lit award givers: please know that people can be both lesbian and trans, gay and trans, queer and trans. Also, please note that Ace’s identity formation is different from that of lesbian trans women, who also definitely should be up for recognition in lesbian award categories.
 Trace Peterson, “Becoming a Trans Poet: Samuel Ace, Max Wolf Valerio, and kari Edwards,” Transgender Studies Quarterly, vol 1, issue 4, Nov 2014: pp. 523-538.
 Anzaldúa’s influence is what keeps this writing from complete isolation—her influence is strong in Smukler/Ace’s formal feminist experimentation with the poetic structure In later writing, Anzaldua would discuss conocimiento (roughly translated as “knowledge” or “consciousness”) in prose and is something, I believe, her earlier poetry also practiced: “A form of spiritual inquiry, conocimiento is reached via creative acts—writing, art-making, dancing, healing, teaching, meditation, and spiritual activism—both mental and somatic (the body, too, is a form as well as site of creativity” (542). You can find the rest of her discussion here: Gloria Anzaldúa and AnaLouise Keating, this bridge we call home: radical visions for transformation (New York, London: Taylor and Francis Group, 2002), 542.
If you want to go further back, Smukler/Ace’s somatic practice could be traced to the Projectivists. Though, an important distinction between Smukler/Ace’s work and the Projectivists was the Projectivists focused on the writer’s body, whereas Smukler/Ace expands the field to include the reader in the body/gender utopia of the poem.
 D. J. Bridge, K. A. Paller. “Neural Correlates of Reactivation and Retrieval-Induced Distortion” Journal of Neuroscience, 2012; 32 (35): 12144 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1378-12.2012.
 “‘Time isn’t after us’: some Tiresian Durations” Trish Salah, Somatechnics, Feb 2017, vo. 7, No. 1 : pp. 16-33.