It’s difficult for me to be impartial to this week’s feature, whom I first met in a Livejournal writers’ forum in 2001. For the past seventeen years, we’ve seen each other through many phases of life, many phases of poetry, and many cups of tea.
This week’s feature is deborah brandon.
deborah’s work is gorgeous, intertextual, and smart. Their writing complicates narratives of intimacy and identity, and holds space for gray area and nuance. In their own words, their work is informed by fragmentation and music.
Where can we find your work?
I’m interested in gender identity, sexuality, and spirituality, and the ways that these can intersect. Queerness and spirituality (I’m Jewish) are central to my identity and to me they work together. Language and sound are in the foreground. I draw from my background in classical music in composing my work, with an ear to phrasing and word choice. The perfect word is not always the word that makes the most immediate ‘sense;’ rather, one that elevates the experience of listening and inhabiting space within the sounds a piece holds. Cadence and phrasing bring about texture, emotional/intuitive response, an understanding of the work’s internal structure.
What were you like as a child?
Growing up, I was a sensitive, highly creative misfit. I was shy and bookish. I wrote my first ‘novel’ at age eight in bubbly handwriting, on pages of wide-ruled school paper. The book was inspired by ‘The Egypt Game’ (Zilpha Keatley Snyder), which I loved. I took music lessons and drew a lot. I was beaten up and tormented relentlessly by my peers from age eight until age 16, and then other things happened, and so childhood was a pretty traumatic time of my life, but out of that wreckage came internal focus and a strong voice. Oh, and when I was two, I wanted to be the garbage man when I grew up.
Can you remember the first piece of art—performance, literary, fine, street—you saw/read that wowed you?
The first I remember was Handel’s ‘Water Music Suite.’ We were driving on a winding mountain road, and it was playing in our station wagon, all gloss & height. The literal road followed a literal stream and the road of the music followed a river. It was mesmerizing. My parents were both classical musicians and music educators, so there were many concerts and discussions about music.
What work do you do in the world that you feel proud of?
The political act of raising two girls to think, to question, to have confidence, and above all to have compassion and work for peace. I’m also a Rabbinic Executive Assistant at a Reform synagogue in Tucson, and I love my job because I support an exceptional rabbi and congregation. Also, I’m constantly learning more about Judaism, and that both helps me grow spiritually and informs my creative process.
What’s keeping you embodied right now?
Exploring texts, ink on my fingers, prayer, sifting through old writing/journal entries, photographing, crazy strong lattes, so much music, Shabbat, art in all its manifestations, Indian food, therapy, friendships, Mahler’s symphonies, my bathtub.
Tell us a story.
deborah brandon is a Jewish genderqueer writer who holds an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Additional work appears in [PANK], Cream City Review, Bombay Gin, Mom Egg Review, Denver Quarterly, White Whale Review, Transom, Ocho, MiPOesias, Moonshot, Hotel Amerika, Cadillac Cicatrix and Puerto del Sol and others; and the anthologies Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices and Stone River Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poetry. deborah lives in Tucson with two children and a cockatiel.