Since November 2009, I’ve been writing a cache (herd? posse? coven?) of top-secret poems about unicorns. This post contains a sneak preview!
But first here’s a picture for you, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection:
The Indus Valley civilization, four thousand years old, was home to the world’s earliest images of one-horned equines. Yes, it’s true; these magical creatures were not invented by medieval Europeans. Or even Lisa Frank. Unicorns are South Asian!
My unicorn research led me on an amazing expedition last month to Dholavira, a sprawling archaeological site on the India-Pakistan border where hundreds of ancient unicorn images were unearthed in the 1990s. I’m also delving into sources as diverse as Audre Lorde, Aristotle, Lady Gaga, Jean Genet, and, er, Private Wealth magazine.
Unicorn thinking, as I’ve come to conceptualize it, has instigated many stunning journeys for me, both internal and external—as well as startling coincidences too beautiful and numerous to outline here.
The first coincidence is that when I began writing poems about unicorns, I didn’t even know about the South Asia connection. In fact, I thought I was getting away from all that deep “roots” type writing that I’d just spent eight years focusing on; I thought it’d be fun to do something else for a change.
Very cute, universe!
Some of the qualities of unicorns—and unicorn thinking—that I’ve come to appreciate include surprise, journey, magic, purity (a difficult term), risk, depth, courage, borderlands, transcendence, queerness, transformation, liminality, femininity (another tough one), vulnerability, intimacy (maybe the toughest!), and ecstasy.
Unicorns on YouTube: I feel fortunate that many friends and acquaintances have indulged me by sending me unicorn links, sources, and especially videos. The videos have inspired me to create—dare I say “curate”?—my first YouTube channel. From narwhals to punk bands, from Disney cartoons to German feminism, the Unicorn Is My Gender channel offers you (ok, me) hours of unicorn viewing pleasure.
Need a guest unicorn?
Of course you do! I’m very pleased to be booking unicorn talks. Please contact me if your university or organization wants me to speak on creativity, risk, and unexpected magic. I’ll send you a one-pager about the talks and writing/performance workshops I give, as well as some testimonials to share with the powers-that-be at your organization (like this one from a university women’s studies department head: “Listening to her, the entire auditorium was spellbound”). In my talks and workshops, I love to share what I’ve learn about the qualities of unicorns, and of what I call “unicorn thinking”: surprise, risk, resilience, liminality, vulnerability, intimacy, transformation, and ecstasy. I’m passionate about connecting with diverse audiences, and my talks are based on:
• two decades of cross-genre writing, diversity trainings, and performance,
• my experience of writing an award-winning book of intimate history, and
• my work as a writing coach and creativity teacher.
Let me know how we can bring the unicorn magic to you.
As this writing continues to unfold (a verb that makes me think of unicorn origami), I’m happy to share one of the poems in the sequence.
Operation Unicorn: Queries
For instance do they sleep standing
as if worship, as if open mouth
or like fish rest in episodes unrecognizable to us
through what they breathe, emerald air?
Do they pant? eat/shit? Give birth in viscera
hail, flame, all five elements harmonious as hellebore?
Who is their mother, their goddess, their
power do they honor above all?
Why have they come to us now?
Thanks to Kristy Lin Billuni, Miriam Kronberg, Julius Paras, Jeff Stroker, Ann Ueda, Ravi Chandra, Irene Nexica, Nancy Kates, Nancy Netherland, Bhanu Kapil, Kuzhali Manickavel, Sueann Mark, Kabi Sherman, Kirthi Nath, Gwen Robbins Schug, Stacy Blake-Beard, Tejal Shah, Amber Bemak, Anuj Vaidya, Payal Kapadia, the women of Hedgebrook, and many others for pointing me toward (or being) unicorns. Keep em coming.