Some of the world’s greatest poetry has been created by writers whose identities remained anonymous. We connected with their words, messages, descriptions and stories without ever knowing who they were. Their work spoke for itself, strong in its execution and vivid imagery. We didn’t need the author’s backstory to get lost in the world they’d created with their work. The same could be said of the Fischer-Prince, a mysterious trans poet whose work is front and center and whose identity remains well-protected. But identity is secondary to creation. The body of work is effective enough to create intrigue without being attached to a personality. The poet’s latest work, To The Thief, is a powerful exposition split amongst a series of more than 20 poems and images.
They detail life on the fringes of society. There are themes of loneliness, despair and not belonging. There’s an understanding of society’s standard of beauty, the need to conform to it and the accepted versions of a woman. There’s a commonality between trans people and everyone else. Together, they all yearn to be loved, accepted and appreciated. But the trans experience is unfairly difficult, plagued by discrimination, unjust treatment and prejudice. All those feelings and experiences are captured in the Fischer-Prince’s work.
In “Enjoy Yourself Much”, the narrator feels as though they must hide their identity.
“What the hell am I doing here?
Do you mind putting yourself away again?
I don’t belong here”
The statement “Do you mind putting yourself away again?” is a powerful one. It echoes the sentiment of many in the trans community. To exist alongside everyone else in society, they must hide who they are. This isn’t so explicitly stated in the poem; it’s beautifully implied as most things are in great poetry. However, it still strikes a chord. For anyone who’s ever felt like they didn’t belong, that line will resonate.
“Enjoy Yourself Much” is just the second poem of the bunch. It’s a clear indication that this body of work is going to dive deep and get painfully personal. The following poems don’t disappoint.
As you click through each poem, all posted online, you see a series of images. Some evoke the Renaissance while others are more abstract or even simple like the illustrations of Shel Silverstein’s classic books. Sometimes they add to the gravity of the message; other times, they simply illustrate a feeling to provide clarity.
“Spoons” finds our poet lamenting for a long-lost love. But things get more direct in “Koi, Koy”. Here, the Fischer-Prince addresses transphobia head on.
“Is that a lamb hiding behind the rock?
Or did man put him there, because I have a cock?”
Later in the same poem, the poet asks “Can you hear the little fish go Hate, Hate?”
The poem is abstract, with its images of fish and lambs. It plays out like a fable, a surrealist interpretation of real-life problems. But underneath the surrealism lies a reality that any trans person will identify with the moment the poem starts. The pain of discrimination is discussed here-the act of being separated because of other’s lack of understanding. The hate that festers for an entire group of people based solely on ignorance. “Koi, Koy” feels like a simple tale but it’s so much more.
“Me and My Monkey” addresses feelings of inadequacy and hiding one’s true self. “In Utero” gets less metaphorical and opens up about gender reassignment surgery. “Faggot” tackles homophobia and society’s complete misreading of being transgender.
The deeper into the collection one goes, the more prevalent pop culture’s influence is. Music lyrics ebb and flow throughout the poems, giving the reader a sense of familiarity. The lyrics tie popular songs and meanings into rich stories about trans life. They take on a new meaning in this context.
The Rolling Stones’ “Light My Fire” seeps into “Love Burns”. The refrain is sprinkled throughout the poem about forbidden love and the fears of revealing identity to a potential lover. The Beatles’ “Yesterday” turns up in “Misremember Love”.
“I don’t need your war machine. I don’t need your ghetto scene.” That infamous “American Woman” line punctuates “Shadow King”. The music that’s referenced isn’t current but it’s timeless. It harkens back to an era when protesting was the norm, when love was free and when radicalism was accepted. It seems the Fischer-Prince is looking back to a different time-a time in which life would’ve been different for trans folks. A time that the poet hopes to recreate now.
In “Nothing Ever Lasts Forever”, the symbolic monkey of “Me and My Monkey” shifts shape, becoming something that’s more of a metaphor for desire, love, passion or even gender. Through the reader’s eyes, the monkey can take on whatever form they can imagine. Yet it’s clear that the monkey is different than in the previous encounter.
In “Shadow King”, the poem which incorporates “American Woman”, some of the most profound poetry of the entire collection is on full display.
“The object of education isn’t to love the beautiful.
It’s to teach how beautiful it is to love.”
That statement is breathtakingly profound. It grabs your heart strings while also calling into question the way you’ve always thought of love.
“De-Fences” pokes fun at grammar. It’s a flippant middle finger to the world of literature. This poetry is about self-expression, not rules or standards. The poem is filled with incorrect versions of common words that have multiple meanings. For example, the Fischer-Prince writes about getting in “they’re head’s”.
Towards the end of the collection, there’s a link to a page titled the Glorious Revolution Two. It’s a reference to the Revolution of 1688, also known as The Glorious Revolution. In that battle, King James II of England was powerfully overthrown. Though there isn’t a description of Glorious Revolution Two, one could only imagine that’s it’s a call to overthrow authority—the authority that continues to disenfranchise trans people and prevent them from being treated as primary citizens.
The work of Fischer-Prince carries emotional heft, but it also has political weight. This isn’t poetry meant for empty consumption; this is work designed to move you to action.