Q&A with Featured Writer: Mia S. Willis

Mia S. Willis

peculiar‘s most recent Featured Writer is Mia S. Willis, who drapes you in their poetry; a small thread of it hooks to you, and before you finish, you trail the words behind you—a train of images you can’t shake. This poetry you can’t untangle yourself from is why we’ve chosen Willis as our featured writer. Their powerful words have earned them a Pushcart Prize nomination, several poetry slam titles, and a soon-to-be-published debut poetry collection. Willis took the time to answer a few questions about their craft, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to share their responses with you.

When did you start writing?

I wrote my first poem after the sudden death of my oldest sister, Brandi, in 2012. In fact, my early work is comprised mostly of lyrical missives to her à la Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Woman. These pieces stand as a monument to my grief; they were and perhaps still are the most benevolent but necessary exorcism both for Brandi and for me.

Why do you write?

I think of my writing as an extension of my Rinzai Zen Buddhist meditation; it allows me to understand the world and to survive it. In a way, I believe I’ve developed Stockholm Syndrome for life in this queer Black body. Some days it is a cage; others it is an oculus. I am alive on these days whether I want to be or not, and so long as this is true, I will write so that I can continue to, as Dominique Christina once put it, “crawl out of graves”.

What poets and writers do you read?

Danez Smith. Maggie Nelson. M. Less. Ariana Brown. Lindsay Young. Thích Nhất Hạnh. Dominique Christina. Rainer Maria Rilke. Justice Ameer. Asia Bryant-Wilkerson.

What’s your writing process?

My process is incredibly emotional; I am usually driven by questions of morality, of gender, of nationality, and of culture. These queries are typically products of happenings in my daily life; for example, the titular poem in my forthcoming chapbook, “monster house.”, serves as my exploration of the ways in which physical spaces have the power to exorcise those who inhabit them (either with permission or by force). It was borne out of a negative experience I had with a white cisgender man™ in which he appropriated work written by a feminine poet (who is also my partner) about their experiences in girlhood. The poem “how to exorcise a boy (monster house).” serves as my response to this offense: “this house is a monster ready to make a meal out of any mortal bold enough to desecrate its hallowed ground”.

What inspires you to write?

“Everything is everything.”  – NoName, Room 25 (2018)

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever written?

I’m currently working on a collection of kwansabas (African American celebration poems) on the subject of my Black queer body. This creative process is allowing me to fall in love with both the words I write and the topic(s) on which I write them.

What effect do you hope your writing will have on people?

My favorite review came from a poetry slam attendee who said that my work is reminiscent of a “sadder, gayer Freddie Brooks from A Different World”. From this comment, I gleaned that my work gives most folx a joyful Black queer sandwich cookie with a dollop of melancholy in the middle. I’m largely content with that analysis.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

  1. Faithful to myself and others. “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.”  – Hebrews 11:1, The Bible (4000s BCE-96 AD)
  2. Happy. “Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”  – Marcus Aurelius, The Meditations (161-180 AD)
  3. In love with myself and others. “Every person is a world to explore.”  – Thích Nhất Hạnh, How to Love (2014)

What’s it like being queer where you live?

I grew up in North Carolina, a place where Black queer folx are hung either on the cross or in their closets. The hardest thing I have ever done is continue to live when I wanted to die. “Remember that none of it killed me; that all of it could have.”  – Dominique Christina, The Bones, The Breaking, The Balm: A Colored Girl’s Hymnal (2014)

Thankfully, because of my father and my queer chosen family, I survived the shame and I am still unlearning it. My queer family is multiracial and multigenerational. Our gender and romantic identities combine in more ways than mismatched socks. We counsel each other through good times and bad. We cook meals for one another. We read each other’s poems. We watch ridiculous television shows together. We give one another the space to exist exactly as we are. This is the kind of home I had to run away in order to find.

What makes you peculiar?

My undergraduate degrees are in Anthropology and Classical Civilization. I am currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Classical Archaeology and am writing my thesis on the syncretism of Apollo and the Thracian Horseman in Hellenistic Thrace. My education has trained me to be a student of the world in both the past and the present as well as to interrogate the motives of those who claim to be its teachers. My time in academia has demonstrated to me that a) Black is the beginning, b) queer transcends space, time, and language, and c) nothing is nothing, therefore no one is no one.


peculiar line

Mia S. Willis is a 23-year-old African American artist and adventurer from Charlotte, North Carolina. Mia is a recipient of the 2018 Foothill Editors’ Prize for their poem “hecatomb,” which was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Their work has been showcased by WORDPEACE, Foothill: a Journal of Poetry, Button Poetry and Slamfind. In 2018, Mia ranked fourth out of 96 femme poets at the Women of the World Poetry Slam, placed fifth out of 150 poets at the Southern Fried Regional Poetry Slam, and won the Capturing Fire Slam. They were also a member of Tender Bitch, the winning poetry performance team at the 2018 Feminine Empowerment Movement Slam Tournament. Mia’s debut poetry collection, “monster house.”, was the 2018 winner of the Cave Canem Foundation’s Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize and will be published by Jai-Alai Books in April 2019.

11 Writing Prompts for Winter and the Holidays

by Amanda Steele

Writing Prompts for Winter.jpg

The holidays are here and winter is upon us. If you live in a colder climate, you might be enjoying a winter wonderland, and if you live where it’s warm, you get to enjoy the holiday season under the sun. Winter can be a great time to reflect on the year before and spend some time curled up by a fire or your holiday decorations. For writers, this makes December the ideal time to actually re-focus on your craft and write a few new poems or stories. With school breaks and days off work, even though the season is hectic, it’s always fulfilling to find some time to let things be still around you and write something new.

We know that finding inspiration can be difficult at times, and sometimes starting a new work is just a matter of beginning. If you’re looking for some winter/holiday themed prompts to get your creative blood flowing, we’ve collected eleven ideas to get you started. Often, you’ll find that once you get started, the words are there. Feel free to try just one prompt or to go through them all. Once you’re done, share your poem or story with us if you want as we would love to read it!

1: Write a poem that uses three of these words: cranberry, santa, snow, candles, solstice, crackle, dreidel, and tresses.

2: Write a poem or story describing what it feels like to go from a cold, windy day outside to the warmth of the indoors.

3: Write about a favorite holiday or winter memory, but write it in third person as if you’re the main character.

4: Write a holiday or winter poem that uses a lot of imagery, but don’t use any typical words like snow, white, santa, christmas tree, frosty, etc.

5: Look outside your window and write a descriptive paragraph or poem describing your view. To switch things up, choose a favorite poet or author and try to write using their same style.

6: Write a few winter haikus. Remember it’s three lines. The first line has five syllables. The second line has seven, and the last line has five.

7: Write an acrostic poem using a favorite holiday or winter word such as yuletide or Hanukkah. An acrostic poem is when the first, last, or middle letters in the poem write out a word or phrase.

Such as:

See the falling diamonds of water

Nestling into the snow-covered sidewalk

Over our heads the blackbirds circle and caw

Wildly, a cacophony of noise and dark above

8:  To switch things up, write some journal entries about your life or about anything that is going on. You can be as formal or informal as you want. Sometimes it just helps to start writing and get used to being in the habit again.

9: Write about a bad holiday or winter memory you have and put it in poetic form. Try to use concrete images where you use all of the senses. See if you can include descriptions for sight, taste, smell, touch, and sound.

10: Write a short story that is no longer than 300 words where you introduce the idea of winter as a persona or character. What would the character wear, say, look like?

11: Once you’ve written a few of these prompts, try splicing two of them together into a new form and see what you can create.

Now, get to writing! We hope you have a cozy and fantastic holiday and winter season!

peculiar line

Amanda Steele is a queer poet and writer with a degree in Creative Writing and Gender Studies from Utah Valley University. She was born and raised in Idaho and currently lives in New York City. Amanda works as a freelance writer and blogger and has been published in peculiar, The Dandelion Review, and Sun and Sandstone, among others. She loves to mix her love of writing with her passion for activism and fandom. You can follow her on Twitter: @adamantaflame or on her blog here.

Finding Support as a Queer Person During Thanksgiving: Resources and Community


by Amanda Steele

Thanksgiving can be a holiday full of delicious food that often only gets eaten once or twice a year like banana cream and pumpkin pies and all those homemade rolls. The idea of having a holiday where we can enjoy a feast with those we care about is a lovely idea. But, while some queer people have supportive family members, many others don’t. Thanksgiving and other holidays can be stressful or painful for anyone who has strained or broken relationships with their family members.

If you’re a queer person who finds yourself without family support during this time of year, it can be difficult to face. This is often why finding a support group of friends and creating your own family is so important to many in our community. It’s something many of us talk about frequently. Often out of necessity, queer people band together to create strong bonds of support and love with people they aren’t related to. This idea of a found family can be especially needed during Thanksgiving and other family-centered events.

Thanksgiving can be especially difficult for marginalized members of the queer community. Certain members of our community face even more ostracization and bigotry in society, and sometimes among others in the community, sadly.

Transgender people find that they face even more discrimination and violence than cisgender members of the queer community. There are resources out there to offer support and help to transgender individuals.

Here are just a few of the resources available. If you are struggling during this time of year, the trans lifeline is a hotline you can call for help and support.




When talking about Thanksgiving, it’s also important to talk about Indigenous people in the United States, especially Indigenous queer people in our community. Across the country, indigenous queer folx, and nonqueer people too, face increased difficulties and dangers surrounding violence toward indigenous women, youth suicide, education, health, and other issues. The way that Thanksgiving is presented as a positive sort of mythos in the country can be very problematic. While we aren’t saying you can’t enjoy food with your family and friends and be grateful for what you have, it’s important to listen to Indigenous voices and provide support.

Here are a few resources to start learning how you can help:



While the holidays can be a rough time for many of us, you are not alone. Search out specific resources in your community that you can reach out to for help. You can also find national resources. It can be hard to reach out on your own, but often people in your community are already putting together events in your area to help you find community and support.

If you are in a position that you can, one idea to help your fellow queer people out is to host a Friendsgiving dinner of some kind either before, during, or after the actual Thanksgiving Day. And, if you know someone who isn’t welcome or comfortable at their family Thanksgiving dinner, invite them to yours if possible.

It’s vital that those in our community who have support and privilege use their resources to reach out to others in the community who are still struggling or who face more bigotry and oppression. Those of us who have the ability should work to support others and try to do our part to cultivate a spirit of giving, connection, and intersectionality during this time of year.

If you need support during the holidays, you can reach out to these resources:




peculiar line

Amanda Steele is a queer poet and writer with a degree in Creative Writing and Gender Studies from Utah Valley University. She was born and raised in Idaho and currently lives in New York City. Amanda works as a freelance writer and blogger and has been published in peculiar, The Dandelion Review, and Sun and Sandstone, among others. She loves to mix her love of writing with her passion for activism and fandom. You can follow her on Twitter: @adamantaflame or on her blog here.

Writ & Vision—Curating a Culture Where Voices Are Heard

Writ and Vision storefront

The front window display of Writ & Vision on historic Center Street in Provo’s downtown.

by Jack Garcia

I met Brad Kramer, the owner of Writ & Vision in downtown Provo, Utah, for the first time last month when peculiar was cohosting a queer poetry open mic at his location. I walked into the shop, noticing the playful religious candles with white-shirt-and-tied missionaries in the front window along with other obvious nods to the Mormon faith, and headed toward the sound of his voice. A long, narrow shop, the front half looked like your typical bookstore, but the second half blossomed into an open, airy, gallery space with a second-level balcony. He shook my hand, wearing a t-shirt featuring the ladies from The Golden Girls.

“I have that same shirt!” I told him.

He smiled. I knew instantly that Brad Kramer was a very cool guy.

I’ve since learned that Kramer’s love of literature and history runs deep. He studied Russian Literature at Brigham Young University, then earned a Masters in US History at the University of Utah before moving to Ann Arbor to earn his PHD in anthropology from the University of Michigan. He is currently a professor of anthropology at Utah Valley University, aside from the owner of Writ & Vision—a fine art gallery and rare books dealer.

“So how did this all come to be?” I asked him, gesturing around me while sitting on the steps leading to the upper level that looks down at the gallery space. He was hanging canvases—stunning woodblock prints—while he spoke, hammering nails and using a level to make sure everything was just right.

“Well, I moved back to Salt Lake City to work on my dissertation…” he began. While researching what he describes as the patterns of silence and “unmentionability” in the structuring of the sacred in Mormonism, he was working for the Mormon press Greg Kofford Books where his favorite responsibility was planning the book signings and panel discussions. Many of the events were held at what was then Zion’s Books, where Writ & Vision now resides.

Kramer and Ryan Roos, the owner of Zion’s Books, developed a great working relationship and Kramer “kinda became his defacto public events manager.” Eventually another opportunity came Roos’ way, and he asked if Kramer would like to take over the bookstore for him. At first Kramer said no, worrying about the financial risks of keeping a brick-and-mortar bookstore afloat, and it wasn’t until he had a conversation with an artist he knew, Kirk Richards, that he even began to entertain the idea—but not just as a bookstore.

“If you buy it and turn it into a gallery, I’ll sell my stuff,” Richards said, in Kramer’s recollected paraphrase.

Another friend of Kramer’s, Glen Nelson, co-director of the Mormon Arts Center, invited him to New York City to tour dozens of art galleries, meet with curators and gallerists, and really get a feel for running an art gallery.

Returning to Utah, Kramer took the plunge and told Roos, “Okay, I’ll run it.”

In April 2015, Zion’s Books was rebranded as Writ & Vision. “We have to give credit to Rusty Clifton, who did the brand design,” Kramer interjected. “He did phenomenal work.” As for the name, it was crowd-sourced on Facebook.

Writ & Vision’s first art show naturally featured Kirk Richards, whose work is very popular—“not Deseret Book art,” Kramer quipped, but work that “pushes the boundaries of devotional art”—and sold very well.  Of his hybrid bookstore/gallery, Kramer commented, “A bookstore is much more inviting, not ‘snooty’ like a gallery, but it’s the art that pays the bills.” Since then, the store has done an art exhibit a month, as well as hosted music performances, poetry readings, author meet-and-greets, and other community events.


Writ & Vision’s Brad Kramer with his daughter.

Like most living in Provo, Kramer grew up a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) and still attends church once or twice a month where he plays the organ. Admittedly, his wife Tracey and their five children attend much more regularly. I commented that while his store is first and foremost a Mormon establishment, I’ve noticed that he, himself, is very liberal—which some might find to be a contradiction.

“I have one foot here and one foot there, and whenever I feel like I’m being pulled too far one way, I work really hard to regain a toehold.” He still believes many tenets of the LDS faith, but also feels disillusioned with current leadership and recent policy changes—specifically a change announced last year regarding a ban on baptisms for the children of same-sex couples. “What we’re doing to queer kids is the wickedest thing going on in the Church.”

“I want Writ & Vision to be a gathering place of diverse Mormon voices,” Kramer told me. “A place where marginalized Mormons feel safe: queer Mormons, feminist Mormons, Mormons of color, even ex-Mormons…” As an ally, he feels he has an “obligation to help queer Mormons. It’s the most important thing we can be doing.” But he also recognizes the balance between being proactive and staying in his “own lane.”

In coordinating the queer poetry open mic the month prior, I had asked for his input several times, even asking if he would like some time to speak at the event, to which he had humbly declined. “This is your reading. I don’t want to interfere. This should be a space where the queer community can feel safe and have their own voices heard.”

He earned points with me for that one. Almost as many as for the Golden Girls tee.

Copies of peculiar can be purchased at Writ & Vision, located at 274 W Center St in Provo, Utah.

peculiar line

Jack_StaffPic SQUAREJack Garcia is the co-founder and co-editor of peculiar. A Utah Valley University graduate with a BA in English – Creative Writing, he has had poetry and prose published in journals such as Touchstones, Essais, Orogeny, and Brown Bag Magazine. When not writing with the Rock Canyon Poets or working his boring day job as a jewelry store manager, Jack loves binge-watching The Golden Girls with his boyfriend and paying his student loans until he dies.

7 Poetry Prompts to Help You Out of a Writing Slump

by Amanda Steele


We all have those days, or maybe if we are being honest weeks or even months, where we just can’t seem to find inspiration to write. While it can be easy to get into a writing slump, it is a lot harder to pull yourself out of one. Waiting for the muse to strike can be infuriating and disappointing, so sometimes we all have to seek out a little push in the right direction to get those creative juices flowing.

You can find many fun and inspiring poetry prompts out there, but we’ve curated a few of our favorites to get you started. If you have any favorite prompts of your own, please share them with us! We would also love to read any poems that are inspired by the prompts below.

The first two prompts come from this creative list from Kelli Russell Agodon. These are two of our favorites, but you should really check the rest of the list out. You can find her on Twitter @KelliAgodon.

  1. Write a seven-line poem about one of the 7 Deadly Sins that only contains seven words in each of the lines.
  2. Write a poem that is really a love letter to an old flame. To make sure it’s doesn’t slip into sappy,make sure one or more of these words are in the poem: dung beetle, politician, nuclear, exoskeleton, oceanography, pompadour, toilet, copper mug, corn flakes (or any cereal), corkscrew.
  3. This is a poetry prompt I made up. I would love to read your poem if you use this one, and you can find me on Twitter @adamantaflame.
    1. Line 1: Include a color in this line.
      Line 2: Verb a noun. Example: I “tigered”
      Line 3: Use synesthesia in this line
      Line 4: Highlight the sense of smell
      Line 5: Incorporate a strong action verb
      Line 6: Highlight the sense of taste
      Line 7: Make this line rhyme with the last (slant rhyme is fine)
      Line 8: Incorporate the word “sidewalk” into this line.
      Line 9: Use a simile that has to do with the sense of hearing
      Line 10: End with a line that is unexpected and changes the direction of the poem.
  4. Simply put, a tanka poem is a Japanese poem and is similar to a haiku but has two additional lines. A tanka consists of 5 lines and 31 syllables. These poems do not have titles. You can look at some examples here.
    Line 1 – 5 syllables
    Line 2 – 7 syllables
    Line 3 – 5 syllables
    Line 4 – 7 syllables
    Line 5 – 7 syllables
  5. Write a landay. The landay is a form of folk poetry from Afghanistan that is made up of one single couplet. The first line is consists of nine syllables and the second line of thirteen. You can read more about the form and find examples here.
  6. Do a translation. Either of a poem in a second language into your native language, or a poem in your native language into another language if you’re really feeling adventurous. You could also “translate” something from a different medium (like a movie, book, painting, song) into a poem.
  7. Write a found poem. You can use tangible, real material if you want. Cut something up and rearrange it. Black out words on a page. Anything that inspires you.


Here are a few other sources. Poetry prompts are fun, and sometimes you just can’t get enough. So, why stop with seven?

Between the BarsWriter's DigestLitbridge

Utah Pride Festival Poetry Mad Lib Contest Winner

peculiar booth-2

Marketing Director, Spencer Ballard, and Co-Editor, Aaron Gates, at the peculiar booth.

We recently had the honor of tabling at the Utah Pride Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 2nd – 3rd. While there, we engaged visitors with a fun poetry prompt dreamed up by poet and Utah Valley University professor, Rob Carney. The prompt begins, “April isn’t the cruelest month…” and proceeds like a Mad Lib with fill-in-the-blank suggestions all along the way. Jack, one of our co-editors, did this poetry prompt years ago as a student of Carney’s at UVU, and the full prompt was shared online by the Creative Writing Guild. If you enjoy writing at all, you should give it a try!

Booth visitors who participated were entered into a contest, with the winner receiving $25. We are pleased to announce our winner: Anna Slagle! There were so many wonderful entries—mostly silly—but this poem really stood out among the rest for its poignant sense of heartbreak. You can find more of Anna’s poetry on Instagram: @poeticinkk

Dear Georgia, the One She Loved So Dearly
by Anna Slagle

April isn’t the cruelest month, that would be December,
when I kissed her head
and scratched my skin until I bled.
In April—dreary,
dark, discreet.

Maybe if you’d written a letter to Frida that night
then she could have explained, could have said,
could have told us just how to fix our broken pieces.

No, it’s December that’s cruel because the snow
falls from the sky as the birds
fall silent and I yearn for her voice
among the roses.

Maybe one day we’ll meet again
and you’ll smell sweeter than I remember.

peculiar line


Announcement: We Are Expanding!

Peculiar Expanding

With our roots in the Mormon stronghold of Provo, Utah, peculiar began as a way to recognize the creative talents of the often-overlooked queer community within Utah’s unique culture. The reception we’ve found for this journal here in Utah has touched our hearts. Over these few years, we’ve seen how important it is to help queer individuals to feel their voices are heard, to see their talent recognized, and to have a chance to come together with other creative minds in their community. We wouldn’t trade any of the long nights or stress it took to publish each issue for anything else. It’s all been worth it.

As the journal has grown over the past few years—and our staff has begun setting roots nationwide—we’ve realized that a lot of what peculiar seeks to embody and shine a light on is found everywhere. So, as we move forward, we’ve decided to broaden the scope of peculiar to include queer voices from anywhere and everywhere. No matter how far you are or how quietly you whisper, know that we hear you.

But we still don’t want to lose our roots in Utah. So going forward, we will also have a Utah-specific contest where the winners will be showcased in the following issue of peculiar. Anyone from Utah is still welcome to submit to each issue of the journal going forward, but the contest is a way for us to guarantee that each issue will still have a number of contributors from within Utah to represent that first spark of peculiarity we love and that made us start this journal.

We hope you can all continue to support this journal we make for you, for the queer community, and for queer creative voices seeking to be heard.

To submit poetry, prose, art, or photography for our next issue, visit: http://www.peculiarjournal.com/submit

Poetry Magazine Call for Submission

by Amanda Steele

Poetry Magazine Trans

peculiar is always looking to amplify the voices of the queer community in Utah and to make our creative community aware of opportunities for publishing their work. We wanted to let you all know about an exciting opportunity coming to you from Poetry magazine. This magazine is one of the most well-known and respected monthly journals in the country for publishing poetry, and it has been around for over 100 years.

From now until May 31st, 2018, Poetry will be taking submission for an issue that will be dedicated solely to the poetry of transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-cis poets. This is a great opportunity to submit your work, and we are excited that Poetry magazine is focusing on these marginalized voices. This issue will be guest-edited by Christopher Soto and is set to be published in the fall of this year. Information about submission guidelines can be found here.

We also encourage you to connect with the magazine by following their Twitter, @poetrymagazine. While this is a special issue that seeks to highlight and feature the voices of transgender and gender non-conforming poets, they also encourage all non-cis poets to submit their work any time to Poetry open submissions. These submissions are ongoing and can be accessed continuously. So, if you miss out on this deadline, you can always submit in the future.

Again, here’s the link to submit.


peculiar line

IMG_0705Amanda Steele is a queer poet and writer with a degree in Creative Writing and Gender Studies from Utah Valley University. She was born and raised in Idaho and currently lives in New York City. Amanda works as a freelance writer and blogger and has been published in peculiar, The Dandelion Review, and Sun and Sandstone, among others. She loves to mix her love of writing with her passion for activism and fandom. You can follow her on Twitter: @adamantaflame or on her blog here.


10 Queer Poets of Color You Should Know About

by Amanda Steele

Finding a new poet whose words ignite and inspire your own writing is a joy we as poets share. There are many contemporary poets out there who are creating influential, beautiful work. LGBT+ poets are breaking boundaries and pushing language to new levels.

This will be the first in a series of blog posts meant to highlight and recognize queer poets and their work. If you are looking for a resource to find contemporary queer writers and see what is going on in the world of poetry, this blog series can get you started.

A selection of influential, contemporary queer poets of color.

While queer poets of color have always been around and shaping literature and the written word, learning about poets producing work now is important. Poets such as Audre Lorde and James Baldwin should also be part of your poetry canon, but for today, the focus is on the recent and up and coming.

Contemporary queer people of color are reshaping poetry and spoken word in new and exciting ways. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it’s a good place to start if you are looking to add a new chapbook or two to your collection. This really is just a small selection of all the great poets of color out there, and we will definitely be adding more to the list in future installments.


1: Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones published his debut work of poetry, Prelude to Bruise, in 2014. This collection focuses on themes related to masculinity, race, power dynamics, intimacy, and much more. He is a queer black man who is also well-known for being a literary editor for Buzzfeed. Jones was born in Memphis, raised in Lewisville, and currently lives in New York City. He received an MFA from Rutgers University-Newark and is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize as well as a fellow for Cave Canem and Queer/Art/Mentorship. You can follow him on Twitter here: @theferocity.


2: Natalie Diaz

Natalie Diaz is Mojave and a member of the Gila River Indian Community. She has an MFA and is the author of the poetry collection When My Brother Was an Aztec, which was published in 2012. The New York Times called this work “ambitious” and “beautiful.” She has received many awards such as the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Lannan Literary Fellowship, among others. Diaz lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, and she is a Mojave Language Activist. She can be found on Twitter at this handle, @NatalieGDiaz.


3: Jericho Brown

Jericho Brown released his debut work, Please, in 2008. This publication won the American Book Award. His second poetry collection, The New Testament, was released in 2014 and was named by Library Journal as one of the best poetry books of that year. Brown also received the Whiting Writers Award as well as fellowships from Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has a PhD from the University of Houston. Jericho’s work is centered around themes such as race, religion, rituals, and love. He can be found on Twitter, too, at @jerichobrown.


4: Chen Chen

Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, released in 2017. This work won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and the GLCA New Writers Award. He has also written two chapbooks and was featured as one of “Ten Poets Who Will Change the World” by Poets & Writers Magazine. Chen Chen has also been the recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda Literary, and the Saltonstall Foundation. He lives in Rochester, New York, and has an MFA from Syracuse University. Chen Chen is also on Twitter and can be found at @chenchenwrites.


5:  Erika L. Sánchez

Erika L. Sánchez lives in Chicago and is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She is a poet, novelist, and essayist, and her first collection of poetry, Lessons on Expulsion, was published in 2017. Her debut YA novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, was also published in 2017 and is a New York Times Bestseller and National Book Awards Finalist. She is also a 20172019 Princeton Arts fellow. Sánchez received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico, and her work has been featured in Poetry magazine, NPR, and many many other publications. You can follow her on Twitter at @ErikaLSanchez.


6: Yosimar Reyes

Yosimar Reyes is “a nationally acclaimed poet, educator, performance artist and public speaker” according to the bio from his website. He is from Mexico, and his work is focused around themes related to migration and sexuality. His first collection, For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly…, was self-published. He is also co-founder of La Mariocolectiva. This is a performance group of undocumented, queer poets. Reyes’ work has been featured in many online journals, and he is an Arts Fellow at Define American. Find him on Twitter here: @YoSoyYosi.

Amber Stewart_3644_0

7: Amber Atiya

Amber Atiya released her first chapbook, the fierce bums of doo-wop, in 2014. Her poetry has appeared in many literary journals including Black Renaissance Noire, Boston Review, Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, and many more. Atiya is a 2012 Poets House Fellow. Amber Atiya was born and raised in Brooklyn, where she currently resides. You can find her on Twitter @AmberAtiyaNYC and on Tumblr, here.


8: Ryka Aoki

Ryka Aoki is the author of many collections and works including Seasonal Velocities, He Mele a Hilo (A Hilo Song), and Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul. She performed at the first ever Transgender Stage at San Francisco Pride and has performed at many other venues over the years. Aoki has an MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University, and she is also the recipient of the University Award from the Academy of Poets. Aoki is also the founder of the International Transgender Martial Arts Alliance and is a professor at Santa Monica College. Follow her on Twitter at @ryka_aoki.


9: Danez Smith

Danez Smith is a black, queer writer and performer from St. Paul, Minnesota. Their collection of poetry, Don’t Call Us Dead, was published in 2017 and was a finalist for the national book award. Smith also published a collection of poetry called [insert] boy, which was published in 2014. This collection won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Their work has been featured in Buzzfeed, The New York Times, Poetry Magazine, and more. Danez co-hosts VS, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry foundation, with Franny Choi, and he is also a recipient of many fellowships. Follow them on Twitter under this handle: @Danez_Smif.


10: Franny Choi

Franny Choi is a “queer, Korean-American poet, playwright, teacher, organizer,” according to her website. Her published works include Floating, Brilliant, Gone, published in 2014 and Death by Sex Machine, published in 2017. She has many awards from the Poetry Foundation, Helen Zell Writers program, and more. She received a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center and the Rhode Island Council on the Arts. Choi’s work has been featured in Poetry Magazine, Huffington Post, and more. She has been a finalist for the National Poetry Slam and other slam poetry competitions and co-hosts the podcast VS with Danez Smith. Look out for her collection, Soft Science, coming out in 2019, and find her on Twitter @fannychoir.

Bonus Resource:

Check out, Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color. The new issue is coming out soon, and, if you can’t buy it, you can still see the list of contributors, making it a great place to find some new poets. Christopher Sota and Lambda Literary Foundation started this online journal in 2014.

Share your favorite contemporary queer poets of color below!

peculiar line

Amanda Steele is a queer poet and writer with a degree in Creative Writing and Gender Studies from Utah Valley University. She was born and raised in Idaho and currently lives in New York City. Amanda works as a freelance writer and blogger and has been published in 
peculiar, The Dandelion Review, and Sun and Sandstone, among others. She loves to mix her love of writing with her passion for activism and fandom. You can follow her on Twitter: @adamantaflame or on her blog here.





Q&A with Featured Artist: Teah Marcotte

Q&A Teah Marcotte

peculiar‘s most recent Featured Artist is photographer Teah Marcotte. Her images don’t just capture a momentthey encapsulate a state of being. Her use of striking contrast breathes life into everyday moments, highlighting the beauty found in both joy and sorrow. We fell absolutely in love with her work, so we asked her a few questions to find out more about her photography, and in so doing we learned what makes her happiest and the spiritual faith that keeps her going.

When did you first start creating art?

I was probably around eight or nine when I started figuring out what art was, and realizing that I had an interest. I wasn’t sure what kind of art I wanted to create or what kind of art I even liked, but I knew I had a fascination lingering. As I got older, I started drawing and doodlingand became pretty decentbut I eventually lost interest. When I was fifteen, I picked up a camera for the first time and never stopped. Finding my own unique style of photography took years, but I eventually found it.

Why are you an artist?

I’m an artist because of many reasons, one of them because it’s a huge escape from life. I love being able to grab my camera, plug in my headphones, and just shoot, blocking everything out, not a worry in the world, just what my next subject is gonna’ be. Being an artist, I feel, gives me a purpose in life. I absolutely love being able to provide people and families with long-lasting memories. Seeing their smiles and excitement when showing them preview shots is one of my favorite parts of being a photographer.

What artists do you yourself admire?

One big inspiration of mine is a good friend named Sarah Kappos, who both writes and paints. She’s an incredible artist! The way she talks about her art and what inspires her to create art inspires me more and more every time I see her.

untitled (9)

“Dreams” by Teah Marcotte

What’s your artistic process?

My process is kind of just go with the flow. Whenever I find myself overthinking shoots or ideas that I have, I feel myself psyching out. Like, I either try too hard or I end up hating my end product. I usually get an idea, kind of arrange it, and then let it go until it’s time to shoot. Either that or I will just go and see what I end up with.

What inspires you to create art? Do you have a muse?

My nieces and nephews definitely inspire me the most. Their innocence always helps me create new-found projects. Other photographer’s work sometimes helps me come up with foreign projects as well.

untitled (18)

“Heart of Gold” by Teah Marcotte

What’s your favorite thing you’ve ever created?

My favorite thing I’ve ever created… I don’t think I have a favorite. Or I have a lot of favorites [laughs]. Portraiture in general is my favorite thing to do, so any portraits of my nieces and nephews are my favorites.

What effect do you hope your photography will have on people?

I hope that people will see my photos and feel happiness. I want them to, for a slight second, be able to breathe and not stressto remind themselves that everything is gonna’ be okay.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

That’s kind of a hard question because I see myself in a lot of different places. My biggest dream is to be a photojournalist traveling the world, taking thousands of pictures a day, eating foreign food, meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and just taking in as much of the world as I can. I would, however, also love to find a partner and settle down in a big city, have some kids, and do that sort of thing. For now, I just plan on taking pictures and traveling as much as I can while I’m still young.

untitled (10)

“Perspective” by Teah Marcotte

What’s it like being queer in Utah?

I lived there for about a year and a half, and it was actually a good thing for me and my whole coming-out process. I come from quite a religious family and my coming out wasn’t the smoothest, but living in Utah and being surrounded by such a huge LGBT community was really good for me and really cleansing. I met a lot of amazing humans  who really helped me on my journey in different ways. I wasn’t ever scared to be publicly open about who I really am, which was foreign for me. It took some time to be comfortable with doing so, but eventually I came to be 100% accepting of who I am. I loved every second of it.

What makes you peculiar?

Well, I am double-jointed in six joints, so I guess that could be considered peculiar! On a more serious note though, I would probably say that what makes me peculiar is probably the fact that I still have my faith and belief in God. Like I said previously, my family is quite religious and, with me, coming out was really hard because I wanted to keep that relationship with God, but I was told day in and day out that being gay and believing in God was an oxymoron. It took a lot of years for me to come to where I am now. I no longer go to church, but I do still work on my faith and my spirituality. It’s probably been the one thing that has gotten me through all of the heartache and pain while coming out to such a religious family. I’m very thankful for my faith and I’m proud of myself for sticking through to what I believe in my heart.


peculiar line

Teah Marcotte is a twenty-five-year-old photographer from Boise, Idaho. She started taking photos almost eleven years ago, and she has been obsessed with it ever since. Photos feed her soul happiness and blur out the darkness in this world. Capturing beauty, which not a lot of people can see, makes her heart the most content.