Manifesto, or: Hysteria (Big Lucks) // Deus Ex Nigrum (Honeysuckle Press)

**PLEASE NOTE: Due to public health concerns, Skylight Books is canceling all events for the remainder of March. Please write to with questions.

Manifesto, or: Hysteria is a living, breathing cyborg that will reach into your soul and hold you in its mirrored reality. Through hybrid-genre fever dreams & memories of childhood longing, Chen creates a world of simultaneous loneliness and limitless possibility. It is here that we begin to create the self. Manifesto, or: Hysteria is an invocation, a story of queer awakening, kinship, and lineage both within the space of the book and beyond its pages.

With its flora crossing boundaries, Deus Ex Nigrum is, above all else, an invitation to bloom. This chapbook of poems holds a speaker remapping her body, which travels from a site of betrayal to one of renewal. Enacted here is an interlocution of self and body, a configuration outside of canonical human experience, a trans speaker who so finds posterity & futurity in the surround of human being: flowers, seasons, satellitic cyclings.

Praise for the poets: 

“Catherine Chen’s astonishing Manifesto, or: Hysteria presents an incompleteness masquerading as both question and statement. What makes Chen’s work so compelling, even prophetic, is its acceptance of this incompleteness while refusing to stop witnessing, experiencing, and remembering. The result is a poetry of disjuncture, with wisdoms akin to detachment, but far more persistent, maddening, and provocative.”— Ryka Aoki, author of Seasonal Velocities and He Mele a Hilo

These poems are a catalogue of thoughts and logic that one must traverse when faced with the task of surviving this world, surviving with a self intact. The desperation of survival brings cause for the existence of such words as “hysteria,” but Catherine sees these words and adorns them while, in turn, refusing the intention of those that spun them. These poems are the paradoxes, both the truths and the half truths that bubble in the speaker’s body—a body that the world wants to diagnose, gender, and limit.”— Bernard Ferguson, winner of the 2019 92Y Discover Contest

"Deus Ex Nigrum is the strange muscular song I’ve been looking for. These poems ring with a lyric intelligence endued with such mighty heart such urgent and bright living. Can I be real? I cried. I shook. I danced. I needed these poems. What an offering this poet gives us never lowering the tenor of their genius to meet the valley of our deep woe recognized and healed through these poems. Won’t you celebrate with me this poet who has given me my whole life? One who can dazzle us with such inventive poetry but also tell it like it straight up is and say, “if I am to be a twist ending/ let it be that I lived.” I live."— Danez Smith, 2018 chapbook contest poetry judge, author of Don’t Call Us Dead

”I am not born. Instead flower. / I am not dead. Instead winter." Ceremonies. Assertions. Devotions to becoming. These poems dark, light--make swerve the verb, shifting my noun, which is only part of Jasmine Reid's brilliance. She shows how a word (atom-like) might move in any direction, teaching us to read. Such reading work is vital as breath, and has to do with the rigor of insisting on one's own relationships to the earth and possibilities of life. So, yes, the processual body constantly becoming is an effortful anti-stop: "carve a door // the shape of your body / & for every dawn / make another"— Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria

"The poems in Jasmine Reid’s Deus Ex Nigrum capture me with their tenderness with the deft gentleness of the images. How masterfully and earnestly they hurt. She writes, “No one tells me I can’t have the boy & the dress. / My want lives in marigold fingertips” and the image is bursting in its aliveness—is tactile and evocative and crisp. Read it again and the great stakes of the poem become evident the great stakes of the work. I feel lucky to be a reader in a world made vivid by Jasmine Reid’s poems.”Safia Elhillo, author of The January Children

"In Deus Ex Nigrum, Jasmine Reid's deft, expansive lyric dares to live in a space of syzygy: a tension of selves in opposing orbits aligned inside the same body. The polarities of tenderness and violence, intimacy and exposure, the mythic and the quotidian, the celestial and the carnal, are anchored in the body—its intimacies, its memory, its possibility, its bloom. Reid's vulnerable, open lyric is grounded in the physicality of language, sound and image precisely rendered in tight, shining enjambments and skillfully spare lines. This debut is not just a collection of poems, it is a radical logic of what is possible, a counterspell to defy death and proclaim, I am, I am, I am.”Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, author of Beast Meridian

The sea is a mouth swallowing itself. It covers its tracks. In Deus Ex Nigrum, a singing remains, persists, despite it. One is tempted to call such singing a lament. But want pervades Jasmine Reid’s lyricism with all of want’s dramas and pleasures, “like a misuttered current,” like two lovers twisting only to utter, “i love you i love you i love you.” These poems enable a space prior to narrative, before its claim to resolution or catharsis. It is more like the moon—how it commands, enacts, each possible, breathing and storied wave. “Make like a bottle,” we are told, “& swallow my stories.” This is a song that is, necessarily, its singing, the melody the word, only later, conforms to, tries to swallow. For “if you want to know / the story of seasons,” she writes, “you will have to sing / with your mouth. I will have to. I will have to”— reader, you hold the score—“I will.”—Jos Charles, author of feeld

Catherine Chen is a poet, performer, and author of the chapbook Manifesto, or: Hysteria (Big Lucks). Their writing has appeared in Slate, The Rumpus, Apogee, Anomaly, and Nat. Brut, among others. A recipient of fellowships from Poets House, Lambda Literary, and Sundress Academy for the Arts, they're currently working on a libretto.

Jasmine Reid is a twice trans poet of flowers. She is the author of Deus Ex Nigrum, winner of the 2018 Honeysuckle Press Chapbook Contest, selected by Danez Smith. An MFA candidate at Cornell University and recipient of fellowships from Poets House and Jack Jones Literary Arts, her work has been published or is forthcoming in Muzzle Magazine, Apogee, the Shade Journal, and Pinwheel, among others. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated poet, Jasmine was born and raised in Baltimore, MD, and is currently based in Ithaca, NY. Find her at

Event date: 
Saturday, March 28, 2020 - 5:00pm
Event address: 
1818 N Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027