Kiara T. Dunbar
Kiara T. Dunbar (they/she) is a junior majoring in Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies with an emphasis in Film & Media. She is a multimedia artist who utilizes poetry and film to uncover narratives from queer Black communities. Inspired by the legacies of Black artists such as Wanda Coleman, Ntozake Shange, and Cauleen Smith, Kiara hopes to cultivate work that centers Black feminist traditions.
This year, through the IDA Fellowship Kiara wrote poems for their first poetry collection titled i am not a girl!, a chapbook dedicated to queer, Black gender-marginalized youth. As a recipient of the highly-selective Major Grant, Kiara is adapting the chapbook into a short film, set to be completed in May 2022. They are expanding this poetry project even further as an incoming member of the 2021-2022 Honors in the Arts cohort starting in Fall 2021.
i am not a girl!
i am not a girl! is a chapbook that examines gender dysphoria experienced by Black gender non-conforming folks. Blending queer theory, Black Studies, poetry, and film, i am not a girl! seeks to relay how the body exists both as a carceral entity and a site of liberatory potential.
Through personal narrative, I seek to develop a new poetic language. I hope to adequately convey how much existing at the intersecting axes of Blackness and queerness is predicated on performance and how neatly that performance is situated within contemporary definitions of these minoritized identities.
Ultimately, i am not a girl! is important work because it depicts how Black gender-marginalized people can reclaim autonomy over their identity in a world that constantly rejects them. i am not a girl! is a never-ending story that ends and begins with a reclamation of one’s body, self, and identity.
special thanks to
jamayka young, for bringing my project to life through illustrating the book cover.
allison oddman, for continually supporting my work and advising my project.
ace the storyteller, for being my accountability partner during this process.
the 2020-2021 IDA + CBPA cohorts for offering me community and spaces that allowed my work to blossom.
JUDITH BUTLER CALLS IT GENDER TROUBLE
only you know the loneliness a mirror holds
the violence of a door you slammed close
some days you will have names for this pain
other days you will do anything
metals or medicine to take it all away
only you know what it means
a child dreaming of front doors
only you can remember how it feels
to be Not-girl, error,
it does not matter if you are all spikes or all sunflowers.
you are still a girl
COMME DES FILLES
blushing bouquets of suppressed dreaming
and suspended desire. waiting on hand and foot
for a wedding dress. learning to woman
when we are not ready. bathrooms / the most
sacred spaces that protect us. vermilion vomit
decorating pristine prisons, these amorous colors
isn’t it such a beautiful thing to watch
us girls staggering into womanhood?
terrified, ambivalent, ripe for the picking
for our beloveds, of course, of course, of course
we bludgeon ourselves / we, ruined, deflowered
what else could you call it but love
GIRL THE SPECTACLE
as my skin spills from ill-fitting decorations
i remind myself of the harrowing stakes:
dying in this body makes me unworthy of memory.
a dizzy girl like me hides in a poem like this.
always mistaking the floor for something blue,
i make a bed of linoleum, cool white tiles lining my spine
if dinner is a battleground / a plate is a perfect mirror.
i disappear into the bathroom chipping at my flesh
imagining myself small as possible, pound by pound
a famous sculptor will someday write theory
about my stomach, the large obscenity,
a dark collage of excess and borrowed trauma.
i pepper most meals with tears
i wish eating was an easy thing
what could i have been if grandma didn’t say a word
who could i have become if my mother had?
i spent years trying to be someone’s
the love / the loss / the pain / everything
here i was, all along
this captive black-winged butterfly
afraid to blossom so beautifully
the poem writes itself
here i was
afraid to be
if a girl escapes her cage
someone will crack their tongue
on her body, her mother, a brown sun
now but a collection of dulled colors,
offering the first blow
stomping out her rebellion /
stomping out her rebellion
if a girl still remains
someone will surely ready her
as a burial site for men
thorn-kissed and tragic,
as the fairytale goes
so young, everyone will say about her.
so young and too soon
i know a strong thing when i see one,
so i looked into a mirror for the first time.
this skin is thick as honey
sharper than a man’s tongue
and when heaven calls, it’s because i died
of natural causes.
if i think i can still see stars in my hair
sometimes what does that mean?
i don’t know. so i shake them out for other girls
picking up happiness off the sidewalk.
my love will make its way to you too,
not a soul gone unloved if i can help it.