Featuring the work of Eric Baus, Mathias Svalina, Emily O’Neill, Sonya Vatomsky, Moss Angel, and MANDEM, among many others, Curious Specimens is an anthology of the strange and wondrous things that make us human. Andi and Lance Olsen catalog the effects ‘one’s memories breaking loose’ has on the body. A speaker warns of alternate selves coming for her ‘crystal core’. A Jackalope-Girl gets a late-night tattoo. Comfort comes in the form of Cerebus, crocodile eggs, a pile of bones. As Susan Slaviero writes, it might even be ‘better to be an anomaly,’ someone who defies easy classification. Read it for free now!
Sundress: What was your initial vision when putting together Curious Specimens?
Wren Hanks: I’d recently finished a fairytale chapbook, gar child, about a girl who was part spotted gar. I felt pretty monstrous in my trans body at the time, and wanted to read work from other writers about feeling “caught between worlds.” I’d also been thinking a lot about genre (horror, speculative, etc.) and poetry—how the two didn’t mix enough. I wanted to give writers the opportunity to unnerve me!
Sundress: How has the project evolved as you’ve worked on it?
WH: The way Beth and I originally phrased what we were looking for is that we wanted work (poetry, prose, ephemera) “that moved beyond cataloging the strange or uncanny and, instead, embodied a persona as a means of interrogating identity.”
We received so many beautiful pieces that advocate for the “anomaly” in us, such Susan Slaviero’s poem “Monster Show,” but there are also pieces where the anomaly is a source of fear, grief, or great love. The anthology is both much larger, and more encompassing of the ways we relate to the strangeness in ourselves and others, than I could have hoped for!
Sundress: I love this idea of the anthology form as a cabinet of curiosities. As a writer & editor, what was your experience like working within this particular form?
WH: I thought of each of the sections in Curious Specimens as its own room, filled with dusty glass bottles that might tell a story if you read all of their labels. I wanted the pieces (and the creatures!) in each section to complement each other.
Sundress: If you had to create a mix-tape to go with Curious Specimens, what would you include? Maybe also what films, artists, TV shows would you pair with this anthology?
“It’s a Wonderful Life,” by Sparklehorse
“Everything You Can Think,” by Tom Waits
“Two-Headed Boy,” by Neutral Milk Hotel
“Troubled Cells,” by SubRosa
“Monkey and Bear,” by Joanna Newsom
“I Blame Myself,” by Sky Ferreira
“Dance Apocalyptic,” by Janelle Monae
“Eyes of the Night,” by Starlight Mints
“Look a Ghost in the Eye,” by Mary Timony
Valerie’s Week of Wonders
The Thing (1982 version)
Return to Oz
Let the Right One In
Huang Yong Ping
Sundress: What current and future projects are you working toward?
WH: I just finished a chapbook, “The Rise of Genderqueer,” that I’m submitting to contests and open calls. The title comes from the Family Research Council’s long-winded screed, “Understanding and Responding to the Transgender Movement.” Essentially, the chapbook is my response to their definition of trans personhood as “fundamentally unstable.”
I’m also working on a full-length collection called “I am the Tin Boy” about a trans tin woodman that draws heavily from the Oz books (and hint: makes pretty much every character queer).
Wren Hanks is a trans writer from Texas and the author of Prophet Fever (Hyacinth Girl Press) and Ghost Skin (Porkbelly Press). His recent work appears in Best New Poets 2016, Gigantic Sequins, Drunken Boat, and elsewhere. His third chapbook, gar child, is forthcoming in 2017 from Tree Light Books. He currently lives in Brooklyn.