An irreverently tender profile of Black trans life surviving and thriving during contemporary political turmoil.
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THE BLACK CONDITION FT. NARCISSUS is preemptive memoir, documenting the beginning of the author’s gender transition and paralleling the inauguration of our latest Administration. These poems speak to and from fears holed up inside while contextualizing the cosmic impacts of our political landscape. Ranging from autobiographic melancholy to rigorously meditative, here is a necessary voice to process the world, predicated on unknowable desire and blossoming tragedy.
This collection by jayy dodd be a Black soundtrack remixing a questioning condition—be a pristine 16—bars: poplocking & unlocking all our imprisoned ignorance—be a praise song—blasphemous & righteous simultaneous—an altar—an alter ego—a negro narcissus blowing kisses at the mirror of their divine fineness—yes, lawd, these poems root us in the truth—sprout lovely—the opposite of wilt—they “flower in your hand”—bloom sonic in your ear like anti-anthem shading flamboyant & death-dropping to the pulse of its own parade. Amen.
Who is Narcissus? If I thought I knew the answer to that question, I no longer do. Does jayy dodd’s THE BLACK CONDITION FT. NARCISSUS offer a mythology remixed, queered, Blackened, etc? For sure! jayy dodd inscribes and incarnates a dialectical desire for presence and a line of attack into “The Black Condition” as written by White Supremacy, faggotry as written by Hetero/Homo & Trans normativities, femininity as written by misogynoir, genius as written out of and against Black queer/trans/femme subjectivities. But far more than critical mirror or melancholy echo, dodd’s Narcissus emerges as generative principle, birthing the most vulnerable of possibilities, and deftly intimate, if joyously irreverent, critique. Their book is beautiful, voluptuous, daring and demanding of new shapes for becoming, loving and where necessary, destroying. jayy dodd is a genius and I will say that again.
If Amiri Baraka the poet, the pure technician, musician, chronicler of all that is black, blue, purple and lyric, were to metamorphosize and return as a blxk trans femme in spirit they would be jayy dodd. dodd’s poetry captures the magic and the ‘tude, the swing, swagger and tender hands of their experience. It’s an epic, a record, recording, A&B side, CD with bonus track, most importantly it is gospel bristling with raw and tender truths and yearning.
A sawing motion—that is how I would describe the “work” (force x distance) of jayy dodd’s THE BLACK CONDITION FT. NARCISSUS, a collection full of lines so sharp I often do not realize I have been flayed until their edges have exited me. And in a masochistic way, it was a flaying I came to desire—having comfort in my body, comfort in my heterosexuality and cis gendering, comfort in my blkness all sliced into as the speaker in dodd’s poems oscillates between a titanesque confidence (“i write my own anthems. make you sing them back to me”) and an endearing anxiety (“i’m as scared/ of being ignored as i am of being seen”). What is more demigod? What is more blk and trans and femme than to want so earnestly to be seen or touched and to know either could finish in your death? No hyperbole: “i’ve accepted my body/ can’t be both safe & beautiful.” These poems grasp beauty and life and ugliness and death, reaching through and above and below us.
The Black Condition ft. Narcissus by jayy dodd (@deyblxk) is a collection that is equally ferocious and gentle. With themes of (self) knowledge and ego, exposure and visibility, embodiment and physicality, these poems examine Blackness and sexuality with both candor and vulnerability. I appreciate how dodd plays with space on the page, leaving gaps where words could be but shouldn’t be. The last piece in the book, “i am interested in the black condition.,” is especially unnerving and poignant.
Mordant and melancholy, wistful and startlingly fierce, this collection by a blxk trans femme uses the myth of Narcissus as a means of both celebrating themselves and lamenting the unwitting world: “seeing oneself / can be a dream realized — though/i have always had more faith / in fantastic things unseen.”
A voice I come to trust meets rhythmic and sonic radiance; syntactic and formal muscularity vibrates. These are lushly lyrical poems that, even so, live in the world. If duende can come from acknowledgment of the possibility of death, and the fullness of life that comes alongside that realization, then the beloved goblin of goosebumps surely rises up here.
Exploring themes of desire and self-love with hip-hop infused poetics, jayy dodd’s newest collection feels like a fairytale: the titular Narcissus taking a hard look at theirselves in a golden mirror, a study of beauty and sexuality and awareness. This collection will make you think about finding and caring for your own beauty, both physical and deeper, and how we can approach life with more tenderness. Trust me, dodd’s poems will seduce you, and you won’t be mad about it.
jayy dodd tells me so many things I need to hear, one of which is LISTEN. Listen so hard you miss meals and phone calls. Listen so hard those voices demanding your and others’ extinction break apart and dissolve back to nothing. Listen so hard that when you turn the volume down, you don’t recognize the world anymore.
jayy dodd’s second poetry collection, The Black Condition Ft. Narcissus, is a lyrical masterwork full of sensuous feeling, playfulness, and poetic depth.
New & Noteworthy
Both a memoir and a collection of poetry, The Black Condition ft. Narcissus is a meditation on the self at the end of the world. At least, that’s what it feels like: documenting the author’s transition alongside the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency, this book is a tender and brave look at what it means to find yourself in an America that doesn’t want you to be found.
S. Yarberry: Your collection is titled The Black Condition Ft. Narcissus—what interested you in the myth, and/or the figure, of Narcissus? Narcissus becomes this character that comes in at different times—
jayy dodd: The frame of the title, The Black Condition Ft. Narcissus, is an homage to a band from the ‘70s called Rufus ft. Chaka Khan… The way that Chaka Khan has made a name for herself in a more recognizable way also allowed me to imagine that even though there is definitely a front of this larger band’s work, The Black Condition, there is also Narcissus who is this singular voice—this voice that can run on its own both since and before the book. The title, like I said, is this homage to this band in its framing structure and it also locates this idea of a soloist in a collective—the collective being the vehicle so that Narcissus has these spotlight moments, featured moments, throughout the book.
Jzl Jmz (FKA jayy dodd) aka [Lady Tournament] beamed down in Los Angeles ’92 & is reuploading herself to the internet. Her professional career includes positions at Blavity, The Offing …