The Poetry Project

Editor’s Note

Kay Gabriel

As this issue was going to print, we learned of the passing of Cecilia Gentili, a beloved member of the Poetry Project community and a dear friend.

Cecilia was and remains a singular force: a writer, actor, drag performer, storyteller, community leader and an organizer in the most meaningful sense, someone who makes it possible for people to see themselves reflected in each other’s work and lives. For the past decade, she was also a mother to me, as she was to many other young trans people. She sustained us with her love, and with her abrasive, vulgar sense of humor. When she called you a whore, she meant that she loved you.

Cecilia fought her whole life for trans people, sex workers, immigrants, and she fought for a free Palestine as well. I remember seeing the video of her getting arrested at the Jewish Voice for Peace action in Grand Central, jumping up and down while an officer tried to place her in cuffs.

I’ve taken solace in seeing Cecilia’s presence in the world that she made possible. I see her in the women I’m blessed to call sisters, and in people I don’t even know. I see her in the social infrastructure, both formal and informal, that she built for the thousands of people whose lives she touched and transformed.

This issue of the Newsletter aligns profoundly with how Cecilia taught us to live and what she helped us see. In her interview with Juliana Huxtable, Zora Jade Khiry asks what trans motherhood means for Huxtable; Huxtable replies that “it really brings [her] joy” to be thought of as a mother “to all the girls out here that are so smart and sharp and beautiful and multifaceted.” In her review of Mohammed el-Kurd’s poetry collection Rifqa, Nameera Bajwa traces the liberation tradition according to which “Palestine is saving us”—in which the movement against Zionism, occupation, and apartheid between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea is also catalyzing the development of anti-racist and anti-capitalist organizations elsewhere. In his essay on Owen Toews’s experimental novel Island Falls, Patrick DeDauw suggests that “for those of us who rage at injustice, professionally or not, it seems like a weirdly practical question to ask how, exactly, we find ourselves in any place ‘where partition, atrocity, and quarterly returns [sit] so snugly side-by-side.’”

How to combine our raucous joy in each other with our understanding of why the world is the way it is and how to make it otherwise is another highly practical question.

We love you, Cecilia, and we’re asking it in the spirit of that love.

#275 – Winter 2024