National Poetry Month: KB Brookins

I’ve been a fan of KB Brookins’ work ever since we shared a stage at Malvern Books a few years ago. Rather than belabor that point, I’ll share what other people are saying about their work. First, here’s the blurb for their newly released collection How To Identify Yourself with a Wound:

“In How To Identify Yourself With a Wound, KB chronicles their experiences — of Blackness, queerness, transness, class — and the spaces between. There is no doubt that due to various forms of inequity and colonialism, society views certain identities as ‘wounds,’ but what does it mean to define yourself outside of the pain of being marginalized? In this book, KB recognizes inequity and subverts it. In this book, the main speaker tells their own stories, and they don’t shy away from the complexities of harm and the mess that it leaves.”

And here are some blurbs for it from other authors:

“The poems in How to Identify Yourself with a Wound pull no punches. Raw honesty paired with concise language inhabit and fully embody a life shaped by the intersection of race, class, sexuality, and gender. This is my favorite kind of poetry, necessary and urgent, revealing and saving and healing and re-creating both poet and reader.”
— ire’ne laura silva, author of CUICACALLI/House of Song, 2020 Saguaro Poetry Prize judge

“As KB navigates burning issues of love, identity, race, and enforced gender, bearing witness to how intimacy can be a battleground, a declared truce, or an Eden, How to Identify Yourself with a Wound is never less than compelling and absorbing: ‘Let me tell you the story of a tenderness the world refused to call / beautiful but it lives.’ The powerful lines, the no-holds-barred voice, and risk-taking candor of these dynamic debut poems make the reader hungry for a whole volume.”
—Cyrus Cassells, 2021 Poet Laureate of Texas 

How to Identify Yourself with A Wound makes good on its promise to go directly to the source of pain, to explore & commune with it. As KB reminds us, ‘Slipping between genders sometimes causes a fall, after all.’ These poems also tend to the wound caused by the fall, excavating sharp memories, naming the trauma for what it is, and making room for a love without limits. Read this book when you need a good cry, or a knowing look across the room: when you need to be reminded of what tethers you to yourself.”
—Ariana Brown, author of We Are Owed.

“Our identities are more than formal structures that can be easily cut and pasted into headline categories like race or gender or sexuality. They are a collection of moments and events that drive us, head first, into the only names left for what we are. KB’s How to Identify Yourself with a Wound is a fresh and energetic examination of the transformative process known as self-inquiry. Without hesitation, KB digs into what is often left unsaid about the internal querying process that leads one to the identity of nonbinary. Readers can expect to witness the origins of an audacious and empowered advocate whose lyric and inquisitiveness bodes well for the future of poetry.”
—Faylita Hicks, author of HOODWITCH

Without further ado, here is the powerful title poem from that collection.

How To Identify Yourself With a Wound (circa 2017)

To the black spot on the vein of my left arm for the weekly plasma donations
To the brown scar under my chin from running too fast on a freshly mopped floor
To the altar I called my dorm bed to K who fought her sanity to sleep next to me in To the poems I’ve started
& stopped for femmes with dyed fades & nails plunged in bubblegum pink
To dollar tree black nail polish for always being there
To the top coat for staining my favorite jacket
To the scars blotched all over my legs from scratching mosquito bumps
To being a “tomboy” in elementary & middle school
To the manuscripts I didn’t finish to the fragments that choked them out
To the stretch marks on my stomach & forearms & shoulders
To S for being able to wear tampons to Matt for introducing me to clowns
To the animals of past lovers I miss more than the lovers
To D & B & all the other what if’s minimized to a timeline
To my people that have transitioned to another celestial plane
To you, the witness of what happiness does to the brain
To the body for housing a trauma that is timid
To T for loving me though he didn’t know how
To the holes in my jeans to wide hips to my hips & wounds for always being uncontainable—

*a version of this was published by Pidgeonholes in 2020.


KB Brookins is a Black/queer/transmasculine poet, essayist, and cultural worker from Texas. Their writing is published in Academy of American Poets, Huffington Post, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. KB is the author of How To Identify Yourself with a Wound (Kallisto Gaia Press, 2022) and Freedom House (Deep Vellum Publishing, 2023). They have earned fellowships from PEN America, Broadway Advocacy Coalition, and Lambda Literary among others. Currently, KB is a board member with Ground Floor Theatre and Texas PRIDE Health, MFA candidate at The University of Texas at Austin, and freelance artist/consultant. Follow them online at @earthtokb. 

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