International Women's Day, Poetry and Rebellion: A Conversation with Alexei Perry Cox
By Yael Tobón Uribe
March 8th was a very emotional day for me. I woke up with an inhuman, overwhelming desire to cry. I immediately texted my sister and mom telling them how grateful I was for having them in my life, and I begged them to never stop taking care of themselves. In Mexico, every day, ten women are murdered by their sentimental partners, every 18 seconds, a woman is raped, and 95% of rapists will not be convicted. Every 8th of March, thousands of women take to the streets and protest against the horrendous violence and impunity. We sing, shout, and burn the state for the ones who have been taken away from us. It is an act of sorority and a space where we remind each other that if one woman goes missing tomorrow, we will destroy the nation for her. In 2019, a group of women stained the national monument "El Angel de la Independencia'' as a protest to demonstrate that a nation that does not protect its women is not a nation at all but a direct murderer.
Looking back, International Women's Day was first observed in 1908 as a group of working and exploited women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay, and voting rights. I am very far from Mexico right now and have never had the chance to attend a demonstration, but I expect to be able to transmit my anger and sorority through my art––which will always be with my sisters and stained in blood. Given the chance, I would like to understand how prolific and masterful poets have developed the artistic skills to portray their own rebel ideas in poetry. Alexei Perry Cox is a professor in the English department here at Concordia University. As her biography says, she is a writer, teacher, and organizer. She is the author of Night 3 | اليوم الرابع (Centre for Expanded Poetics 2021), Re: Evolution (Gap Riot Press 2020), Finding Places to Make Places (Vallum 2019), as well as the full-length collection Under Her (Insomniac Press 2015). Her poetry and critiques have graced the pages of a wide variety of publications, including The Adroit Journal, Painted Bride Quarterly, Journal Safar (جورنال سفر), Arc Poetry Magazine, Moko Magazine, carte blanche and The Georgia Review. At the core of her makings is the belief that we imagine relationally, sometimes with words and sometimes with graze.
What does International Women's Day represent to you?
Generally and formerly, I think International Women's Day was a way to highlight the predatory violence suffered today and historically by cis-gender women inside hetero-patriarchy, but I think now it is more contemporary transnational feminisms that would work against essentializing cis-women or feminism and trans-excluding movements to, instead, form alliances between cis and trans women to create strategies of common resistance against such outbreaks of violence. So I celebrate those redefinitions of alliances. You know the Audre Lorde idea that "Without community, there is no liberation," so let us not let ourselves be vulnerable individually.
Could you share with us a little about your cultural heritage?
For me to include the mixed ethnicities and cultural roots I maintain could feel reductive, since I am such a mix. However, a significant Cuban-mixed-settler-Canadian human generally grew up predominantly in the small town of Southern Ontario and the numerous Caribbean islands, particularly the French West Indies.
When you started writing poetry, what did you mostly write about and why?
I started writing poetry to feel the thrill. Sometimes it was a perception or a love letter to a lost cause, but I started writing poetry because it felt like the only language to say what could remain unsayable.
How have you used your poetic voice as a form of rebellion?
My poetic voice may be a choral one, hopefully collaborative – I try to prioritize the rebels I value – their ideas, work, written worlds, and all the experiments they have given me to feel less alone in. I could be more constructive, but it is rampant – necessarily chaotic for me.
How do you express this rebellion in your poetry?
Well, um, I am not sure that I portray revolutionary "ideals" exactly in my poetry, since a lot of what I research is a poetics of disillusionment at times of failed revolutions. However, I think I celebrate revolutionary "ideas" more. More the radical and wayward ways and methods of being that get shared at times of political upheaval and struggle.
Who are your poetic muses?
Muses. I have so many. I often name them, but I should check the "unknown-in-literary-circles" ones more: my real-life sisters, Erin Perry and Maya Moumne. They move me to tears with their talents and ambitions.
Where do you get your inspiration from? It could be a person, a routine…
Inspiration: give me a sentence. Allow me an ocean swim.
What does it mean to be a poet and a woman in a world of men?
Being a "poet and a woman" allows me, actually, to have the dignity that I do not feel is afforded me – so I take it by being those things ever-brazenly. Intentionally, carefully, loudly, and, hopefully. with requisite anger against the ones who often tried to subsume or subordinate precisely what makes me me.
Whom do you write for?
How do you see sorority represented in poetry?
The sorority has an alliance with solidarity for me, and a lot of what I work with is radical trans-queer. Ecologies of decolonial ethics and sisters have best had my back in the efforts.
How would you like to see women representing women in poetry in the future?
I wrote to a woman I love dearly that she is my "future/now" because of how worthy I see her in the wildness of her going through a difficult time. I see that in women in poetry, essentially: Future/Now in broad daylight take over every attentional space and millimeter of page.
As I said before, only poetry can maintain the language for what can remain unsayable even with words. Because there is nothing else in the whole world that can do it better.
“Alexei Perry Cox.” FEMINIST MEDIA STUDIO, 5 Nov. 2021, https://feministmediastudio.ca/alexei-perry-cox/.
“History of International Women's Day.” International Women's Day, https://www.internationalwomensday.com/Activity/15586/The-history-of-IWD.
revolucionvioletamx [@revolucionvioletamx] Instagram, 3 Mar. 2023, https://www.instagram.com/p/CpVE2aCsDeg/