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"SEXUALITY HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN OBSESSION FOR ME."

She coins it the “gay vacation town of the Northeast.” Imagine a historically Puritanical backdrop bespeckled with shivering, bikini-clad men on rollerblades. There, Kendra was surrounded by images of sexuality, leading her to question her own sexual identity at an early age. “I had crushes on gay men, drag queens, and lesbian women. It was a constant parade of gender representations; sex was a performance there.” Though her physical appearance— borderline mousy, short brunette hair, a nose stud, and a penchant for dangly earrings—is not as intimidating or bombastic as that of a transvestite, her lyric is. Poems like “The Strap-on Speaks” reflect her tumultuous relationship with femininity. “Sexuality has always been an obsession for me,” Kendra explains. Despite her lack of experience as an outright victim of sexual violence, she has always felt a deep sensitivity towards misogyny and homophobia. “Me and my close friend, now a married gay woman, used to be very militant when we were young, without knowing why. We just knew certain things were wrong, and that we needed to defend ourselves from them.” But though she’s had girlfriends, she never feels the need to categorize her sexuality. At the core, she identifies as a human. When she applies for grants, as MFA-

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wielding artists often do, Kendra describes her own poetry as dealing with what it means to be on the threshold of sexual identity. I get the feeling that she doesn’t particularly relish painting all of her work with the same brushstroke, but her description, unsurprisingly, is spot-on. Her poems wade non-stagnantly in the no man’s land of androgyny. And like the androgynous nature of Patti Smith or David Bowie, it has an unmistakably arousing and gravitating quality. Accessing a voice that transcends gender, Kendra says, is one of her biggest victories in writing. Her lines are normally unaligned and enjambed, betraying another truth about Kendra—she deconstructs not only gender but language itself. But she doesn’t intend to obscure the meaning of her words. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Kendra relishes Ilya Kaminsky’s idea of “breaking language to wake you up.” “The entire time I’ve been writing poetry, people have been telling me that it’s too much; it’s excessive, or there are too many images canceling each other out.” But she doesn’t care about too many images. She wants to express the wild, allencompassing, mortal nature of her poetic self. Rules are for the real world. “When I’m writing,” she begins, “I really like to free myself from those sorts of constructs.” She tries to write three pages every morning, not for production, but for purging. As a writer myself,

I understand this impulse. Her poems are crowded not only with images, but also with sounds and ineffable emotions, which might otherwise blindingly buzz in her imagination. Happily shipwrecked in Nashville since earning her MFA at Vanderbilt in 2011, Kendra lives in 12South with her fiancé, a screenwriter (and a man, in case you were wondering). She’s taking a break from full-time teaching to work on her manuscript, which she hopes to turn into her

Native | March 2013 | Nashville, TN  

The Green Issue featuring Nashville's Roderick Bailey (Silly Goose), Modern Arks, Kendra DeColo, Hanzelle, 8th & Roast, Ride for Reading, Ha...

Native | March 2013 | Nashville, TN  

The Green Issue featuring Nashville's Roderick Bailey (Silly Goose), Modern Arks, Kendra DeColo, Hanzelle, 8th & Roast, Ride for Reading, Ha...