journal entries

Mentor Series: Tara Hardy & Her New Book, Bring Down the Chandeliers

Tara Hardy has been a mentor and influence of mine since I first saw her perform in Seattle in 2000. I then went on to be one of her students for about five years, studying at Bent: A Writing Institute for Queers, where I eventually became a volunteer and substitute teacher, and where I learned a ton about performing, chapbooks, writing, queerness, butchness, femmes, and all sorts of other life things.

Anything But God by Tara Hardy, one of my favorite pieces of hers:

Her new book, Bring Down the Chandeliers, is published on Write Bloody and is brilliant. I have many of her previous self-published chapbooks, so I recognized some of these poems, but even familiar with her work I was thrilled to see them re-made and re-imagined for this new collection. I love how she’s edited them.

I bought an extra copy of her new book just so I could give it away here on Sugarbutch. Want it? Leave a comment with your favorite poet or poem or book of poems, or something else entirely, and I’ll pick a winner at random next week Monday when I get back from Dark Odyssey.

One of her recent chapbooks, Shoulder Slip Strap (which she probably has copies of if you email her or find her on Facebook), has this short but amazing piece in it that I have been chewing on ever since I read it.

Isn’t that just oh so perfect? I love how much is encapsulated.

She’s going to be touring in the Northeast in September and October, so if she’s coming to a city near you, this is your chance to see her perform. Do it. From her Facebook note:

Tara Hardy on the loose for 20 days in the northeast: 18 performances, 8 workshops, 1 rental car, more shoes than she shoulda, and lots & lots-o-copies of Bring Down the Chandeliers (for sale!).

*Thursday, 9/15: Amherst, MA, Smith College
*Friday, 9/16: Somerville, MA, Poets Theater (Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave) 8pm
*Saturday, 9/17: Boston, MA, Jme Caroline’s kitchen, Time TBA
*Sunday, 9/18: Portland, ME, Rhythmic Cypher, Slainte Wine Bar (24 Preble St) 8pm
*Monday, 9/19: Portland, ME, workshop TBA, performance at Port Veritas (Local Sprouts, 649 Congress), Time TBA
*Tuesday, 9/20: Providence, RI, Providence Poetry Slam (AS220, 115 Empire Ave) 9pm
*Wednesday, 9/21: Day of rest, or rather, bookstore hop.
*Thursday, 9/22: Manchester, NH, Milly’s Tavern (500 Commercial Street) 8pm
*Friday, 9/23: New York, NY, Nuyorican Poetry Slam (Nuyorican Poets Café, 236 E Third St) 9pm
*Saturday, 9/24: Worcester, MA, Clark College Youth Performance, (location TBA) 7pm
*Sunday, 9/25: Worcester, MA, Clark College Workshop (location TBA) 2-4pm and Poets Asylum, (WCUW Front Room, 910 Main St) 7pm
*Monday, 9/26: New York, NY, LouderARTS (Bar 13, 35 East 13th Street) 7:30pm
*Tuesday, 9/27: Washington, D.C., Beltway Poetry Slam (The Fridge, 516 8th Street SE) 7:30pm
*Wednesday, 9/28: Washington, D.C., Busboys & Poets (5th & K Streets) 9pm
*Thursday, 9/29: Long Branch, NJ, Loser Slam (665 Second Avenue) workshop 8pm, performance, 9pm
*Friday, 9/30: Jersey City, NJ, JC Slam (location & time TBA)
*Saturday, 10/1: Richmond, VA, Richmond Slam (Artspace Art Gallery, 31 E 3rd St) workshop & performance, 5-7:30pm
*Sunday, 10/2: Day of rest, or rather, search for best vegan food in D.C.
*Monday, 10/3: Washington, D.C. Mothertongue (DC Center, 1318 U Street NW) workshop 6:30-8, performance, 9pm
*Tuesday, 10/4: New York, NY, Urbana Poetry Slam (Bowery Poetry Club, 308 Bowery) 7pm

When Peace Comes by Tara Hardy

Thank you, Tara, for all that you’ve done and all you’ve taught and all you’ve shared with the world. You’ve been a huge influence, and I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t had your guidance and brilliance along the way.

Published by Sinclair Sexsmith

Sinclair Sexsmith (they/them) is "the best-known butch erotica writer whose kinky, groundbreaking stories have turned on countless queers" (AfterEllen), who "is in all the books, wins all the awards, speaks at all the panels and readings, knows all the stuff, and writes for all the places" (Autostraddle). ​Their short story collection, Sweet & Rough: Queer Kink Erotica, was a 2016 finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, and they are the current editor of the Best Lesbian Erotica series. They identify as a white non-binary butch dominant, a survivor, and an introvert, and they live outside Seattle as an uninvited settler on traditional, ancestral, & unceded Snoqualmie land.

27 thoughts on “Mentor Series: Tara Hardy & Her New Book, Bring Down the Chandeliers”

  1. willow naeco says:

    When I was 18 my girlfriend introduced me to Mary Oliver’s poem “The Journey”, a poem David Whyte reads well. (Ignore the dog.)

    The Journey

    One day you finally knew
    what you had to do, and began,
    though the voices around you
    kept shouting
    their bad advice–
    though the whole house
    began to tremble
    and you felt the old tug
    at your ankles.
    “Mend my life!”
    each voice cried.
    But you didn’t stop.
    You knew what you had to do,
    though the wind pried
    with its stiff fingers
    at the very foundations,
    though their melancholy
    was terrible.
    It was already late
    enough, and a wild night,
    and the road full of fallen
    branches and stones.
    But little by little,
    as you left their voices behind,
    the stars began to burn
    through the sheets of clouds,
    and there was a new voice
    which you slowly
    recognized as your own,
    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world,
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do–
    determined to save
    the only life you could save.

    -Mary Oliver

  2. jax says:

    Oooh, I’m excited about this giveaway and am happy to pay for shipping to Canada if I win.

    Regardless, I am excited to see the comments on this post and hear about other great poets/poems.

    My favourite poets include: Andrea Gibson, Mary Oliver, Marie Howe, Karen Connolly, Buddy Wakefield.

    Thanks for the opportunity!

  3. Danee says:

    My favorite poet is Pablo Neruda, and this is my favorite poem if his.

    Sonnet XVII

    I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
    or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
    I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
    in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

    I love you as the plant that never blooms
    but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
    thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
    risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

    I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
    I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
    so I love you because I know no other way

    in which there is no I or you
    so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand
    so intimate that when you fall asleep it is my eyes that close

    Pablo Neruda

  4. Goodness, “When Peace Comes” is so powerful! And thank you for sharing that very sweet Daddy poem! One of my most favorite poets is Stacey Ann Chin – who first caught my attention with “Catalog the Insanity” (

  5. tuesday says:

    RUMI is my all time favorite poet, but I love this one because it could almost be about a poly family like my own

    Danse Russe
    by William Carlos Williams

    If when my wife is sleeping
    and the baby and Kathleen
    are sleeping
    and the sun is a flame-white disc
    in silken mists
    above shining trees,-
    if I in my north room
    dance naked, grotesquely
    before my mirror
    waving my shirt round my head
    and singing softly to myself:
    “I am lonely, lonely,
    I was born to be lonely,
    I am best so!”
    If I admire my arms, my face,
    my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
    against the yellow drawn shades,-

    Who shall say I am not
    the happy genius of my household?

  6. Julia says:

    Oh, I’ll stand in line, would pay for the extra cost to Germany in a heartbeat (and maybe alongside your chapbook that got sent to the wrong adress first?) …

    Favourite Poem. Hm, kind of hard, most of them are German. ;-) Let me think… I pick one of a writer that has influenced me a lot.

    I’ll try to translate. Rose Ausländer is a German poet who fled to New York during the II World War. She actually wrote in English long before writing in German again. She spent the last eleven years of her life in bed – writing these beautiful, lucid poems about friendship, love and grief mostly. Don’t know if she is known in the States anymore?


    Ich finde
    was ich nicht suchte

    vereistes Lied

    Ich nehme es
    in den Mund
    hauche es an

    Es taut auf
    und singt

    (Recognition III

    I discover
    what I didn’t seek

    frozen song

    I take it
    into my mouth
    breathe it

    It thaws
    and sings

  7. I have many favorites, but this one’s on my mind lately:

    Theme for English B
    By Langston Hughes

    The instructor said,

    Go home and write
    a page tonight.
    And let that page come out of you—
    Then, it will be true.

    I wonder if it’s that simple?
    I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
    I went to school there, then Durham, then here
    to this college on the hill above Harlem.
    I am the only colored student in my class.
    The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
    through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
    Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
    the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
    up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

    It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
    at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
    I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you.
    hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
    (I hear New York, too.) Me—who?

    Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
    I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
    I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
    or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
    I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
    the same things other folks like who are other races.
    So will my page be colored that I write?
    Being me, it will not be white.
    But it will be
    a part of you, instructor.
    You are white—
    yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
    That’s American.
    Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
    Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
    But we are, that’s true!
    As I learn from you,
    I guess you learn from me—
    although you’re older—and white—
    and somewhat more free.

    This is my page for English B.

  8. Crystal says:

    I’ve been reading a lot of Margaret Atwood’s poetry lately. This is one I like a lot:

    Variations on the Word “Sleep”

    I would like to watch you sleeping,
    which may not happen.
    I would like to watch you,
    sleeping. I would like to sleep
    with you, to enter
    your sleep as its smooth dark wave
    slides over my head

    and walk with you through that lucent
    wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
    with its watery sun & three moons
    towards the cave where you must descend,
    towards your worst fear

    I would like to give you the silver
    branch, the small white flower, the one
    word that will protect you
    from the grief at the center
    of your dream, from the grief
    at the center. I would like to follow
    you up the long stairway
    again & become
    the boat that would row you back
    carefully, a flame
    in two cupped hands
    to where your body lies
    beside me, and you enter
    it as easily as breathing in

    I would like to be the air
    that inhabits you for a moment
    only. I would like to be that unnoticed
    & that necessary.

  9. Amy says:

    My favorite poets are random and eclectic.

    Andrea Gibson, Michelle Tea, Tennyson. But the list is a mile long.

    I’m awkwardly in love with Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shallot”.

    Michelle Tea’s poems are gritty and make me laugh sometimes.

    Andrea Gibson can bring me to tears and then more in love with my girlfriend. My favorite of hers is “I Do.

  10. AJ Barnett says:

    I’m excited for a chance to have new poetry introduced into my life and to introduce my work so enjoy and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I win :)

    Love and stuff

    Our shadows on concrete can be the reflection of lyrical love songs

    the relationship between music and memories

    like hands creating mystery animals when meshed together

    the adoption of spoken words like some foreign language being deciphered

    between lovers

    and you know I know what that look means

    without the separation of your gorgeous lips parting ways

    and although you currently do not exist

    this silhouette

    this girl that moves my soul

    you are my idealism

    the thing that keeps me looking beyond the heaviest of rains

    leaving me time to dream

    you are my secret

    my endless unbreakable bond

    an abstract to my thoughts upon recycled lesbian flyers from something I fell into

    you will not be the worlds perfection

    but rather my own

    to victual my heart with endless company

    when other things are better left un-said

    to color or rather paint my poetry

    with stumbles …….

    of the words Love & Stuff

    -AJ Barnett

  11. FG says:

    favorite poet: eileen myles. also mallarme, in the original french. i am a minimalist at heart, i want spare structure & understated emotions in poems.

  12. meridith says:

    I love Sandra Cisneros’ You Bring Out The Mexican In Me.

    “You are the one I’d let go the other loves for,
    surrender my one-woman house.
    Allow you red wine in bed,
    even with my vintage lace linens.
    Maybe. Maybe.”

  13. Emily says:

    Living in Vancouver BC, I know that I have had the opportunity to see Tara Hardy perform more then once, but I’ve never quite been able to pull it together enough. Maybe this will be the extra push I need, next time she is in town.

    Regardless, this poem by a local queer slam poet is one that I just can’t get over, no matter how many times I’ve seen it performed.

  14. Shaz says:

    I have recently discovered Rumi and discovered I like poetry. That’s all I’ve got, really.

  15. Cuntext says:

    Oooh, a new poet to swoon over. Even if I don’t end up with this, I will find myself some Tara Hardy somehow. (I am also in Canada, but can give a US address for shipping.)

    These days my favorite poem is definitely “Wild Geese,” but one of my very longstanding favorite poems is “Sheltered Garden” by H.D. I’m about to have a line from it tattooed down my spine. It’s rather long, so I won’t include the whole thing, but it’s about longing to create a new beauty and a new femininity that breaks free of constraint and values resilience. The line for the tattoo is from this stanza:

    For this beauty,
    beauty without strength,
    chokes out life.
    I want wind to break
    scatter these pink-stalks,
    snap off their spiced heads,
    fling them about with dead leaves–
    spread the paths with twigs,
    limbs broken off,
    trail great pine branches,
    hurled across the melon-patch,
    break pear and quince–
    leave half-trees torn, twisted
    but showing the fight was valiant.

  16. I have so many favorite poets and poems and books of poems, but recently, one that has stood out is Karen Finneyfrock’s Ceremony for the Choking Ghost.

    This is one of my favorite poems from the book:

  17. Cortney says:

    Andrea Gibson- Swingset
    “Are you a boy or a girl?” he asks, staring up at me in all three feet of his pudding face grandeur, and I say “Dylan, you’ve been in this class for three years and you still don’t know if I’m a boy or a girl?” And he says “Uh-uh.” And I say “Well, at this point, I don’t really think it matters, do you?” And he says “Uhhhm, no. Can I have a push on the swing?” And this happens every day. It’s a tidal wave of kindergarten curiosity rushing straight for the rocks of me, whatever I am.

    And the class, when we discuss the Milky Way galaxy, the orbit of the Sun around the Earth… or whatever. Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and kids, do you know that some of the stars we see when we look up in the sky are so far away, they’ve already burned out? What do you think of that? Timmy? “Umm… my mom says that even though you got hairs that grow from your legs, and the hairs on your head grow short and poky, and that you smell really bad, like my dad, that you’re a girl.” “Thank you, Timmy.”

    And so it goes. On the playground, she peers up at me from behind her pink power puff sunglasses and then asks, “Do you have a boyfriend?” And I say no, and she says “Oh, do you have a girlfriend?” And I say “No, but if by some miracle, twenty years from now, I ever finally do, then I’ll definitely bring her by to meet you. How’s that?” “Okay. Can I have a push on the swing?”

    And that’s the thing. They don’t care. They don’t care. Us, on the other hand… My father sitting across the table at Christmas dinner, gritting his teeth over his still-full plate, his appetite ripped away by the intrusion of my haircut, “What were you thinking? You used to be such a pretty girl!” Frat boys, drunken, screaming, leaning out of the windows of their daddys’ SUVs, “Hey! Are you a faggot or a dyke?” And I wonder what would happen if I met up with them in the middle of the night.

    Then of course there’s always the somehow not-quite-bright enough fluorescent light of the public restroom, “Sir! Sir, do you realize this is the ladies’ room?” “Yes, ma’am, I do, it’s just that I didn’t feel comfortable sticking this tampon up my penis in the men’s room.”

    But the best, the best is always the mother at the market, sticking up her nose while pushing aside her daughter’s wide eyes, whispering “Don’t stare, it’s rude.” And I want to say, “Listen, lady, the only rude thing I see is your paranoid parental hand pushing aside the best education on self that little girl’s ever gonna get, living with your Maybelline lipstick after hips and pedi kiwi, vanilla-smelling beauty; so why don’t you take your pinks and blues, your boy-girl rules and shove them in that car with your fucking issue of Cosmo, because tomorrow, I start my day with twenty-eight minds who know a hell of a lot more than you. And if I show up in a pink frilly dress, those kids won’t love me any more, or less.”

    “Hey, are you a boy or a — never mind, can I have a push on the swing?” And some day, y’all, when we grow up, it’s all gonna be that simple.

  18. Kayla Sawyer says:

    I am in love with Sierra DeMulder’s “Werewolf”. Stunning!

    The video (which is sooo powerful):

  19. Heather Sommer says:

    I recommend Mindy Nettifee’s “Rise of the Trust Fall” – BUST magazine called it a “linguistic orgasm” and they couldn’t be more right! <3

  20. Sam Tichota says:

    My favorite Slam Poet is Andrea Gibson, i can’t decide between either of her books Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns, or The Madness Vase, but they are both outstanding. I thoroughly enjoy Tara’s Poetry and performances.

  21. Elisabeth says:

    Mary Oliver!

  22. Sabina says:

    My favorite poem is “femme body bop” by Tamiko Beyer!

  23. Mel hughes says:

    Tara profoundly changed the way i write and think about writing as a lesbian. Her words echoed in my soul long after they were witnessed. She is definitely one of my favorites and i am hoping to make a journey to the us very soon and would love to be a part of bent.

    I am happy to pay for postage to australia and i would most likely be the only one in my country to have this book.

  24. Emi says:

    From “One Fish Two Fish” by Dr. Seuss

    My hat is old.
    My teeth are gold.
    I have a bird
    I like to hold.
    My shoe is off
    My foot is cold.
    My shoe is off
    My foot is cold.
    I have a bird
    I like to hold.
    My hat is old
    My teeth are gold.

    And now my story is all told.

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