Nonbinary Bird of Paradise shakes its tail feathers, reveling in a body that cannot be contained in gender binaries. Its opening sequence re-imagines the Judeo-Christian Eve as a queer person who, instead of eating of the proverbial forbidden fruit, conjures a femme lover: “God made man / in his own image, / so they say. / So I made a beloved / in mine,” she says. Eve’s power triggers a jealous God to manipulate Adam toward behaviors of toxic masculinity and to exile the two humans from the Garden of Eden. This retelling, accompanied by other retellings of classical and biblical narratives, indicts the ways in which religion and myth have created and buttressed compulsory heterosexuality. Elsewhere in the collection, Phillips delights in the autobiography of their imagination, the rendering of self after self after self. “Would you stay // & watch me,” Phillips asks in the titular poem, wondering if the beloved will deem them desirable, even though they are masculine without being a man, “even / though / I have no blue velvet / skirt or ruby-raw / throat?”
About the Author
Emilia Phillips (they/them/theirs) is the author of four previous poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, including Embouchure (2021), and five chapbooks. Their poetry, creative nonfiction, and book reviews have appeared widely. They are an Associate Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of English; MFA in Writing Program; and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at UNC Greensboro.