Why I Like “My Name” by cm ellis

Why I LIke This Poem

Hello, lovelies!

I wandered through Moist Poetry Journal’s Queer Environment special issue to find today’s beauty: “My Name” by cm ellis. All three of ellis’s poems are well worth reading, but I developed an immediate crush on “My Name”.

With the very first fragment—“I am god”—I feel in full conversation with this piece. Yes, tell me more about your relationship with a great spiritual being! Tell me how they relate to self, how self becomes its own god. This poem is such a riot of belonging, questioning identities, refusing limitations, self as expansion, embracing past/present. Minor gods, ordinary gods. Why shouldn’t god be comfort food? And nostalgia? Creation and destruction, yes: isn’t that what gods are about?

The form of this poem! The double-slash fragmentation in a solid block of text adds another layer of tension – pulled forward over a series of hurdles without any stops but questions like shoulder checks to see if I’m still there without really caring if I am. A gorgeous collage of images, disjointed but forming a cohesive whole.

I love how the reflection is peppered with echoes of conversation “and maybe a little cheap too huh, dear?”, “you’re almost home, sweetheart”. Other people’s voices are a kind of god too. Or perhaps they are an attempt to set the boundaries of our godhood.

I paused when the greatest Greek hero/demi-god, the Prince of Angels, and a complicated Grail knight arrived near the end “making battle of their coiled selves // to find what they already are”. I love the inclusion of Percival, a knight who completely misses his first opportunity to get the Holy Grail; St. Michael, archangel, leader of god’s army, but also angel of death, balance and healing in my faith tradition; Heracles, strong beyond measure but forced to use that strength to enact his own punishment. What we first see in these figures is not what they are; they are enmeshed with the divine in complex ways. How does internal conflict illuminate or dim our perception of innate divinity?

I’m struck by the repetition of “make/making” in the final eight lines: a simple word carrying a multilayered load—“give being to; construct; arrange; transform”. The questions seem out of order, reflecting the way all relationships, and so many personal quests, are non-linear and unfinished. The answers are here, but here is a slippery place. Nothing in this poem is complete or resolved. It wants me to refuse and resist singular definitions. Which is, of course, a deliciously queer place to inhabit.

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