Valerie Wetlaufer

Valerie Wetlaufer (Poetry) | Cedar Rapids, IA

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Valerie Wetlaufer is a poet, editor, and educator. She is the author of Mysterious Acts by My People (Sibling Rivalry Press 2014), winner of the Lambda Literary Award, and Call Me by My Other Name (Sibling Rivalry Press 2016). Wetlaufer holds a PhD from the University of Utah, and an MFA from Florida State University. She lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


Call Me By My Other Name (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016). Poetry.
Mysterious Acts by My People (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014). Poetry. Lambda Literary Award.

Press & Reviews

“Oh, to be Valerie Wetlaufer and write poems perfectly. Mysterious Acts by My People will make you think: this is love—no, this is violence; this is violence—no, this is love; this is comfort—no, this is harm; this is harm—no, this is comfort. The stories she shares and the secrets she imparts are harrowing and vivid, frighteningly beautiful in their metaphorical renderings. There is no other way to say what these poems say: Valerie got it hauntingly right. Her images strike so hard and so true and will stay with you forever.”
—Jenny Boully

“The mysterious acts in Valerie Wetlaufer’s striking debut are many, and those acts are magnified by her keen attention to the ruptures and illusions of human longing. Love and Eros are threaded through her taut lines, her finely crafted stanzas. Perhaps most startling are the poems in which Wetlaufer takes her readers back into a reconstructed and imagined past in which a 19th century Midwestern woman’s psyche and passion, her madness and her revenges and loves are made manifest, imagined, shaped and voiced. History here is harrowed, made new, made strange by being brought into language, into the light. Mysterious Acts by My People marks the arrival of a poet who possesses great gifts of imagination, spirit, music and heart.”
—Mark Wunderlich

These poems are delicate phrasings of violent emotions and acts. There’s a careful balancing act going on in this book, where one poem might be close to your ear and intimate, and the next pulls away and adopts an authorial reserve. I love both stances, and these poems draw you in.
—Rebecca Hazelton, at Bull City Press

“In Valerie Wetlaufer’s poems, the body is the ultimate mystery: a complex and paradoxical site which generates both pleasure and pain, delight and shame. It is political as well as personal, though inherently tied to no specific set of gender roles or types of desire. This is a book that questions our ideas of intimacy and marriage, at a time when we still imagine that certain bodies must live outside the bounds of “normal” life. A book of historical monologues as well as documentary and personal lyrics, this book is raw, funny, tender, and razor-sharp. Wetlaufer’s is a bracing, and necessary voice.”
—Paisley Rekdal

“We’ve been digging graves, we’ve been pressing / dirty palms together and aiming vain eyes skyward,” writes Valerie Wetlaufer, whose striking second collection resurrects historical omission & delivers it with refined urgency & narrative grace. Call Me By My Other Name is direct in illuminating the archival holes in our queer & trans lineage—always already complicated by bodies & the ever-changing names we give them—& skillfully guides the lineated possibility of poetry to refashion presence in multiple selves at once. Wetlaufer is dexterous in sidestepping anachronistic projections & inflects instead a precise & thoroughly investigated socio-poetic translation that showcases her poetry’s agility in allowing the power of naming to literally translate corporal embodiment. “Give everyone a new name,” writes Wetlaufer, & I can only think: Yes, yes—please. Me, first.”
—Meg Day

Call Me By My Other Name is a trans book in the best sense of the word—one in which forms follow bodies, in which poems mutate from lyric to narrative, from voice to voice, and from margin to margin with the ease and grace of song. Here, through the stories of Frank/Anna and Gertrude, Valerie Wetlaufer reveals a secret history that resonates into the present as she takes it in, takes it to heart, and makes it her own—and, in doing so, she shows us that human love knows no single time and space but insists on itself.”
—Katharine Coles

Additional Reviews

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