Real Phonies and Genuine Fakes
Winner of the 2023 Lammy Award for Bisexual Poetry
A Lambda Most Anticipated LGBTQIA+ Book of March 2022
A 2023 Guggenheim Fellow
What is illusion—a deception, or a revelation? What is a poem—the truth, or “a diverting flash, / a mirror showing everything / but itself”?
Nicky Beer’s latest collection of poems is a labyrinthine academy specializing in the study of subterfuge; Marlene Dietrich, Dolly Parton, and Batman are its instructors. With an energetic eye, she thumbs through our collective history books—and her personal one, too—in an effort to chart the line between playful forms of duplicity and those that are far more insidious.
Through delicious japery, poems that can be read multiple ways, and allusions ranging from Puccini’s operas to Law & Order, Beer troubles the notion of truth. Often, we settle for whatever brand of honesty is convenient for us, or whatever is least likely to spark confrontation—but this, Beer knows, is how we invite others to weigh in on what kind of person we are. This is how we trick ourselves into believing they’re right. “Listen / to how quiet it is when I lose the self-doubt played / for so long I mistook it for music.”
Real Phonies and Genuine Fakes asks us to look through the stereoscope: which image is the real one? This one—or this one, just here? With wisdom, humility, and a forthright tenderness, Nicky Beer suggests that we consider both—together, they might contribute to something like truth.