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“Winter’s debut is a finely wrought gem”—OCEAN VUONG
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An excavatory collection of poems tracing the connections between Jewish transfemininity, queer desire, and cultural histories.

Selected by Sean Hill for the National Poetry Series, this collection is a scrupulous chronicle of individual and cultural knowledge. In an exceptional debut, Ava Nathaniel Winter challenges our concepts of the beautiful and the sacred, delving not only into the historically marginalized, but also into the chilling subconscious of supremacy. “Let me be clear / from this beginning,” she writes, “What I mean by beauty / is a terror I have fled from / into language.”

Winter writes with a documentarian’s attention, a poet’s resonance. “I’m trying,” she admits, “to find language for what we do / to one another.” From Łódź, Poland, to predominantly white suburban America, from the space shared by queer lovers to antique cabinets filled with Nazi memorabilia, from Talmudic depictions of genderqueer rabbis to archival lynching photos, she regards the tender and the difficult with equal gravity, commemorating the fraught gift of survival.

At the heart of this collection—despite its moments of profound darkness—is a new, hard-won holiness. The “earthy aroma of rye” calling up a mother’s baking, her mother’s, hers. Belief in a lover’s lavishing. A chosen future, one where we are “reader, sibling, sister.” If Transgenesis began in fear of beauty, where it lands is this: “turning at last / to face her.”

Publish Date
8.5 × 6 × 0.25 in
5.2 oz

Ava Nathaniel Winter

Ava Nathaniel Winter is the author of Transgenesis, selected by Sean Hill for the 2023 National Poetry Series, and the poetry chapbook Safe House.

Praise and Prizes

  • “These poems of eros, erudition, and epistemologies achieve more than the sum of their parts; they hold the body in a care that’s rare in life and rarer still in words. Winter’s debut is a finely wrought gem, one that doesn’t shy away from centering the grand yet vexed idea of love—but rather expands on what love can do, what it is, and, ultimately, who it is for.”

    Ocean Vuong
    author of Time Is a Mother
  • “In this fearless exploration of gender and identity, Ava Nathaniel Winter meditates on the ways humiliation and degradation shape us all. Navigating a path forward by engaging the pasts of Jewish forebears, those who survived the Holocaust and those who did not, Winter contemplates both the nature of desire and the global consequences of racism, sexism, transphobia, and colonialism. The poet courageously faces her own complicity in these matters of ongoing marginalization and oppression, writing with compassion and psychological acuity into the deep work of creating and maintaining an authentic self among others. The scope of Transgenesis, along with its crucial discoveries, are timely reminders of our common humanity, in all its flaws and struggles.”

    Kathy Fagan
    author of Bad Hobby
  • “Ava Nathaniel Winter’s Transgenesis puts us in the presence of a curious and brilliant mind. They seek to understand past deadly bigotries—the Shoah and lynchings—as a way of surviving the present and imagining a future of change. There is querying in these poems, which delve into various archives and engage with historical texts—old stories—and question the market for Nazi and KKK memorabilia and other material culture from historic atrocities. These kept objects and texts are carefully considered as the speaker ruminates on masculinity, gender, and discrimination, sharing intimate moments wherein the speaker sees and is seen in their body. Ultimately, these care-filled poems provide the reader with nourishment. You will be changed for the better by reading this necessary book—I am immensely grateful to see it in the world.”

    Sean Hill
    author of Dangerous Goods