Renée E. D’Aoust
Most dance biographies are encumbered by name-dropping, tulle tutus, and sparkly tiaras—but not the one authored by Renée E. D’Aoust, a former dancer and writer known for her thoughtful essays and creative nonfiction pieces, like the evocative “Found, Again,” featured recently in The Rupture. Her Body of a Dancer, published in 2011, is a sparse, beautifully composed memoir that offers a compassionate and authentic view of contemporary dancers’ struggles in New York, illuminating their passion, sacrifice, and sell-discipline—and how, after resolve expires or the body wears out, a dancer’s hope and mental strength can prevail.
Twenty-five years ago, her first book, A Handful of Bees, established Orlowsky as a gifted poet with the ability to evoke the complexities of human relationships and the dynamics of trust, love and loss—with tenderness, grace and sparseness. Her sixth book, Bad Harvest, published in 2018, is an elegant gathering of intimate reveries and brutal revelations that draws on her Ukrainian family background: a jewel-box of writing, from the prose poem to the lyric, to poetic pieces bordering on flash essays, and to humorous offerings like “Pussy Riot/Want/Don’t Want”—a collection described by Ilya Kaminsky as a “revealing, beautiful work.”
Kaminsky is the uprooted artist, the sensitive poet who left Ukraine for the United States as a teenager and absorbed and internalized both the foreignness and the commonalities of East and West; blended and sifted through old and new cultures; navigated through the universal longing for, and accompanying fear of the once known—and the hidden, still unknown. In Deaf Republic, published in 2019, Kaminsky’s powerful and nuanced observations shine in a remarkable layering of narrative and emotion: poetic parables that float above a universally implicit subtext.
She is the author of scholarly articles on contemporary women writers and a master of beautifully crafted flash fiction and luminous creative nonfiction essays—like “Another Mary Doyle,” a lyrical history of family, emigration and heartbreak that unfolds between Ireland and the United States, which appeared in the 2018 issue of Under the Sun. Doyle’s 2017 chapbook The Missing Girl, is an array of eight dark and perfectly composed short pieces around female victimization, a chilling collection that will haunt the reader long after it has been set aside.
Koestenbaum’s books are vibrant compositions, brimming with intense imagery and surprising insights segmented into complementary and juxtaposed sectors—a style which also defines his exuberant artwork. Two must-read books by this prolific poet, novelist, artist, and cultural critic are The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality and the Mystery of Desire and the squirm-inducing Humiliation. Koestenbaum’s Camp Marmalade, part two of his autobiographical trance trilogy, was published last year; his most recent work, Figure It Out: Essays, will be out in May, 2020.
* * *
Genia Blum is a Swiss Ukrainian Canadian dancer, writer and translator. Her literary work has received a Best of the Net and several Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essay “Slaves of Dance,” based on excerpts from her memoir in progress, Escape Artists, was named a “Notable” in The Best American Essays 2019. She writes a series for Queen Mob’s Teahouse titled Let Me Clarify: Unsolicited Advice by Genia Blum, and haunts Twitter and Instagram as @geniablum. Her website is www.geniablum.com.