EOAGH Books, 2019
Poetry / Transgender Studies / Indigenous Studies
Available at Small Press Distribution.
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This long-awaited volume collects poetry from the 80’s and 90’s by Max Wolf Valerio, one of the first trans poets to publish a book of poems in the US. The punk intensity, provocation, and playful, taboo stretching of perceptions in Valerio’s poetry will be familiar to readers of his influential transition memoir The Testosterone Files.
As I’m reading The Criminal I can remember the enormous impression Max Wolf Valerio made on entering a room—it was like some container of doom had found the nearest mic and was going to start to make demands, to radiate, to detonate, then move on…. you went to see his readings as one in France might see Genet or Guyotat give their takes of the current situation—with a chill up one’s spine. As though Francis Bacon wrote poems.
—Kevin Killian, from the Introduction
The Criminal by Max Wolf Valerio is an abrasive ballet that transposes the abyss tethered by nothing other than the energy of the urgent. Each line sired by hybridity, by the body as a liminal ark that exists as a scripture on inversion, all the while existing as the danger that suffuses this inversion. These poems seem to rage as destination via elliptical compass points, via inner inebriation and balance, magnetized as they are to a nutritional psychic gulf teeming with morphological brilliance
Imagine how it feels to greet an old friend who has been incommunicado for a few decades. Hold that feeling and simultaneously imagine how it feels to encounter a wild creature in an unexpected place. That’s what it’s like to read Max Wolf Valerio’s long-awaited poetry collection, The Criminal: The Invisibility of Parallel Forces. Surprise chases joy chases fear chases ecstasy through “festivities of time and water.” Populated with horned god/shamans, “Balinese apostrophes,” animals, “pilgrims, shrouds, entelechies, mutations” and the full range of mundane human entities, these high-energy poems bring the pulse of tides, the ow of tra c and the heave of dancing bodies straight into the reader’s own body. Language itself becomes the blood inside us, the “little words/in (our) ears.” Listen!
Not strictly “who are you?” or “who am I?”—not even strictly “what is going on in this world?”— not only one thing. Not strict. “The architect overrun with bees,  oracular stutters.” “Parallel forces”—“nefarious portal”—this place: not overtly agenda-ed or political, more musing, impacting all of us involved in the “ballet where [we] walk the line,” “need the need.” Valerio is a sorcerer of source: dark seeds spitting across placards of generality or greed. Or is he a film maker (“subliminal distortions of the intellect”)? An urger of unguents whereby lm-like staminas take place? This: a revolving door of images. This: alien intelligence making its way across pages or skin sacs. Tattoos in which “euphoria conceals” as the “moon sucks [our] genitals.”
Praise for Valerio’s chapbook Animal Magnetism (eg press, 1983):
Tara DiPrima gave me a copy of your book Animal Magnetism and I was very pleased to get it. You get a lot said and in an intensive very solid action, e.g., “My Childhood Without Her”. So anyhow, thanks — and all best luck.
—Robert Creeley, August 1984
Reviews of This Title:
Review of The Criminal by Marc Olmsted, Sensitive Skin, 2019.
“What I’m Reading Now,” by Geoffrey Babbit, Tarpaulin Sky, 2018.