Powerfully Puck: a poem of gender fluidity sparks dialogue on Humans of New York

Last Monday, Humans of New York photographer Brandon Stanton posted a picture of a young person holding a piece of paper and wearing a newsboy cap (with a small piece of bluish-green hair poking out), a t-shirt with Edgar Allen Poe on it, shorts and Converse sneakers. With the photo, Stanton also posted the poem written on the piece of paper.  The author (and person in the photo) goes by Puck and they are a multimedia storytelling and gender studies major at Hampshire College. The poem outlined Puck’s experience being gender-fluid and sprung from being confronted with old photos of them at their grandparents’ house.

“The boy’s grandparents keep/a photo of the boy in a/dark chesnut wig,/all made up and dressed to the 9’s/(They believe her to still be alive),” the poem reads.

Upon arriving at their grandparents’ apartment after a heated discussion with their father, Puck was, they say, “greeted by ghosts of the past; all the pictures they had of me were from several years ago with the exception of this one picture of me in femme-drag from last fall (I was wearing a dark brown wig).”

Puck typically identifies as someone who is not entirely male or female. “That is if somebody asks me ‘are you a boy or a girl,’ my most immediate response is ‘not exactly.” The closest identity for Puck is “non-binary trans* bloke,” though even this is not absolutely right.

As for their sexuality, Puck can potentially be attracted to all genders. “For those who watch Dr. Who and/or Torchwood, my sexuality can be summed up by ‘Captain Jack Harkness… and who are you?” Puck says.

As of Friday afternoon, over 20, 500 people had liked the photo; it had been shared over 1500 times and had garnered over 800 comments. 

Puck has been pleasantly surprised by the response to their photo and their poem. They’ve received really kind messages from friends and family as well as really impressive comments from complete strangers on the photo. People have praised Puck’s “15 minute free write as art. For me, the feeling was something akin to half-consciously writing a paper the night before it’s due and having the professor praise it emphatically.”

For Puck, it’s the dialogue that the poem sparked that is the most rewarding. As an artist, Puck hopes to be able create change or, at the very least, make people stop and think. Their poem has certainly done this. Many of the comments are from people who do not necessarily know or even understand the experience Puck wrote about, but their eyes were open by the poem.

The poem concludes with, “She lives, he dies, she dies, he lives;/yet they cohabitate side by side/in a singular trembling body. A body that/cannot contain them both, for the/world is not ready for such a/body.”

Perhaps the world is not entirely ready but art like Puck’s poem certainly prepares the world a little bit more.

To read Puck's full poem, view the photo on HONY's Facebook page.