Title Details

Pages: 88

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.500in



Pub Date: 09/15/2021

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6039-3

List Price: $19.95

Subsidies and Partnerships

Published with the generous support of National Poetry Foundation



Poems that tease out a critique of whiteness in the arts

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  • Description
  • Reviews

[WHITE] is a book born from obsession. This debut collection of poetry from Trevor Ketner follows two paths of obsession, laying them over one another to tease out a critique of whiteness in the arts that reflects on how we think of whiteness in America. Throughout, Ketner curates a landscape that is part [auto] biography and part political synthesis.

Ketner’s work takes inspiration from seeing a retrospective of Rauschenberg’s work at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) seven times and from teaching themselves to read tarot in two weeks. [WHITE] is a kind of combine or collage of two projects that speak to and against each other and, in their juxtaposition, become an entirely different third thing. As we follow the life of Rauschenberg, so too do we follow the journey of the fool through the major arcana of the tarot moving forward into understanding. Here is an examination of queer bodies, Rauschenberg traveling toward, through, and away from infamous lovers in pursuit of art and selfhood, eventually finding himself in “the January water / of a lake nearby / called Eden.” Meanwhile, Ketner exposes the insidiousness of whiteness and its inescapable role in American history and art.

'White is not blank nor is it pure,' Trevor Ketner writes in [WHITE], an obsessive, amphetaminate, formally adventurous, book-length exploration of the palimpsestic nature of art, gender, literature, and selfhood. Ketner’s meditations on Rauschenberg’s multi-faceted work becomes, as well, an examination of racial identity, queerness, and erasure.

—Forrest Gander, author of Be With and The Trace

An impressive debut, [WHITE] is a gestural, lyric analogue of a Rauschenberg combine: 'Art as context exercise;' 'Artist as:/fussiest framer.' From out of a collage of autobiographical detail and opulently performative phrasing, a trenchant essay emerges about white queer art-making, appropriation, erasure, and violence. Ketner might embrace visual art’s mid-century white gay avant-garde, but their lusty retrospective glance doesn’t idealize its network of lovers, collaborators, and competitors. Instead, [WHITE] explores the pleasures and limits of identification, tradition, and desire.

—Brian Teare, author of Doomstead Days

Encountering this immaculate and innovative collection of poems felt as if I were experiencing a deftly curated museum exhibit, a performance art piece, and that delicious liminal tension between prose and poems. Trevor Ketner investigates the ideology of ekphrasis by probing the work of Robert Rauschenberg to uncover what has been hidden and erased by calling out the beauty and failure of art and its interpretations. Narrative and lyric energy pulsate through these stunning poems as theater and tarot reveling in queer desire and deleted intertextuality. 'We set out to be all things and never get there,' writes Ketner, and it’s in this reaching and gathering that [WHITE] truly gleams with prosody, biographical glosses, and play; the accretion is a masterpiece.

—Tiana Clark, author of I Can't Talk about the Trees without the Blood

About the Author/Editor

TREVOR KETNER chapbooks include Negative of a Photo of Fire, White Combine: A Portrait of Robert Rauschenberg, and Major Arcana: Minneapolis, winner of the Burnside Review Chapbook Contest. A 2020 Lambda Literary Fellow, they have been a Poets House Emerging Poets Fellow, Emerge-Surface-Be Fellow for the Poetry Project, and a Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts Fellow. They live in Manhattan with their husband.