Feature Poet:
Julian "Jules" Collins

Julian “Jules” Collins writes both poetry and fiction.  He has been published in literary journals including The Watermark and Soundings East and will soon be featured in an anthology of transman writers entitled Manifest: Transitional Wisdom on Male Privilege.  Collins resides outside of Boston with his trusty feline sidekick "Cub Scout." 

Soul-Lit co-editor, Samantha Libby, conducted the following conversation.

Soul-Lit:We've known each other a really long time and yet I've never really asked: How did you discover poetry? How did you learn that you were a poet?

 JC: I was an avid reader and started writing as a young child.  I enjoyed creating greeting cards that contained poems.  I made my own comic books and was fascinated with proverbs for some reason.  I was in the ninth grade when a teacher hung one of my poems on the wall of the classroom.  It was extremely validating and gratifying to have my writing showcased in this way.  This is when I first began to consider myself a poet. 

Soul-Lit: What kind of religious or spiritual upbringing did you have?

JC: I grew up Catholic but divorced myself from the church at the age of eighteen because of its homophobic stance against homosexuality.  The one thing I did glean from my Catholic experience is the idea of loving your neighbor—giving each individual unconditional acceptance.  I was later active in the Unitarian Universalist Church where I worked with youth, but eventually left when I began to have doubts about the existence of God.  I feel like I have to work out my 1:1 relationship with God before I can be part of a religious community.

Soul-Lit: Do you feel religion or spirituality plays a role in your writing? Is there a way that poetry connects you/us to something larger?

JC: I think that along with spirituality both philosophy and existentialism play a role in my poetry.   Note the isolation and need to connect in Empathy and the spiritual bankruptcy of Coward.  As a poet, I am not afraid to point to my spiritual shortcomings, all the while striving towards my personal quest:  to be a good person.

Soul-Lit: This issue of Soul-Lit is our first effort at a themed issue because we wanted to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the SCOTUS ruling legalizing gay marriage. As your straight(ish), white, Jewish friend, do you find it weird that people not directly of the LGBTQ community want to celebrate this victory? Did this ruling touch your life in any way?

JC: I am anti-government and anti-authoritarian and therefore do not feel the need to have my relationship validated by the government.  That said, my partner wants to marry and is starting to wear me down.  The legalization of gay marriage is a huge development, but as a transman who identifies as male, I no longer present as a butch lesbian who would benefit from gay marriage.

Soul-Lit: As your friend, I know you are in transition right now. Has this process affected your poetry at all? Does gender id matter in poetry and/or spirituality?

JC: Gender ID definitely matters in spirituality and poetry.  I believe that my brain is infused with male hormones that inform the way I do things.  I am able to trace this phenomenon back to my childhood where I wore boys’ clothes and played with boys’ toys.  How can one seek to expand one’s spirituality without a sense of self?  Furthermore, poetry has to come from a place of raw honesty.  You cannot write without self-knowledge. 

Soul-Lit: Who are some of your poetry idols? Is there a thread to what ideas or voices inspire you?

JC: My favorite poet is William Carlos Williams.  He taught me the economy and weight of words.  Good poetry is seldom flowery.  Rather, writing is, as Natalie Goldberg would say: about “writing down the bones.”