Episode 51: Maggie Nelson on Gender, Sexuality, and Beyond


In the introduction to this week’s show, I say that Maggie Nelson is one of the most electrifying writers at work today. It’s worth mentioning this again, because it’s true! Her writing defies, blends, and bends genres. Reading it makes me question why we’re so obsessed with classifying art into categories–this will be a recurring theme in the conversation, in regards to classifying people too. Maggie’s writing exists outside the world of stodgy literary rules and conventions and soars because of it, and hopefully we are nearing a place where people are accepted and celebrated for the same reasons. I was so nervous to speak with Maggie because I respect her so much, and I tripped up a lot! But, Maggie was so kind and gracious that we had some laughs too.

Like Maggie’s work, we go many places. She clarifies how her partner, the artist Harry Dodge is fluidly gendered and what that means. We discuss the murder of Maggie’s aunt and how it’s affected her life and work. And, I share an experience that I thought I’d buried long ago. It was a honor to have Maggie in the studio. Please share what touched or interested you about this episode @litupshow on Twitter and Instagram. I also suggest reading Hilton Al’s excellent profile of Maggie in The New Yorker, “Immediate Family.”

xoxox Angie

maggie_nelson The Red PArts

Buy The Red Parts on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or at your local independent bookstore. Buy The Argonauts too on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.

Maggie Nelson is the author of the book length lyric essay Bluets. This month Graywolf is reissuing her memoir “The Red Parts” (first published in 2007) which focusses on the aftermath of the 1969 murder of Nelson’s aunt and the trial, thirty-six years later, of a suspect in the case. Nelson is also the author of “The Argonauts,” an account of Nelson’s relationship with her fluidly gendered partner the artist Harry Dodge and her pregnancy with their child Iggy. She is also the author of several books of poetry, including Jane: A Murder, and several books of criticism including “Women, the New York School, and Other True Abstractions” and “The Art of Cruelty”. She’s been awarded, among other prizes, both a Guggenheim and an NEA fellowship.

Lead image of Maggie Courtesy The New Yorker taken by Graeme Mitchell.