The Contemplative as Transgressive: Bombay Gin 39.1 Release Party

By Taylor Estape

On Friday, January 25, Bombay Gin held a reading for the release of its newest issue 39.1, themed “The Contemplative as Transgressive.” Anna Avery (who was scheduled to perform, but could not make it due to a family emergency) recently asked me, “Have you asked any of the freshman if they know who Allen Ginsberg is?” The answers outraged her, and while some may feel the JKS lineage weakening, Friday night it was alive and well.

Reed Bye was the first to read after a brief welcome from J’Lyn Chapman and introduction by Mike Malpiedi (who emceed the event). He began by reading from his introductory “essay” of sorts, “Contemplative Transgression.” One line seemed to echo throughout the night: “There is growing trust that the writing knows what it’s doing.” Reed’s gentle, steady voice demanded an attention that is the make-up of contemplative practice; to listen, it was necessary to become vulnerable to every word. Bye’s poems were a true testament to the tenderness and heartbreak of Chogyam Trungpa’s warrior heart.

Next was a performance from HR Hegnauer, Serena Chopra, and Michelle Auerbach which began a theme of the night that seemed to sing the in-between. Hegnauer asked, “If living had to be about the body, who made it so?” Chopra elegantly explored the female body and its decomposition. Auerbach persistently asked, “and how much of my life have i spent trying to identify with gay men and how much of my life have i spent trying to identify with straight women?” The three interwoven narratives asked: if the self is to be placed anywhere, where do we place it? And the answer seemed to be, elsewhere.

This idea of elsewhere continued with Robert Snyderman’s performance carried through the feeling of liminal space. The final portion of his performance involved a recording of himself reading a poem as he read into the pauses and breaths. It reminded me of a meditation practice in which you bring your attention to the space in between the breath, the “nothingness” that is not an in breath and not an out breath; the pause. The spontaneity of Snyderman’s reading seemed to speak to the movement of the mind and the desire for–or inevitability of–language to fill it.

After a brief intermission, Matthew Cooperman read poems he described as “spools,” which were born out of the constraint of time and three-word lines. Indeed, these condensed threads of language not only revealed brief and lucid contemplations of the human condition, but also gave way to delightful pinpoints of bright, piercing language.

The evening ended appropriately with Angel Dominguez and Jason Burks giving a simultaneous reading of Dominguez’s [A Pair of Triptychs]. The reading provided an experience of the mind as it at once grasped at and let go of meaning. Language was open to exist in its full desire for linearity and its inherent emptiness. I was tempted to simply close my eyes and allow the piece to blow over me in that still, attentive space of contemplative practice.


Taylor Estape is originally from Miami, FL and recently graduated from the Jack Kerouac School’s BA Writing and Literature program. She is currently preoccupied with a manuscript about floods, a general state of confusion and terror, and finding different ways to eat all forms of pork. She has no idea what will happen next.

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