Chenille or Silk

Emma McKenna

Chenille or Silk is a startling first collection of confessional poetry examining the slippery relations of desire, class, embodiment and trauma. Emma McKenna’s writing traverses the bounds and the wounds of a family marked by poverty and intergenerational trauma. The collection asserts the primacy of intimacy and sexuality to subjectivity, as the poems move through the struggle to find identity, love and belonging in an urban queer community’s ever-shifting economy of desire. Striking, brave and at times uncomfortable, Chenille or Silk captures the ambivalence—and the hope—of possibility.

“Emma McKenna’s confessional poetics hold power, subtle shifts and bittersweet complexities. With a voice that is just as striking on the page as off, McKenna’s debut collection provocatively straddles an evolution of queer desire, multi-layers of intergenerational trauma and class. This is poetry undressing slowly. Poetry coming undone. Poetry redressing pain and beauty, knowing all material is part of the fabric of being.”
—Shannon Webb-Campbell, author of I Am a Body of Land and Still No Word

“These poems are as much about hiding out as they are about finding oneself, running away and coming to. They’re a testament to a difficult girlhood, where worth was not a given. And they’re a testament to surviving—finding likeness, light and calm—catching your breath. McKenna’s poems arrive with bloody lips and grass stains—sometimes tentative, but never frail—ready to be seen.”
—Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, author of Whatever, Iceberg

“I love Emma McKenna’s Chenille or Silk—these poems are tough and tender and perfect.”
—Zoe Whittall, author of The Best Kind of People

Emma McKenna’s Chenille or Silk is a cliché buster, a conscious act of disruption. Just as the atom acts as a microcosm of the universe, each of her stanzas reflects the larger whole of the collection, each line surprising in its own way, tenderly formed. Through tight and verdant stanzas, McKenna examines trauma, difference, queerness, class. […] McKenna’s work is risky – her speaker is honest, direct, unflinching .. [the] poems are as tightly woven as they are emotionally resonant. They carry the ripe transcendence of lived experience and yet are presented tightly, carefully, each stanza lovingly crafted”
Hamilton Arts & Letters magazine

• Finalist for the Hamilton Literary Awards (2020)