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Words Build Worlds

When Hayden Dansky (they/them) stopped using drugs and alcohol in 2015, feelings started “pouring out.” Unprocessed trauma — experiences I had forgotten about — just started coming out of me, and writing was my escape,” they say. 

Dansky has made a name for themself in Boulder as one of the five founders of Boulder Food Rescue, where Dansky’s passion for food justice takes center stage. But in between bike rides to redistribute food across the city, Dansky channeled that flood of emotions into a collection of raw, heart-opening poetry. I Would Tell You a Secret (Atmosphere Press, 2017) inspects trauma, addiction, physical transition and grief, particularly around the deaths of Dansky’s mother and brother in separate car accidents when Dansky was just 9 years old. 

“I would explain to you what’s pouring out / but I honestly don’t know,” Dansky writes in the collection’s title poem. “Like these tears understand more / than my prefrontal cortex / Like this snot holds more / than any word I’ve ever known / Like this gasping breathing when I finally found them here, / stones covered in falling leaves.”

“It was all unconscious,” Dansky says of the works in I Would Tell You a Secret

These days, Dansky makes a very conscious effort to practice their craft, sharpening their skills to a fine point by performing original poetry throughout Colorado, including at Out Boulder County events and programs. As a scheduled performer for OBC's Trans Day of Celebration 2020, Hayden adeptly transitioned to a virtual platform just days before the event along with the staff and other featured speakers — you can still see those performances here. This past year, they also lent their talents to two OBC events: Trans Day of Remembrance and the Sober for the Holidays Variety Show. They have also shared their words at Paonia’s first drag show/poetry/dance party in 2021. Coming up on Jan. 13 and 14, Dansky will join two violinists from Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado to explore the concept of gender in a performance dubbed “Kaleidoscope.” 

Just as the timeless toy allows its viewer to see endless pattern possibilities, “Kaleidoscope” asks its audience members to change their perspectives — with the vulnerable stories of people like Dansky acting as the mirrors that reflect the boundless possibilities of gender expression. “It wasn’t until I met other trans people that I understood nonbinary was a thing,” they say. “All of a sudden I had this language. [Denver poet] Dominique Christina has this saying, ‘Words make worlds,’ and I really love that because it’s exactly how I feel. All of a sudden I had a word — transgender — and my whole world opened up.”

Their piece for “Kaleidoscope” uses the creation of the universe to break into heteronormative associations with gender and ask “what happens when we experience this opening of possibilities that aligns with our experience?”Perhaps most important in Dansky’s astronomical metaphor are constellations, those people we are truly connected to, those who help us feel safe. “Constellations are navigation tools,” Dansky says. “Who are the people who help us find our way to ourselves and each other, and create the possibility for us to become who we are? It’s a process of healing, the process of finding ourselves. We all have our journey, but we all get to help each other along the way.” 


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