In memory of Cheryl B.

Cheryl Burke, posing by a tree

Photo via GO Magazine and Kelli Dunham

Today is Cheryl’s birthday, and all of the Facebook posts reminded me that I’ve meant to write a post about her and her life since she died earlier this year.

Cheryl was a queer poet and activist living in New York City. I got to know her through my friendship with Sinclair Sexsmith, and through the reading series they co-hosted, Sideshow Queer Literary Carnival. I read at their Butch/Femme show last summer, and it was really an incredible event.

Cheryl died, relatively suddenly, in June because of a complication from her cancer treatment. It was a big loss for the community, and the memorial held in her honor was such incredible proof of the impact she had as a writer and friend.

Cheryl’s partner Kelli Dunham shared a piece of Cheryl’s memoir that I think really gets to the heart of who Cheryl was:

“While many of my peers frolicked on the Jersey Shore in beaded half-shirts, I spent much of my teen years in my room listening to Pink Floyd albums on cassette, rereading Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and filling sheets of loose leaf with stream of consciousness prose.

I often fantasized in front of my mirror, heavy on the blue eyeliner, as I accepted imaginary literary awards and ran with a crowd I had painted as my own personal Warhol factory (a scenario in which I was the Warhol).

In my make believe multi- disciplinary art world
I was understood,
I was part of the scene.
(It would be) A place where I was awesome”

A lesbian writer’s fund in Cheryl’s name has been established at the Astraea Foundation. Details on how to donate are here.

More about her life and work is here.

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