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Poetry Anthologies (multiple Authors)

Hustling Verse

An Anthology of Sex Workers' Poetry

edited by Amber Dawn & Justin Ducharme

Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2019
Anthologies (multiple authors), Prostitution & Sex Trade, LGBT
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2019
    List Price

Classroom Resources

Where to buy it


Lambda Literary Award finalist

In this trailblazing anthology, more than fifty self-identified sex workers from all walks of the industry (survival and trade, past and present) explore their lived experience through the expressive nuance and beauty of poetry. In a variety of forms ranging from lyrics to list poems to found poetry to hybrid works, these authors express themselves with the complexity, agency, and honesty that sex workers are rarely afforded. Contributors from Canada, the US, Europe, and Asia include Gregory Scofield, Tracy Quan, Summer Wright, and Akira the Hustler. As an antidote to the invasive and often biased media depictions of sex workers, Hustling Verse is a fiercely groundbreaking exploration of intimacy, transactional sex, identity, healing, and resilience.

Includes a foreword by Mercedes Eng, whose poetry book Prison Industrial Complex Explodes (Talonbooks) won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize in 2018.

About the authors

Amber Dawn is a writer, filmmaker and performance artist based in Vancouver. She is the author of the novel Sub Rosa (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2010), editor of the Lambda Award-nominated Fist of the Spider Woman (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2008) and co-editor of With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2005). Her award-winning, genderfuck docu-porn, "Girl on Girl," has been screened in eight countries and added to the gender studies curriculum at Concordia University. She has toured three times with the infamous Sex Workers` Art Show in the US. She was voted Xtra! West`s Hero of the Year in 2008. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia. Currently, she is the director of programming for the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

Amber Dawn's profile page

Justin Ducharme is a filmmaker, writer, dancer and curator from the small Métis community of St. Ambroise on Treaty 1 Territory. He is a graduate from Vancouver Film School, and the writer/director of three short narrative films. He has been jigging since the age of 7, performing with The St. Ambroise Youth Steppers and the Louis Riel Métis Dancers. His poetry has been featured in Sex Worker Wisdom and PRISM International magazine. He currently lives and works on Unceded Coast Salish Territory.

Justin Ducharme's profile page


  • Short-listed, Lambda Literary Award

Editorial Reviews

Hustling Verse centers the voices of sex workers who are often the most marginalized -- street workers, migrants, youth, people of color, abuse survivors -- trans, queer, male, female, fluid in life and love. Trauma is a given -- not because of sex work, but because of the world. The pain is here, and so is the pleasure, the intoxication, the camaraderie, that hilarious story you need to tell someone before you crack up. With so much scathing insight into human behavior, Hustling Verse is not just about sex work, but about sexual possibility and self-determination for everyone. -Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, author of Sketchtasy

This collection is nothing short of groundbreaking. In it, over 50 self-identified sex workers share their experiences through poems. Contributors are current and former sex workers, from all across the world; they are young and old, people of color, trans, cis, queer, nonbinary, men, women, and more. The result is a dynamic, candid, and compassionate collection. -Ms. Magazine

Hustling Verse offers diverse and nuanced glimpses into the lives of self-identified sex workers, past and present ... The 'for us, by us' ethos behind the collaboration eschews sensationalism and demonstrates real flair and depth of feeling. -Georgia Straight

Hustling Verse marks a profound shift in Canadian letters. Here is an anthology that remaps the coordinates of artistic production. We have left the centre for the periphery. In the periphery there is a shared understanding that the poetic desire is firstly a desire to remake the world for those tailgated by structural violence of all kinds. Justin Ducharme and Amber Dawn's curatorial efforts amount on the one hand to a scathing critique of white supremacist cisheteropatriachal capitalism and the long marginalization of art by and for sex workers and on the other to a resounding refusal of the old way of being a poet in Canada. After Hustling Verse, we have to be and do things differently. -Billy-Ray Belcourt, author of This Wound Is a World

Hustling Verse moves beyond simplistic archetypes such as the "happy hooker" or the "tragic whore" to create a raw, kaleidoscopic view of the world(s) in which sex work occurs. The span of these poems - authored by surviving and commerical sex workers, younger and elder sex workers, racialized and Indigenous sex workers, queer and trans and cisgender sex workers - covers enormous ground while remaining united by an unwavering commitment to speaking the truth in all its painful and healing beauty. -Kai Cheng Thom, author of I Hope We Choose Love and Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir

These poems set these streets aflame with real stories of sheer perseverance and confidence: a city slick with sex, desire, fear, and the unraveling layers of identity all at once. Hustling Verse is a necessary and enticing read. There's nothing like allowing readers to enter into a world that exists in the dark and the light at the same time. -Chelene Knight, author of Dear Current Occupant

Curated with care and compassion in equal measure, and grounding its concerns in fierce love of community and the poets' undeniable authority over their own lives and experiences, Hustling Verse refuses the condescending hypocrises of our sexphobic, prohibitionist times. This is a book about economies of care and cruelty, of wounding and warning and wonder. -Daniel Heath Justice, author of Why Indigenous Literatures Matter

Hustling Verse represents a pushback, a way of banging the silverware to say, I'm at the table too. -Autostraddle

Hustling Verse grabs poetry by the collar and drags it through the street, leaving its heard pounding and exhilarated. From the stroll, the dungeon, the luxury in-call, and behind the webcam, the poets in Hustling Verse issue a thrilling and relentless response to hundreds of male poets who've earned their laurels writing about them, without them. -Morgan M. Page, creator of the trans history podcast One from the Vaults

This is an important book, full of pungent, sometimes triumphant verse and often troubling images. Anyone who values honest, well crafted writing should own a copy. -Vancouver Sun

Each poem is an intricate, beautiful, sometimes haunting room that we are invited into, to listen, pay attention, learn something. Hustling Verse is not only an important addition to the landscape of literature, it's a necessity. -Daniel Zomparelli, author of Everything Is Awful and You're a Terrible Person; founder of Poetry Is Dead magazine

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