With kitchen-table candour and empathy, Charlie Petch's debut collection of poems offers witness to a decades-long trans/personal coming of age, finding heroes in unexpected places.
Why I Was Late fuses text with performance, brings a transmasculine wisdom, humour, and experience to bear upon tailgates, spaceships, and wrestling rings. Fierce, tender, convention re-inventing—Petch works hard. And whether it's as a film union lighting technician, a hospital bed allocator, a Toronto hot dog vendor, or a performer/player of the musical saw, the work is survival. Heroes are found in unexpected places, elevated by both large and small gestures of kindness, accountability and acceptance. No subject—grief, disability, kink, sexuality, gender politics, violence—is off limits.
A poet so good at drag they had everyone convinced that they were a woman for the first forty years of their life, Petch has somehow brought the stage and its attendant thrills into the book. Better late than. And better.
"Charlie Petch's Why I Was Late is a poetic debut with the wisdom of a sage and the emotional range of an expert comedian. Do yourself a favor and read this book. This is a master at work." — Kai Cheng Thom, author of I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl's Notes from the End of the World
Charlie Petch (they/them, he/him) is a disabled/queer/transmasculine multidisciplinary artist who resides in Tkaronto/Toronto. A poet, playwright, librettist, musician, lighting designer, and host, Petch was the 2017 Poet of Honour for SpeakNorth national festival, winner of the Golden Beret lifetime achievement in spoken word with The League of Canadian Poets (2020), and founder of Hot Damn it's a Queer Slam. Petch is a touring performer, as well as a mentor and workshop facilitator. They launched their full-length poetry collection, Why I Was Late, with Brick Books, which got a "Best of 2021" from The Walrus, and filmed their libretto "Medusa's Children" with Opera QTO. They have been featured on CBC's q, the Toronto International Festival of Authors, and were longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2021.
"ther ar secrets heer within th crevices uv skin th fertilitee
n futilitee uv prsonal love if yu ask 4 mor storeez uv gendr
label fragilitee n damage interrogating th endless masquerade
n collapsing loves n worlds '..the pus / real love / is made of'
poetree heer 2 keep yu awake n wanting mor uv ths brilliant book"
— bill bissett
"Many of us know (and perhaps are) that nimble farceur who uses humour as a coping mechanism. If we were to seek out this connection between comedy and survival in verse, we must look to Charlie Petch. Packed with nostalgia and ironic allusion Why I Was Late acts like the life of the poetry party, yet behind every CP30, Nosferatu, and Big League Chew lies a deeper vulnerability and stark social critique. Petch offers us a playfully complex debut collection." — Amber Dawn, author of My Art Is Killing Me and Other Poems
"Charlie Petch's Why I Was Late is a poetic debut with the wisdom of a sage and the emotional range of an expert comedian. Diving deep into the rich thematic territory of queer love, loss, and survival in the time of sex and gender oppression, the author's razor wit pierces straight to the heart so that the reader hardly knows whether to laugh, cry, or both at once. Petch's deep lineage in spoken word and theatre fairly leap off the page, whisking us away to coffeehouses, bars, and theatres where Petch has honed his craft and that of countless others in the community. Do yourself a favor and read this book. This is a master at work." — Kai Cheng Thom, author of author of I Hope We Choose Love: A Trans Girl's Notes from the End of the World
"Why I Was Late is a vulnerable, authentic collection of poems—unpredictable and brilliant, sometimes grotesque and downright hilarious—Charlie Petch is a necessary voice in poetry." — Mary Lambert, author of Shame Is an Ocean I Swim Across