As an artist, poet and educator whose work meditates on the body and sexual experiences, Aimee Herman has never shied away from constructive discomfort.
“I’ve been writing about sex since before I really understood what it could do to a body,” Herman says. “I grew up and we didn’t really talk about it.”
Their artistry developed in New York City as they began integrating themself into a queer, sex-positive community. This vital support system encouraged them to indulge in and share their expressions of sexuality that had consumed their curiosity for as long as they could remember.
“I didn’t know how the audience was going to take it — I went to an open mic, and I read [my poetry] and I loved seeing people’s reactions to how unapologetically sexy it was,” Herman says. “I like surprising people and making them uncomfortable — not in a way that makes people want to leave the room, but in wanting people to question and interrogate themselves.”
This celebration of sexuality is exactly what Herman hopes to import to the local queer community in Boulder, which they fondly describe as “hungry.” Herman relocated here a year after lockdown in search of cleaner air, a slower, more sustainable way of life and a queer community like the ones that had served as a pillar for support and camaraderie throughout their entire life.
“I want more,” Herman says. “I want every space that I’m in to be inundated with queer people. Because I spent so much of my life looking for people who looked like me, and felt like me, as I’m getting older, that’s what I yearn for. I don’t want to have to wait for the month of June to see queer folks.”
‘Poetry is political’
Herman got involved with Out Boulder County, the local nonprofit whose advocacy work has bolstered Boulder’s queer scene since 1994, as the host of a monthly open mic series and events like a queer circus for Pride Month. As they brainstormed ideas for Valentine’s Day, Herman recognized an opportunity to inject a little erotica into Boulder’s lexicon, which they saw as a gap in community programming.
“Frankly, I couldn’t find any [events] celebrating sex-positive spaces,” Herman says. “I’m sure they exist. I just haven’t found any.”
Bruce Parker, deputy director of Out Boulder County, says there haven’t been any events specifically focused on erotica since he’s been with the organization, but there were no reservations about the benefit of hosting an event like this one.
“‘Erotic’ can mean love; it can mean empowering each other; it can mean sex; it can mean desire; it can mean all of those things,” Parker says. “So, making a space for that, and to celebrate queer romance and queer love and queer desire and queer sex, is really important and happens for straight people in a lot of ways that we don’t even think about.”
For Jona Fine, a local artist participating in the reading, erotic art is about celebrating their identity through uncompromising acts of self-expression and visibility.
“In some ways, all poetry is political,” Fine says. “Being queer and being trans, my poetry is a lot about my experience with my body. For me, it’s important to document and keep a record of those experiences because I think they are not often talked about.”
‘It’s nice to have somebody make you feel turned on’
Beyond visibility, this kind of artistic expression is about ownership. For a community often subjected to both physical and legislative attacks, taking the reins of one’s own story and acting as its sole arbiter in a supportive space can be empowering.
“Erotic art strengthens the community because it creates more spaces and opportunities for people to talk about their sexual experience without being sexualized,” Fine says. “That’s what’s incredibly powerful about being an artist and being a writer — you get to control the narrative and take ownership of it. You get to have that space to talk about your body and experiences. It’s totally yours.”
At the end of the night, Herman hopes every member of the audience is roused to take ownership of their own bodies and stories and emerge from discomfort to make some erotic art of their own.
“Anytime I’m in creative spaces, and especially when I’m hosting, my hope is that whoever is in the audience feels like, ‘Oh, maybe I can write my story down too,’ or ‘This inspires me to create,’” Herman says. “To me, that’s the best part of creating these spaces — encouraging people to get their own words out.”
Though the poetry’s politics are never absent, the evening’s overtones are lighthearted. Herman says it’s about providing a comfortable space for folks in the community to have a bit of sexy fun with each other.
“It’s just an evening of words that turn people on,” Herman says. “This is a rough world to live in, so it’s nice to just go out, spend a couple bucks and have somebody make you feel turned on in some kind of way.”
ON THE BILL: Queer Erotic Poetry. 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, Junkyard Social Club, 2525 Frontier Ave. Suite A, Boulder. $15