Celeste Gainey

Celeste Gainey is the author of the poetry collection, the GAFFER, from Arktoi Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press. Her chapbook, In the land of speculation & seismography (Seven Kitchens Press, 2011), was runner-up for the 2010 Robin Becker Prize. Graduating with a BFA in Film & Television from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, as well as earning an MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from Carlow University, Gainey was the first woman to be admitted to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) as a gaffer, and has spent many years working with light in film and architecture.

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Celeste Gainey

Publication Date: March 10, 2015

$18.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-0-9890361-2-2


Light is the preoccupation, vocation, and language of the GAFFER, the debut collection of poems by Celeste Gainey, the first woman gaffer to be admitted to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), the preeminent craft union in the motion picture industry. These poems vividly depict the gaffer’s terrain from the set of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, to Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon and The Wiz, to a lighting session with Lucille Ball. In these poems is the quest for identity and synchronicity within the imagined and experimental realm of light and cinema, and the immutable physical world where notions of gender, sex, desire, and ambition are prescribed a priori. the GAFFER deconstructs the idea of outsider as pioneer—then runs with it.

Praise for the GAFFER:

“In bursts of language, these poems tell the story of a girl who wants to grow up to be a man who grows up to be a gaffer, lighting the set of every movie you’ve ever loved. They swagger. They sashay. They strut like a queer teenager trying on her first pair of men’s Levi’s and liking what she sees in the mirror: a human being in love with the ‘brute arc light’ of the world. I raise a toast of solidarity to the feminine power and presence of the GAFFER. Gainey’s voice knows how to fill a room.”——Dorianne Laux

“Celeste Gainey’s astonishing debut, the GAFFER, is a book about light: how it finds us, changes us, and shapes who we are and how we see. It’s also a book about the body—sexual, other—’looking for combustion.’ In Gainey’s world, ‘gaffer’ and ‘poet’ are interchangeable: her poems light the world at perfect angles, even our ‘little failures,’ and cast back to us our own lives: radiantly refigured, radically changed.”—Aaron Smith

the GAFFER breathes poems of obsession, the relentless pursuit of an idea, and presence. We hear the compelling lexicon of light: ‘baby legs,’ ‘horsecock,’ ‘inkie,’ ‘brute arc’—and a voice arises: ‘there are dwellings made of future’. In this stunning collection by Celeste Gainey, we realize we are in future——in the world of horizontal air, where the gaffer travels East to West: St. Mark’s Place to Sunset Boulevard and back. Inside this movement, the body combusts into an original song of gender, desire, and place: alleys and canyons of ignition, blazing.”—Jan Beatty