Tension — that is what Julia Koets, assistant professor of creative nonfiction, felt growing up as a queer woman in South Carolina in the Episcopal Church.
When she was a teenager, she felt supported by her family and her community in Summerville, South Carolina, yet she did not feel comfortable enough to come out until she was in her 20s. As she reflected on her conflicting feelings years laters, many questions were raised, some she decided to address in a book of poems called “Pine.”
“Something I talk about in the book is that tension with religion, feeling like if the church is so much a part of your life, then in what way do you feel also like you can’t be fully yourself because of your sexuality,” Koets said. “So a lot of these [poems] sort of came from questions that I had.
“It’s complicated, because I also feel very much like I consider the South as my home. My family is still there so it’s not like, ‘Oh, this was so bad’ or something like that, but it’s just questions I had … from my own experience.”
The poems in “Pine” were released to the public Monday at 7 p.m. in a Microsoft Teams event presented by USF’s Department of English where Tyree Daye and Ruth Awad — both poetry authors — read some of their work and accompanied Koets reading hers.
Koets is also the author of “Hold Like Owls” and “The Rib Joint: A Memoir in Essays.” With her previous work, Koets has won the 2017 Red Hen Press Nonfiction Book Award, the 2019 Michael Waters Poetry Prize and the 2011 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize.