My Formula: Yves B. Golden

The poet behind Untitled (Day) on health, happiness + hedonism.

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"When I think about being healthy, I think about pleasure and hedonism. I’m a person who might be a bit withholding sometimes, so allowing myself to gorge on all the foods that I want, the clothes I love, and whatever the hell else is good for me. There are other ways too: I pleasure myself by listening to music every day, all day. I walk long distances. With writing—another hedonism—allowing myself to go to places that I don’t always let myself process verbally also keeps me healthy. When I write self-indulgently, I feel like I’ve cleaned the slate for how I can interact with people afterwards. It’s good to go deep in there sometimes.

It’s terrible applying guilt to pleasure, but since antiquity, people have tried to problematize it. A lot of times institutions—medical, spiritual, or other—have vilified it. And I’m not just talking about sex, alcohol, or other substances. For some people, smoking the cigarettes they know they shouldn’t be smoking every once in a while is actually beneficial. There are ways to seek pleasure within the realms of your health and stability. It’s something I think about a lot, particularly with my performances. People expect you to bleed on stage, but to put pleasure in performance is more complicated. I think to be in favor of oneself is to be radically in favor of pleasure—and I’m all for it.

I wouldn’t call myself level headed. I’ve spent 15 years, not struggling with, but really living alongside depression. And by that I don’t mean sighing-in-the-dark and isolating myself, I mean the depression of immobility, panic, and psychosis. The clarity I have now is newer, and that came alongside starting hormones over a year ago. In transitioning, I’ve gained a huge amount of progress in myself: Making the decision to take control has been transformative both mentally and physically. Before, I was still me, but I was just making-do with things and enduring life to endure it.

When people discuss gender, pronouns, and personhood, it’s about remembering that you too have the authority to be whoever you want to beto live how you want to, to change your name, and your body too. People are not exceptional in that sense. We all have the same license to reinvent. So when someones says, I prefer to be ‘xyz,’ that’s their space and you should honor it because we are all human. The problem comes with assuming anything. All you have to do is ask. I prefer to be referred to as they, them but she, hers are ok too. Just not he, hims. That’s my rule.

In life, everything is a negotiation—and I am always negotiating clarity, above all else. I like what I have, so I need to be aware of myself so I don’t lose any of it. This means taking care of myself through rituals, big or small. As a queer person, one non-negotiable is declaring myself everyday. It can be humorous, but also meaningful. This helps me maintain control over what I am and what I can be—pushing against any boundaries that people think exist.

Balance for me also means letting go of the mania-inducing, counting-every-calorie way of eating. If I obsess, I withhold, so it’s more about knowing what gives me pleasure to eat. Mobility and nourishment go well together, so somedays I love to get a bubble tea and a rice ball and walk to wherever I need to be while enjoying it. Happily, I also like a lot of foods that have a range of nutrients too, like citrus fruits. Supplement-wise: I used to take iron, but now it’s just probiotics—and of course, Functional Fragrance. When I tried it for the first time, I took in a full breath, and the words all came to me for Untitled (Day) moments afterwards.

Often, I wake up in the middle of the night to write down something that’s in my head, but I don’t sit down to work every day. Instead, I spend a lot of time on my feet, walking in the city. There’s such a poetry to the visual world, particularly New York, that I can just walk and observe; collage and erase things; build meaning as far as I can look ahead. When it comes to putting pen to paper, I have to sit down and dedicate the time to do it.

Things I’m looking forward to in the New Year include a new residency at Mana Contemporary in New Jersey, and working with my friend, Cara Piazza and others on performance poetry and theory. That’s going to be good. I’ve also been accepted into the MFA Program at Bard, which is exciting. In terms of resolutions, I have the same one every year: Where I have struggled or failed in the past, may this be the year that I succeed. It's a big one for me, so it’s important that I say it out loud."

Photographs Milah Libin, styling The Salter House. 

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Read: Untitled (Day
Read: My Formula: Biance Valle