Julia Koets is an American author and poet. Her lyrical collection, The Rib Joint: A Memoir in Essays (2019), became a LAMBDA Literary Award finalist and was named a Best American Essays 2020 notable essay.
Julia Koets was born in South Carolina and grew up in "a middle-class household on a tree-lined street in a small town." She earned her M.F.A. in poetry at the University of South Carolina and her Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Cincinnati.
"In high school, I started writing poems, and I loved the concision and the way the form allowed me to play with sound. I continued writing poems in college—they only offered classes in fiction and poetry at the time. In a fiction class I took, I wrote mostly nonfiction, but I never told anyone that," says Julia.
Her essays and poems have been published in literary journals, including Creative Nonfiction, Indiana Review, Nimrod, The Los Angeles Review, Carolina Quarterly, and Portland Review.
She debuted with the first book-length collection Hold Like Owls and won the 2011 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize judged by National Book Award Winner Nikky Finney.
In her critically acclaimed memoir-in-essays, The Rib Joint, Koets delves into her personal experiences living in a small town dominated by Christianity that condemns homosexuality, earning her the 2019 Michael Waters Poetry Prize.
The title of the book refers to a barbecue restaurant where Koets works after college but in a chapter by that name, she also weaves in the rib in the biblical story of Eve’s creation and the peculiarity of human anatomy called the "floating rib, detached from the body at its most central part."
"I identify as both a queer writer and a lesbian writer. It is hard for me to separate my identity from my writing because all aspects of my identity—as a Southerner, as a first child, as a queer person, as someone who grew up in the Episcopal Church,—are a part of who I am as a writer," the writer confesses.
The collection Pine (2020) maps a secret relationship between two women in the South, where certain kinds of desire—queer desire, in particular—have historically been hidden and feared.
“The poems in Pine are poems I was afraid to write when I wrote my first collection. Growing up queer in the South, I was afraid to write about queer desire, and I did not feel like I could write these poems until I was in my late twenties and early thirties. I wrote this book because I was no longer afraid of going home,” says Julia Koets.
Julia Koets is currently an assistant professor of creative nonfiction at the University of South Florida.
Photo credit: www.juliakoets.com