October 1, 2014

Remembering Cheryl B

Posted on 19. Jun, 2011 by in Features, Remembrances

On Saturday, June 18, 2011, Cheryl Burke (Cheryl B.), New York City’s award-winning poet, writer, and community treasure, died of complications from chemotherapy treatment she had been receiving for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Cheryl was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma—a cancer of the lymph tissue—in November 2010.

Born September 19, 1972, Cheryl’s performance career began in the early 90s at the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City.  After rapidly gaining acclaim for her razor sharp wit and keen observational insight, Cheryl soon became a star on the internationally spoken word scene.

An accomplished writer, her work has appeared in dozens of publications including Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution (Seal Press, 2007), The Guardian, Suspect Thoughts, Reactions 5: New Poetry (Pen & Inc, 2005), Pills, Thrills, Chills and Heartache: Adventures in the First Person (Alyson Books). Cheryl received an honorable mention in poetry from the Astraea Writers Fund Awards in 2009, and was just named one of GO Magazine’s Top 100 Women for 2011.

Cheryl was also a brilliant literary leader and organizer. She was the creator and producer of PVC: The Poetry vs. Comedy Variety Show, a live slam/competition between stand-up comedians and performance poets that ran for over two years, and at the time of her death was the co-founder/co-host of the popular New York City monthly reading series, Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival with Sinclair Sexsmith.

Friend and author, Sarah Schulman said of her, “Cheryl gave a lot to this community in many capacities over many years. As a writer, friend, editor and most effectively as a programmer of events in which she gave voice to many artists and created community for so many of us.”

Cheryl was known for her intense, sometimes dark, and always hilarious narratives, a style she perfected in her last public writing performance the WTF Cancer Diaries blog (wtfcancerdiaries.com).  Cheryl described the blog as her “delightfully cynical, dark humor take on diagnosis, treatment and the cantaloupe-sized tumor in my chest. WTF.”

Cheryl’s passing is not only a personal tragedy for all of us who considered her personal friend, but also a tremendous loss to the queer literary community as a whole. A fundraiser for her lover, Kelli Dunham, will be held at Dixon Place, in NYC on July 23, 2011.
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Cheryl B @ the 22nd annual Lambda Literary Awards | Photo © Donna Aceto/Lambda Literary Foundation

Sassafras Lowrey got hir start writing as a punk zinester in Portland, Oregon. Ze is the editor of the two time American Library Association honored & Lambda Literary Finalist Kicked Out anthology, and Leather Ever After. Hir debut novel Roving Pack (www.RovingPack.com) was honored by the American Library Association and chronicles the underground lives of gender-radical queer youth searching for identity, community, and belonging. Sassafras has contributed to numerous anthologies and publications, and ze believes storytelling is essential in the creation of social change. Ze is the 2013 winner of the Lambda Literary Foundation's Berzon Emerging Writer Award. Sassafras lives and writes in Brooklyn with hir partner, two dogs of dramatically different sizes, and two bossy cats.www.SassafrasLowrey.com

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5 Responses to “Remembering Cheryl B”

  1. Perry Brass 24 June 2011 at 9:20 AM #

    This is so terrible to hear. I remember her wonderfully; we were on several panels together about lgbt publishing in the past and talked a lot about what we did to publish our work. She was a wonderful, sweet, endearing person. I am really saddened to hear this. Perry Brass

  2. Genevieve 28 April 2013 at 5:32 PM #

    I never heard Cheryl in person but I caught her on YouTube. I read some of her work. When I first saw her site, I took a liking to her. Cheryl’s sense of humor thread through her poems. I was shocked when she passed. I still miss her.


Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Fresh on Friday: Vag-Vertisements, 823 Gay Couples Set to Marry in NYC + Homo Barbarians Attack | CherryGRRL - July 22, 2011

    [...] Burke, who died last week due to complications from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A lovely tribute, “Remembering Cheryl B,” by Sassafras Lowrey, was posted earlier this week at [...]

  2. In memory of Cheryl B. - September 19, 2011

    [...] More about her life and work is here. [...]

  3. United States poetess Cheryl B | Dear Kitty. Some blog - January 11, 2013

    [...] The spoken-word scene mourned recently when New York poet and performer Cheryl B died of complications related to the treatment of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, aged just 38. [...]

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