I Am in Bed with You

Emma Barnes

Author: Emma Barnes
Format: Paperback, Ebook
Pages: 88
Published: 11 March 2021
Specs: 23.8cm x 15.0cm
ISBN: 9781869409388

Available in Ebook


A bold, playful, poetic exploration of sex, gender and identity.

I am in bed with you. The room varies. But I’m always on the
left. I am pulling the pieces of myself into myself. In the winter
I left myself behind in the 90s. I’m coming back now. You
can see the light touching me. I can see layers of tissue finally
making a body. And once I have a body I have a head. And in
my head are these thoughts.

—From ‘I am in bed with you’

Playful and fluid but completely serious, Emma Barnes’s surreal phantasmagoria I Am in Bed with You leads us through the very personal worlds of sex, gender and the body. Barnes cracks jokes, makes us uncomfortable, shows us a little tenderness, leaves a lot unsaid and does it all with language that provokes and confounds.

‘I’m a mentally ill, / married, chronically ill, queer woman with two feet underground’, the author reveals. ‘I birth Sigourney Weaver’s android baby’, they tell us next. This collection is personal and fantastical, funny and excruciating. It’s poetry in the process of unravelling most of what you thought you knew.


Emma Barnes studied at the University of Canterbury and lives in Aro Valley, Wellington. Their poetry has been widely published for more than a decade in journals including Landfall, Turbine | Kapohau, Cordite and Best New Zealand Poems. They are currently co-editing with Chris Tse an anthology of LGBTQIA+ and takatāpui writing from Aotearoa New Zealand for Auckland University Press.



I Am in Bed with You signals the arrival of an extraordinary talent. Not only does Emma Barnes have the brainpower to interrogate notions of personal identity and interconnection incisively as we enter the 2020s but the sense of humour to see the comedy in our conundra and the emotional range to grasp the heartbreak in our yearnings, conflicts and confusions. Packed with quotable bons mots, quirky observations, agony aunt tips, enigmas and apophthegms, this is a book that rewards frequent re-reading.’ — Iain Sharp


‘From the first line of ‘This is a creation myth’, this work is stubbornly brave. Barnes stomps with bright boots over the territory of motherhood, womanhood, gender, and – unquestionably and timelessly – Sigourney Weaver. Everything is new and a little bit disgusting.’ — Sophie van Waardenberg



'This intimacy calls to me as a reader, invites me to relate to both the ‘I’ and the ‘you’. This might be that as a queer chronically ill person with many of the same cultural references, I can feel myself on both sides of the poems.' — Claire Lacey for Landfall

'Emma Barnes’s debut collection I Am in Bed with You is a sublime read. Their poems hit such pitch-perfect notes any attempt to share my reading engagements will fall short. It’s like when someone asks why you like this painting or this song or this poem and all you can say I love it.' — Paula Green for Poetry Shelf

'This collection refreshes my appetite for poetry because of its intelligent preciseness, quality and originality.' — Patricia Prime for takahē