Annie Hex, the self-described “Poet Witch” of Batavia, Illinois has that indefinable quality that turns heads at a party, or draws crowds at a club, or makes fans out of strangers with a wave to come over. She’s bubbly, she’s ecstatic, she’s contagious — she’s a witch.
A good witch.
“It’s all about bringing in the joy,” Hex tells LGBTQ Nation.
In the words of her friend Scott Naylor, who nominated Hex for LGBTQ Nation’s 2022 Hometown Hero, she’s queer acceptance and love personified. “Annie Hex,” says Naylor, “is my hero.”
Hex has big ambitions: to set the world on fire with positivity. “I want to make the loudest explosion I can while I’m here, and help others make their own explosions, as well.”
She’s doing it every day, in innumerable ways, from refurbishing vending machines offering pep talks and poetry, to sharing wearable art emblazoned with messages of love, to opening doors to self-acceptance with tarot card readings. The list goes on, and so does Hex, indefatigable, likely unstoppable.
While she’s now the unofficial queer mayor of Batavia — “So funny,” she says — it wasn’t always so in her small hometown west of Chicago. “Being gay was the worst thing you could be growing up in my high school, so I was super closeted,” recalls Hex. “I was actually bullied for being a lesbian in middle school, so that pushed me in the other direction. ‘I’m not gay. I’m not queer.'”
In college, Hex blossomed studying digital media and writing at DePaul University, and finally came out — she laughs — “in a therapy office? Yeah, I was in my therapist’s office. And finally, you know, it all made sense. Why I would have these dysfunctional relationships with men, or why I felt like I wasn’t sexually normal. I couldn’t make it work. This heteronormative everything was not wasn’t working for me, and I couldn’t figure out why. And finally, this, just like relief, of like, ‘I’m gay. I get to be, I can be who I really am.'”
Hex identifies as a lesbian, “but also queer. You know, I really am just all about the love, and the people I meet.”
Asked to describe herself, Hex replies: “Joyful artist. Troublemaker on a mission,” she laughs. “You know what I mean? I think with everything I do, it’s all about bringing in the joy and the inclusion and just having fun. Right now I’m working on painting a van bubblegum pink, to be my queer-mobile to go around town and take me to all my gigs and be this kind of message of, you know, that ‘queer joy belongs here.'”
There are lots of gigs and projects.
“First and foremost, I’m a spoken word poet. So I write poetry. And I perform poetry all around the area. And so my spoken word is all about queer love. I write about love. I write about healing, sexual trauma, healing from abuse, coming into who you really are.”
“I’m also a witch,” says Hex.
“I read tarot cards, kind of like tarot coaching, or motivational and inspirational, where the cards are giving people a chance to heal and live their best queer lives,” Hex says. “It all connects because I read tarot cards like you would poetry. So I’m interpreting the metaphors in the cards. My favorite clients are queer or they’re trauma survivors and, through the tarot readings, people will come out to me. And that has just been this really magical thing.”
The Poet Witch shares her words in different venues, like the vending machines she’s popped up around town surprising people in local shops, schools, and libraries. Machines that used to hold trinkets and toys or candy in little plastic containers are now filled with queer love in the form of “pep talks” and poetry.
“They’ve been bringing so much joy to people and I’ve literally blessed every pep talk that goes into these machines. Or tarot cards — I also have one that spits out tarot cards — so that they get the messages that they need to hear and it’s all these messages of hope, and unapologetically being who you are, and doing the brave thing and taking the risk, and doing the scary thing, even though you feel like you can’t do it,” Hex explains. “And people are like, ‘I needed these words.'”
Another place for Hex’s poetry is in the library she’s set up outside of her house.
“Yeah, a sparkly, pink, bright pink free library that was made out of an old newspaper box.” Inside, patrons can find different queer publications plus zines authored by Hex.
“I think zines are amazing because you can share resources and you can share your story in a way that you can’t do in traditional media. It’s almost like you’re sharing a little diary and that’s kind of how the words come out. It’s like you’re reading somebody’s diary.”
Hex’s spreads the love at different gatherings and events, as well. Every week in fair weather she hosts an all-ages queer art class at a local park. Another weekly event is her bright pink pop-up tent at the local farmer’s market, where she gives out queer-positive merch she’s produced, like pronoun pins.
“Every time, I have kids come through saying, ‘I have to hide this from my mom.’ And it’s I think it’s really magical, because I hold the safe space, where I’m like, ‘You can be out with me. Take a pronoun pin, take whatever you want.'”
One of Hex’s favorite projects was a queer prom she produced last June, outside at night in the garden behind a local tavern, with a sold-out crowd of a hundred guests.
“It was so gorgeous and shiny, and for a lot of people it was like a prom do-over, because I know I couldn’t be out when I went to prom. And so a lot of people were getting their second chance at prom, but in a way that they were their true selves. Right there, you know, and so it was like the most magical night. People didn’t even want to leave. We played a final song and people just kept staying because the energy was so good. And just so much joy. So much laughter.”