Film History: Luchino Visconti

Photographers Unknown, Parts and Pieces Making a Whole: Set Fourteen

Born in Milan in November of 1906, Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo, was an Italian screenwriter, stage director and filmmaker. A major figure in Italian art and culture, he was one of the pioneers of cinematic neorealism, a film movement that explored the conditions of the poor and lower working class, which was shot almost exclusively on location and generally filmed with nonprofessional actors and local people.

One of seven children born into a prominent noble family in Milan, Luchino Visconti grew up in the family seat, the Palazzo di Modrone in Via Cerva, as well as in Grazzano Viconsti Castle, the family estate. Exposed in his early years to music, art and theater,Visconti studied cello with the Italian cellist and composer Lorenzo de Paolis and met the poet and playwright Gabriele D’Annunzio, composer Giacomo Puccini, and the conductor Arturo Toscanini. 

During the second World War, Visconti joined the Italian Communist Party, which he saw as the only viable opponent to Mussolini’s Italian Fascism. After Mussolini’s overthrow and Italy’s armistice in September of 1943 with the Allies, he began working with the Italian resistance and provided his villa in Roma as a meeting place for oppositional artists. After the Germans invaded Italy, Visconti went into hiding in the mountains where he hid English and American prisoners of war after their escapes. He also provided shelter to the resistance fighters in Rome. 

Through the intercession of their common friend Coco Chanel, Luchino Visconti began his filmmaking career as a set dresser on directorJean Renoir’s 1936 short feature “Partie de Campagane”. He also worked with Renoir on the 1941 historical drama “Tosca”, until it was interrupted by the war. Along with film director Roberto Rossellini, Visconti joined the salon of Vittorio Mussolini, who was then Italy’s national arbitrator for cinema and the arts. While with this group of artists, he wrote the screenplay for his first film as director, the 1943 “Ossessione (Obsession)”, one of the first neorealist movies to be made. Visconti, in collaboration with a group of writers, adapted the film from a French version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice” given to him byJean Renoir during the time they worked together in France.

In 1948, Visconti wrote and directed “The Earth Trembles”, an exploration of working-class fishermen in a small village, which was based on Giovanni Verga’s novel “The House by the Medlar Tree”. This film received a Special International Award at the 9th Venice International Film Festival. After filming his 1951 drama film “Bellissima”, a satire of the postwar Italian film industry, Visconti diverted from the neorealist movement with his 1954 melodrama “Senso”, a color film which combined romanticism with realism. He returned to neorealism with his 1960 “Rocco and His Brothers”, a story about Southern Italians who migrate to Milan hoping to find financial stability. This film won Silver Ribbons from the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists for Best Director and Screenplay. 

Through the 1960s, Luchino Visconti’s films became more personalized. He felt the conflict between the post-war world of difficult economic and moral conditions, including its poverty and injustice, and his origins from an important and wealthy noble family. He considered himself as belonging to a past world, particularly that of the nineteenth-century. Visconti’s 1963 “The Leopard”, based on author Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s novel of the same name, depicts the decline of the old social order and its aristocracy and the rise of the new modern world. In his research for the film, he searched through world literature for relevant works to show discrepancies between familial generations and their world views. “The Leopard”, the sixth most popular film of the year in France, won the Palme d’Or at the 1963 Cannes Film Festival.

Visconti’s 1969 “The Damned”, tells the story of a German industrialist’s family which begins to disintegrate during the Nazi’s consolidation of power in the 1930s. It is regarded as the first of Visconti’s films described as “The German Trilogy”; this 1969 film is followed by the 1971 “Death in Venice” and the 1973 “Ludwig”, a biographical film about the life and death of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The October opening of “The Damned” in Rome met with critical acclaim; however, it faced controversy from the rating board due to its sexual content, including depictions of homosexuality, pedophilia, rape and incest. Upon its entry to the United States, it was given an X rating, which was only lowered to an R rating after twelve minutes of offending footage were cut. The film won the Italian Film Journalists’ 1970  Silver Ribbon Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Luchino Visconti’s next film was the1971 “Death in Venice”, written by Visconti and screenwriter Nicola Badalucco. Based on Thomas Mann’s 1912 novel of the same name, it tells the story of composer Gustav von Aschenbach, a man dying from heart disease, who travels with his wife to Venice for rest, unaware that the city is in the midst of a cholera epidemic. The composer soon develops an obsession with the beauty of an adolescent Polish boy named Tadzio, who is staying with his family in the same hotel. “Death in Venice” was nominated for several awards: BAFTA Awards for Best Direction and Best Film, and the 1971 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Visconti’s film won both the David di Donatello and the Nastro d’Argento for Best Director. 

Baptized and raised in the Roman Catholic church, Luchino Visconti remained a devout Catholic throughout his life. His first three-year relationship, which started in 1936, with photographer Horst P. Horst remained discreet due legal and social conventions of the time. In his later years, Visconti appeared openly with his lovers, among whom were actor Udo Kier and film director Franco Zeffirelli. His last lover was the Austrian actor Helmut Berger, who played  Martin in “The Damned” and later appeared in Visconti’s 1973 “Ludwig” and the 1974 “Conversation Piece”.

Luchino Visconti, who was also a celebrated theater and opera director,  suffered a stroke in 1972. He died in Rome of a second stroke at the age of sixty-nine in March of 1976.  On the island of Ischia where Visconti had his summer residence, there is a museum dedicated to his work.

Note: An interesting article on the film “The Damned”, including information on its technical production, is Wheeler Winston Dixon’s “Grandeur and Decadence: Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (1969)” located at: https://www.sensesofcinema.com/2021/cteq/grandeur-and-decadence-luchino-viscontis-the-damned-1969/

Top Insert Image: Horst P. Horst, “Luchino Visconti, Paris”, 1937, Gelatin Silver Print

Second Insert Image: Luchino Visconti, “Rocco and His Brothers”, (Alan Delon and Renato Salvatori), 1960, Astor Pictures

Third Insert Image: Luchino Visconti, “The Damned” (Helmut Berger, Dirk Bogarde and Ingrid Thulin), Ital-Noleggio Cinematografico and Warner Brothers-Seven Arts 1969,

Fourth Insert Image: Mario Tursi, “Luchino Visconti with Björn Andrésen on the Set of “Death in Venice”, 1970, Gelatin Silver Print

Bottom Insert Image: Luchino Visconti, “The Leopard” (Burt Lancaster), 1963, Titanus/ Parthé/ 20th Century Fox

Wilson Bueno: “Yes, the Scorpions of the Heart: Ñandu: Alight They Hit You”

Photographers Unknown, The Scorpions of the Heart

one dusk après une autre I sit ici on this sofa diagonal to the window, and in
sitting it’s presque as if everything’s crumbling into bits; cramps in the guts:
setting sun weaving humid nuances: spaces from où move déjà les occupations
cérémoniales of light and lune: between the crowns of sombreros or entre les
durs vides of the fig tree that devastate into shadow and suspicion in the
crépuscule of the beach town: figuier, couronne, sombreros: la ancestral speech
of fathers and grands-pères that infinitely vanishes into memory, they
entertain all speech et tricot: these Guaraní voices eternalize so simply as they
go on weaving: ñandu: there is no better fabric than the web des leaves tissées
all together, ñandu, together and between the arabesques that, symphoniques,
interweave, in a warp and weft of green and bird et chanson, in the happy
amble of a freedom: ñanduti: ñandurenimbó:

: here I sit: ñandu: to inflect into the crochèterie my ñanduti renderings:
ñandutimichī: smallest ti-fleur that persists with the needle barely for the
excruciating patience of a few hours: in these sutures, salt clocks, that keep
themselves smeared with the fluctuating couleurs du coucher du soleil that play
themselves out in les automnes de maintenant: here ñandu: an opacity of
feeling: winter more than automne panique autumn; ñandu: what is the secret
of identité entre these deux things absolument distinctes: spiders and
scorpions?

: yes, the scorpions of the heart: ñandu: alight they hit you, vous frappent with
all they’ve got: the ñandu bateau mortally occurring: we’ll survive it: even
ostrich-necked, ñanduguasú: fileté in the sand: ñandu: ñandutí: web: the
crochet contorting from one stitch to the next: corolla: ramification of hair and
ligne: slow announcing the fleur of flower most florid: most michī:
ñandutimichī: almost invisible: miraculum: simulacrum: ñandu: mirroir of
God: ñandu: a thousand à vrai dire solitaire ñanduti: the needle as dark désir
for blood et death: the oldie each second ticking older: the boy: how can they be
so green, hovi mboihovi: those eyes of the boy with their myriad green flecks
creating their pigmentation: hovi hovi hovi: my despair was greater than the
recyclical nuit of the beach of Guaratuba where I hear myself meurt: dollyface:
like a passenger at sea: la mer: paraná: ñanduti *

Wilson Bueno, One Dusk Après Une Autre, Paraguayan Sea, 1992, Translation by Erin Moure, 2017

Born in Jaguapita, a city in the state of Paraná, in March of 1949, Wilson Bueno was a major Brazilian literary figure and one of several experimental authors to emerge from the southern city of Curitiba in the late twentieth century. In its importance to the development of modern poetry in Brazil, Bueno’s work stands alongside the experimental works of poets Alice Ruiz, author of over twenty poetry collections,  and Paulo Leminski, whose novel and poetry collections were inspired by the Concrete poetry movement . In additions to his contributions to literature, Bueno was the editor of Curitiba’s cultural journal, O Nicolau, and collaborated with several renowned newspapers in Brazil.

Several early works by Bueno include his first title “Bolero’s Bar”, published in 1986; “Meu tio Roseno, a Cavalo (My Uncle Roseno, on Horseback)” and “Manual de Zoofilia”, both published in 2004; the 2005 “Cachorros do Cén (Heavenly Dogs)’, a finalist for the Portugal Telecom Literature Award; and the 2007 “A Copist de Kafka”, a mixture of fact and fiction which tells the story of Felice Bauer, a professional copyist, and her relationship, through her own words, with the author Franz Kafka. 

Of Wilson Bueno’s early works, the best known and one that has been continuously republished due to its popularity, is his serpentine prose poem “Mar Paraguayo (Paraguayan Sea)”, first published in Brazil in 1992 with a prologue by the late Argentine poet Néstor Perlongher. It is written in a unique mixture of Portuguese and Spanish, known as Portunhol, and Guarani, the three main languages of the border region between Brazil and Paraguay. The book is the confessional narrative of a Paraguayan woman, or possibly a gay man, who moves to Guaratuba, a Brazilian coastal town known locally as the Paraguayan Sea. Through the narrative, the protagonist recounts a life in prostitution and the strong, binding relationship that developed with an older man. The cross-national languages used in the book  are mixed across the page and invoke an unique cadence from the reader’s lips, either vocal or silent.

Later books by Bueno include his tenth book, the 2004 “Amar-te a Ti Nem Sei se com Caricas (I Love You, I Don’t Know If With Caresses)”, which presents the rewriting of a supposed manuscript found among the rubble of an aristocratic house in Rio de Janeiro. This novel, which recreates the speech and habits of nineteenth-century Brazil, won the Viate Literature Scholarship. Bueno’s last work “Mano, a Noite está Velha (Brother, the Night is Old)”, published posthumously in 2011, is a narration told as if to a dead brother, which addresses the issues of death, sexuality, and the relationship to one’s parents.

One of Brazil’s most influential and loved contemporary authors, with several of his titles deemed essential to modern Brazilian literature, Wilson Bueno was murdered at his home in Curitaba, Brazil, in June of 2010 in what was determined to be an example of anti-gay violence. His confessed killer was acquitted by a jury and subsequently released from custody.

Notes: Concrete poetry is an arrangement of linguistic elements, which include words, punctuation, spaces and symbols, where the typographical effect is more important in the conveyance of meaning than the verbal significance  Occasionally referred to as visual poetry, concrete poetry developed from a long tradition of patterned or shaped poems in which words are arranged in such a way as to depict their subject. An early and very basic example is poet George Herbert’s 1633 “Easter Wings”, which was printed sideways on facing pages so that the poem’s lines would envision the out-stretched wings of an angel.

There are many translations of Wilson Bueno’s“Parguayan Sea” available. A point to consider is that Bueno, wanting a translation to be as faithful to his work as possible, thought Erin Moure, a poly-lingual poet and translator, would be the best choice for that task. Moure has written sixteen books of poetry, a book of essays, and translated fifteen volumes of poetry from multiple languages, of which one is her 2017  translation of “Paraguayan Sea” for Nightboat Books. Erin Moure’s translation of Bueno’s prose poem took twelve years to complete.

An interesting article on Wilson Bueno’s “Paraguayan Sea” is “The Shipwreck of the Poem”, written in 2018 by Gerardo Muñoz and published on the online cultural magazine “berfrois”, located at:  https://www.berfrois.com/2018/01/gerardo-munoz-wilson-bueno/

Film History: James Whale

Photographers Unknown, I Am Rather the Fallen Angel

“Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.” 

― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, 1818 

Born in Dudley, a town in the county of Worcestershire, in July of 1889, James Whale was an English actor and film and theater director, best remembered by many for his classic horror films. Known for his use of camera movement, he is credited with being the first director to use a 360-degree panning shot in a feature film.

James Whale was the sixth of seven children born to William Whale, a blast-furnace worker, and his wife Sarah, a nurse. He attended public education until his teenage years. Because the cost of his further education was prohibitive and his labor was needed to support his family, Whale took work as a cobbler. He used his early artistic ability to earn extra money by lettering signs for his neighbors; this additional income paid for classes at the Dudley School of Arts and Crafts located in the West Midlands.

In August of 1914, Whale enlisted into the Inns of Court Regiment of the British Army at the outbreak of the first world war; in July of 1916, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Worcestershire Regiment. Taken prisoner of war in August of 1917 at the battle in  Flanders, Whale was held at the Holzminden Officers’ Camp in Germany and later repatriated at the war’s end to England in December of 1918. After an unsuccessful attempt to find work as a cartoonist in Birmingham, he embarked on a professional stage career in 1919. 

James Whale worked as an actor, set designer, stage manager, and director under the tutelage of director and actor Nigel Playfair at the Lyric Theater in Hammersmith. In 1922, he met stage and costume designer Doris Zinkeisen; they were considered a couple for a period of two years despite Whale’s living as an openly gay man. In 1928, Whale was given the opportunity to direct two private performances of writer Robert Cedric Sherriff’s “Journey’s End”, a play that gave a glimpse of British infantry officers’ experiences in the trenches of France during 1918. The two lead roles were given to actors Laurence Olivier and Maurice Evans. 

The initial two performances of “Journey’s End” were well received; and the play opened in January of 1929, with actor Colin Clive now in the lead, at the Savoy Theater in London’s West End. Critically acclaimed, the play after its three-week run was then transferred to the Prince of Wales Theater in Coventry Street, where it ran for the next two years. The rights to a New York production of “Journey’s End” were acquired by Broadway producer Gilbert Miller who chose James Whale, already experienced with the play, for its director. This production of the play premiered at Henry Miller’s Theater at Broadway and West 43rd Street and ran for over a year. 

Brought to the attention of movie producers by the Broadway success of “Journey’s End”, James Whale traveled to Hollywood in 1929 and signed a contract with Paramount Pictures to be the dialogue director for the 1929 film “The Love Doctor”. After the completion of the film, Whale met David Lewis, who became his longtime romantic partner; they lived together until 1952. David Lewis would later become a prominent film producer in the 1940s and 1950s, known for producing such films as the 1939 “Dark Victory” with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart and the 1957  “Raintree County” with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.  

In 1931, James Whale began what is probably the best known part of his career as a producer. He signed a five-year contract with Universal Studios and received his first project, the 1931 drama-war romance film “Waterloo Bridge”, which starred actress Mae Clarke, who is remembered by many for playing Jame Cagney’s girl in “The Public Enemy”. Later in 1931, Carl Laemmie, Jr, the twenty-five year old head of Universal Studios, gave Whale his choice of which studio-owned property he wanted for his next shoot; Whale chose the script for “Frankenstein”. He casted Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Frankenstein, Henry’s wife, and chose the little known Boris Karloff for the role of the Monster. Shooting ran from August 24th of 1931 to October 3rd. After premieres on October 29th of 1931, “Frankenstein” had a wide release beginning on November 21st and instantly became a hit with critics and the public.

In 1932, Whale directed two films: the drama “The Impatient Maiden” and a thriller film with Karloff and Charles Laughton entitled “The Old Dark House”, which has been credited with reinventing the “old house” genre of horror films. Whale’s 1933 film, “The Kiss Before the Mirror”, a pre-Code mystery film, received little notice and was a box-office failure. With a script approved by author H. G. Wells, Whale returned to the horror genre and produced the 1933 “The Invisible Man” which the New York Times placed in their list of best films for that year. This adaption of Well’s book, whose special effects were done in utmost secrecy, broke box-office records in cities across America.

James Whale’s next major project was the 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein”, a sequel to the original movie which he was initially reluctant to do for fear of being typecast as a horror director. The film, however, was a critical and commercial success; today it is regarded as the finest of all gothic horror movies and considered Whale’s masterpiece. Whale worked next on a comedy-mystery film entitled “Remember Last Night?” which resulted in divided reviews. After its completion, Whale started immediately on the project that had been in his mind for a long time, a film version of the stage production “Show Boat”. 

For the film version of this long-running romantic musical, Whale gathered as many members of the original show as he could; these included Paul Robeson, Helen Morgan, Sammy White, Irene Dunne, and conductor Victor Baravalle and orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett. Great care was taken by Whale to ensure a feeling of complete authenticity in the set and costume design for this film. Faithfully adapted from the original stage production, the 1936 “Show Boat” is considered the definitive film version of the musical by many critics. This film was the last of Whale’s films produced with the Laemmie family.

Jame Whale eventually retired from the film industry in 1941. Encouraged by his partner David Lewis to resume his artwork, he rediscovered his love of painting and built a studio for himself. In 1942, Whale made training films for the United States Army and created, in collaboration with actress Claire DuBrey, the theater group Brentwood Service Players. He returned to Broadway to direct the 1940 thriller “Hand in Glove” and directed his final film, a short subject entitled “Hello Out There”. Whale’s last professional engagement was the comedy play “Pagan in the Parlour”, which was forced to close early due to contract difficulties that happened during its opening tour in Europe.

While in Europe, Whale met and became infatuated with the twenty-five year old bartender Pierre Foegel. He made the decision to bring Foegel back to the United States as his chauffeur. In November of 1952 when David Lewis heard this, he ended their twenty-three year relationship, separated but still maintained a friendship. Foegel moved in with Whale in early 1953, returned for several months to France, and then in 1954  moved back permanently with Whale. In the spring of 1956, Whale suffered a small stroke, and was hospitalized several months later after suffering a second and more severe stroke. As his mental faculties were diminishing, he began to suffer from mood swings and depression. 

James Whale committed suicide, at the age of sixty-seven, by drowning himself in his Pacific Palisades swimming pool on the 29th of May in 1957. He left a suicide note to David Lewis, who withheld it from the public until his own death. Whale was cremated per his request and his ashes were interred in the Columbarium of Memory at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. When David Lewis died in 1987, James Curtis, as his executor, had Lewis’s  ashes interred in a niche across from Whale’s internment site. James Curtis would later write the definitive biography of Whale, “James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters”, published in 2003.

Note: James Whale lived as an openly gay man throughout his career in the British theater and in Hollywood, which was virtually unheard of in that era. While he did not go out of his way to publicize his homosexuality, he made no effort to conceal it either.

Insert Images:
A— Photographer Unknown, “James Whale” (Profile), circa 1930, Cream-Toned Vintage Print, 23.7 x 18 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
B—”Frankenstein”, Colin Clive and Boris Karloff, 1931, Universal Pictures
C—”The Invisible Man”, Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart, 1933, Universal Pictures
D—Photographer Unknown, “James Whale”, Date Unknown
E—”Show Boat”, Paul Robeson, Irene Dunne, Hattie McDaniel, and Helen Morgan, 1936, Universal Pictures
F—Photographer Unknown, “James Whale”, circa 1930, Cream-Toned Vintage Print, 23.7 x 18 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Carl Phillips: “To Sing a Song of Water”

 

Photographers Unknown, To Sing a Song of Water

Archery

           was still a thing, then. To have timed your arrow
perfectly meant watching the air for a moment
seem stitched throughout with a kind of
timelessness. To have straddled at last, correctly,
the storm of falling in love (and staying there) meant
the smell of apples, victory, tangerines, and smoke
all mixed together on the breath

of a stranger, half asleep still, just beginning to remember a bit,
as he stirs beside you. I dreamed we were young again,
he’s mumbling, as if to someone whose name he’s known
long enough to have called it out more than once in anger
and sex and fear equally. Somewhere happiness too,

right? All those hours spent trying to outstare the distance
of what the days must come to,

and pretending a choice to it: now the shadow-script
that willows and hazel trees mark the barn’s western
face with; now the wind-rippled field, like a lesser version—tamer,
tameable—of the sea, for movement (same infinite
pattern, and variation; randomness and intention; release;
restraint—that kind of movement) …

                                                         Dear saddle
of gentleness. Dear moss, sweet moss that only
the dark and wet and patience make possible. To sing a song
of  water, and not drown in it. And some calling that
a good trick. And some calling it

mastery. That last flickering before nightfall. From beneath
the low branches. I dreamed we were new again. Stars. Just a little
past dusk.

Carl Phillips, Archery, 2020

Born in Everett, Washington, in July of 1959, Carl Phillips is an American poet and writer. The child of a military family which changed residences year to year, he spent his teenage years in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Phillips earned his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University, where he studied Latin and Greek. He next earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Massachusetts, and his Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University. 

Phillips first began to write poetry in his teenage years, a time during which he constructed a world of his own that he could rely on. After entering Harvard University, he did not write any poetry for a long time; however, in 1990 after coming to terms with his identity as a gay man, Phiilips rediscovered his voice as a poet. A classicist by his formal training, he draws allusions to classical art, music and literature in his poems through the use of metaphors and associative words. His poems are often presented in a narrative form which is emphasized through the use of spaced pauses, italics, hyphens, ellipsis, and parentheses. 

Phillips published his first collection of poems, “In the Blood”, in 1992. This collection of love poems and poems based on Greek mythology and Christian iconography won the Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize. His second book, the 1995 “Cortège”, a collection which explores desire and the various points at which spirit and flesh intersect, was nominated tor the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Lambda Gay Men’s Poetry Award.

Carl Phillips’s collections, the 2000 “Pastoral” and the 2001 “The Tether”, winner of the Kingsley Tuft Poetry Award, were both well received by the critics. His seventh book, the 2005 “The Rest of Love”, examined the conflict between belief and disbelief and our ability to face up to hard truths. This collection won the 2005 Thom Gunn Award. Phillips’s recent work includes “Speak Low”, a 2009 work that was a finalist for the National Book Award; the 2011 “Double Shadow” which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry; and the 2013 “Silverchest” which was nominated for the Griffin Prize. His thirteenth collection of poems, the 2015 “Reconnaissance”, was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Best Poetry and won the Lambda Literary Award and the PEN Center USA Award.

Carl Phillips has also published works of criticism; two collections of essays puvlished by Graywolf Press include the 2004 “Coin of the Realm”Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry” and the 2014 “The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination”. 

Carl Phillips previously taught Latin in public schools for eight years before becoming Professor of English at St. Louis’s Washington University, where he also teaches creative writing. He was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006 and has served as the judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets since 2011. Phillips received an Award in Literature form the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Academy of American Poets Prize and a Pushcart Prize. 

Note: Carl Phillip’s 1995 poem, “Cortège”, was actually my first choice for the poem to be included with his biography; however, the poem in its full form was too lengthy for this posting. For those interested in reading this poem, I offer this link: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47856/cortege-56d228a1cf7ae

Richard Blanco: “Burning in the Rain”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Six

Someday compassion would demand
I set myself free of my desire to recreate
my father, indulge in my mother’s losses,
strangle lovers with words, forcing them
to confess for me and take the blame.
Today was that day: I tossed them, sheet
by sheet on the patio and gathered them
into a pyre. I wanted to let them go
in a blaze, tiny white dwarfs imploding
beside the azaleas and ficus bushes,
let them crackle, burst like winged seeds,
let them smolder into gossamer embers—
a thousand gray butterflies in the wind.
Today was that day, but it rained, kept
raining. Instead of fire, water—drops
knocking on doors, wetting windows
into mirrors reflecting me in the oaks.
The garden walls and stones swelling
into ghostlier shades of themselves,
the wind chimes giggling in the storm,
a coffee cup left overflowing with rain.
Instead of burning, my pages turned
into water lilies floating over puddles,
then tiny white cliffs as the sun set,
finally drying all night under the moon
into papier-mâché souvenirs. Today
the rain would not let their lives burn.

Richard Blanco, Burning in the Rain, Looking for the Gulf Motel, 2012

Born in February of 1968 in Madrid, Spain, Richard Blanco is an American poet, author, and a public speaker. The son of a Cuban-exile family, he spent his early years in Miami and earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Miami’s Florida International University. In addition to his profession as a practicing civil engineer, Blanco has been a writer and poet since 1991.

As a professor, Blanco has taught at several universities, including American University, Georgetown University, Wesleyan University, Central Connecticut State University, and Colby College in Maine; he is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Florida International University. Blanco also teaches poetry at such diverse institutions as grade schools, nursing homes, writers workshops, correctional institutions, and non-profits such as the Writer’s Center located in Maryland.

Richard Blanco’s first book of poetry, the 1998 “City of a Hundred Fires” received critical acclaim and won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press. This collection of poems explored his coming of age as a Cuban-American in Miami and the transformation he experienced after his first trip back to his homeland of Cuba. Between 1999 and 2001, Blanco traveled extensively through Europe, South America, and the New England area of the United States. This experience resulted in his second poetry collection, “Directions to the Beach of the Dead” published in 2005, which explored the familiar but unsettling journey for home and connections. This collection of narrative lyric poetry was the winner of the American Beyond Margins Award from PEN International.

Blanco’s third book of poetry, the 2012 “Looking for the Gulf Motel”, explored how his family’s emotional legacy has shaped and continues to shape his perspectives. Divided in three sections, the collection discusses questions of cultural identity, the blurred lines of gender, the father-son relationship, identity as a Cuban-American gay man living in rural Maine, the experience of exile, and one’s impermanence in the world. Poems in this collection include “Burning in the Rain”, seen above, and  “Queer Theory, According to My Grandmother”, a skeptical look at the admonishments made by his conservative generation of elders against being perceived as gay. 

Richard Blanco’s “Looking for the Gulf Motel” won the Thom Gunn Award, the Maine Literary Award, and the Paterson Poetry Prize. He  followed this collection with the poem “Boston Strong”, recited as the opening to the Boston Strong Concert, a benefit concert to assist the families of the victims who were killed and to help the people most affected by the tragic events during the April 2013 Boston Marathon. A commemorative chapbook of Blanco’s poem was published in 2013 with all the proceeds going to the Victim Relief Fund of The One Fund Boston to help those affected.

On January 8, 2013, Richard Blanco was named the Inaugural Poet of the United States for Barack Obama’s second presidential inauguration. Blanco was the first immigrant, first Latino, and first openly-gay person to be an inaugural poet. He performed “One Today”, an original poem he wrote for the occasion; this poem was meant to reconfirm the nation’s collective identity in a time of tragedy. In November of 2015, it was published in book form as “One Day” with drawings by David “Day” Pilkey, an award-winning illustrator of books for children. 

In addition to his poetry collections and performances around the world, Blanco has published two memoirs, the 2013 “For All of Us, One Today” and the 2014 “The Prince of Ios Cocuyos”, which won the Maine Literary Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir. He wrote the forward and poems to accompany a series of vintage photographs of Cuba for the 2014  “Cuba Then: Rare and Classic Images from the Ramiro Fernandez Collection”, a collection of three hundred vintage photos from one of the largest archives of Cuban photography in the world. Blanco also collaborated with landscape photographer Jacob Bond Hessler on his 2017 “Boundaries”. This collection of poems and photographs challenged the physical, imagined and psychological boundaries of race, gender, class,  and ethnicity that divide the American nation.

Richard Blanco was appointed as a founding member of the Obama Foundation Advisory Counsel and has lectured at the U. S. National Archives. He is a member of the prestigious Macondo Writers Workshop, an association of socially-engaged master’s level writers. Richard Blanco and his partner currently live in Maine. 

John Harris: “I Too Found the Inner Chamber”

Photographers Unknown, I Too Found the Inner Chamber

The Government hated
all secret rites and ceremonies,
for they hinted at treason.

And so, in Catholic households,
there would be an innermost room,
behind a hidden door,
where the family knelt for Mass,
hoping they wouldn’t be burned alive
by agents and spies of the King.
Victimae paschali
the countertenors would sing,
their strange, angelic voices weaving through
the settings of William Byrd.

I too
found the inner chamber.
With my high, forbidden voice,
How could I not?

When your ears are opened
you hear the secret music.

And soon you are singing.

John Harris, Listening to William Byrd (d. 1623)

Born in Bolenowe in October of 1820, John Harris was a Cornish poet. The eldest of nine children, he was raised in a two bedroom cottage situated on the slopes of his village located in the historic and ceremonial county of Cornwall, one of the Celtic nations. 

At the age of twelve, Harris followed his father into the Dolooath copper and tin mine where they both worked as miners. This became his occupation for twenty years, during which he endured heavy labor and  began to produce poetry celebrating his native landscape. Not able to afford pen and paper, Harris’s poems describing the villages and peninsular landscapes of southern-most Cornwall were written on grocery wrapping paper with blackberry ink. 

In the 1840s, John Harris married Jane Rule, with whom he had two daughters and two sons. After one of his poems was published in a magazine and received favorable notice, he was able in 1853 to publish his first poetry collection. Following the early death of his second-born daughter Lucretia during Christmas of 1855 and through the assistance of a friend, Harris found an occupation as a traveling Bible-reader and comforter at southern Cornwall’s coastal parish of Falmouth where he would spend the remainder of his life.

While living in Falmouth, Harris produced several volumes of poetry and, in 1863, wrote what is considered his most important work, “A Story of  Carn Brea”. This descriptive poem expressed the special childhood link Harris had with the ancient Celtic site, home to Carn Brea Castle and the Bassett Monument. Through the Earl of Beaconsfield, Harris received a two-hundred Pound grant from the Royal Bounty Fund, which was followed in September of 1881 by a one-hundred Pound grant from the prime minister for service to the state. John Harris died in Falmouth on the 7th of January of 1884, at the age of sixty-three. As to his dying request, he was buried at Treslothan Chapel at the foot of Carn Brea hill. 

Notes: A biography entitled “John Harris, the Cornish Poet: The Story of His Life” was written by his son John Howard Harris and published by Oxford University in 1884; this biography was republished by Franklin Classics in 2018. Harris’s poems can be found in the 1977 collection entitled “ Songs from the Earth: Selected Poems of John Harris, Cornish Miner, 1820-24”, published by Lodenek Press. 

Several poems by John Harris can be found at the John Harris Society’s online site located at:  https://www.johnharrissociety.org.uk/poetry

Many thanks to a great source of LBGTQ literature and biographies,The Gay and Lesbian Review (G&LR), for John Harris’s poem “Listening to William Byrd (d. 1623)”.

Essex Hemphill: “Our Kisses Are Petals, Our Tongues Caress the Bloom”

Photographers Unknown, Our Kisses Are Petals

Times are lean,
Pretty Baby,
the beans are burnt
to the bottom
of the battered pot.
Let’s make fierce love
on the over-stuffed,
hand-me-down sofa.
We can burn it up, too.
Our hungers
will evaporate like-money.
I smell your lust,
not the pot burnt black
with tonight’s meager meal.
So we can’t buy flowers
for our table
Our kisses are petals,
our tongues caress the bloom.
Who dares to tell us
we are poor and powerless?
We keep treasure
any king would count as dear.
Come on, Pretty Baby.
Our souls can’t be crushed
like cats crossing streets too soon.
Let the beans burn all night long.
Our chipped water glasses are filled
with wine from our loving.
And the burnt black beans-
caviar

Essex Hemphill, Black Beans, Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry, 2000

Born in Chicago in April of 1957, Essex Hemphill was an openly gay American poet and activist known for his contributions to Washington D.C.’s art scene in the 1980s. In his early years, Hemphill moved with his family to Washington D.C. where he attended Ballou High School in Congress Heights. Already having written poetry since the age of fourteen, he enrolled at the University of Maryland to study journalism. Hemphill left the university after his freshman year and enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia, where he graduated with a degree in English. Throughout his college years, he interacted with the local art scene, gave spoken word performances, and began to publish poetry chapbooks. 

Known for the political edge of his performances, Hemphill openly addressed the issues of race, identity, sexuality, HIV and AIDS, and the concept of family in his work, all issues central to the African American gay community. In 1979, he became a co-founder of the Nethula Journal of Contemporary Literature, a publication to showcase modern black artists. Through an arrangement by Nethula co-editor and educator Eugene Ethelbert Miller, Hemphill performed one of his first public readings, along with filmmaker Michella Parkerson, at Howard University’s Founder Library.

In 1982, Essex Hemphill, along with Larry Duckett and Wayson Jones, founded ”Cinque”, a spoken word group which performed in the Washington D. C. area. The following year he received a grant from the non-profit Washington Project for the Arts for “Murder on Glass”, an experimental poetry dramatization which he performed alongside Wayson Jones and Michelle Parkerson. Their work was later featured in two documentaries by filmmaker Marlon Riggs, the  1989 “Tongues Untied” and the 1994 “Black Is. . .Black Ain’t”, which won the Filmmakers’ Trophy at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. 

Hemphill’s first published poetry collections were two chapbooks, “Earth Life” in 1985 and “Conditions” in 1986. His work received additional attention with its inclusion in the 1986 anthology “In the Life”, a collection of poems from gay, black artists, compiled by Hemphill’s fellow author and lover, the gay rights activist Joseph F. Beam. Hemphill’s  first full-length collection, entitled “Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry”, was published in 1992 and won the National Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual New Author Award. His editing credits include the 1991 anthology “Brother to Brother: New Writing by Black Gay Men”, which won the Lambda Literary Award.

Many of Essex Hemphill’s poetry and spoken word works were autobiographical and portrayed his experiences as a minority in both the African-American and LGBTQ communities. His pieces conveyed his frustrations about bigotry, the relationships among gay black men and non-gay black men, the effect of HIV/AIDS on the black community, and the meaning of one’s family, community and support. 

In the decade of the 1990s, Hemphill rarely gave information on his health, only talking occasionally about being a person with AIDS. He did not write about his experience with the disease until his 1994 poem “Vital Signs”. Hemphill died the following year on the 4th of November, at the age of fifty-eight, of AIDS related complications. In June of 2019, he was one of the fifty inaugural American pioneers and heroes inducted on the National LBGTQ Wall of Honor within the Stonewall National Monument in New York City’s Stonewall Inn. It is the first United States national monument dedicated to LBGTQ rights and history.

Note: A suggested article is J. T. Roane’s 2017 “The Poetic Theology of Essex Hemphill”, which was published in the African American Intellectual History Society’s online publication “Black Perspectives”. The article is located at:  https://www.aaihs.org/the-poetic-theology-of-essex-hemphill/

Frank Bidart: “Night Was the Guide Sweeter Than the Sun Raw at Dawn”

Photographers Unknown, Night Was the Guide

In a dark night, when the light
burning was the burning of love (fortuitous
night, fated, free,—)
as I stole from my dark house, dark
house that was silent, grave, sleeping—

by the staircase that was secret, hidden
safe: disguised by darkness (fortuitous
night, fated, free—)
by darkness and by cunning, dark
house that was silent, grave, sleeping—;

in that sweet night, secret, seen by
no one and seeing
nothing, my only light or
guide
the burning in my burning heart,

night was the guide
sweeter than the sun raw at
dawn, for there the burning bridegroom is
bride
and he who chose at last is chosen.

.

As he lay sleeping on my sleepless
breast, kept from the beginning for him
alone, lying on the gift I gave
as the restless
fragrant cedars moved the restless winds,—

winds from the circling parapet circling
us as I lay there touching and lifting his hair,–
with his sovereign hand, he
wounded my neck=
and my senses, when they touched that, touched nothing. . .

In a dark night (there where I
lost myself, —) as I leaned to rest
in his smooth white breast, everything
ceased
and left me, forgotten in the grave of forgotten lilies.

Frank Bidart, Dark Night

Born in Bakersfield, California, in May of 1939, Frank Bidart is an American academic and a poet, and the winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He started his studies in 1957 at the University of California at Riverside where, after reading works by Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, he decided on a career in poetry. He continued his studies at Harvard, where he became both a student and friend to Robert Lowell, the sixth Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and Elizabeth Bishop, the 1956 Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry and, after Lowell’s departure, the subsequent Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.

Bidart’s work is written in the style of Confessional poetry which emerged in the United States during the late 1950s and early 1960s. In this personal form of poetry, the speaker focuses on extreme moments of individual experience, thoughts, and personal traumas, which may include such experiences as mental illness, sexuality, and self-harm. These issues are often set against the broader themes of society. In the 1950s, confessional poets often wrote about the unhappiness in their lives in opposition to the idealization of domestic life which was propagated at the time.

Frank Bidart’s early work often disregarded the formal conventions of poetry. His narrative works are not seamless dramatic monologues but rather snippets of speech, anecdotes, reminiscences, analogies, and notes and letters which are spliced together in a cinematic progression. In his poetry, Bidart uses unusual typography and takes liberties with capitalization and punctuation; this process allows the reader to visualize, spatially, the urgencies, emphases, pauses and fatigue in the poem’s voice.

Frank Bidart gained critical attention with his first two books, the 1973 “Golden State” and the 1977 “The Book of the Body”. However, it was his 1983 “The Sacrifice” that made his reputation as an original, uncompromising poet. These three early works, focused on the origins and consequences of guilt, were later published together in the 1990 collection “In the Western Night: Collected Poems1965-90”.  Among Bidart’s most notable works are monologues spoken by central characters.Two examples of these are “Herbert White” from the “Golden State”collection, a monologue spoken through the voice of a psychopathic child murderer, and “Ellen West” included in “The Book of the Body”, spoken by a woman with an eating disorder.

Bidart’s 1997 collection “Desire” began with thirteen short poems, one of which was a memorial to artist  and writer Joe Brainard, who was associated with the New York School movement of poets, painters, dancers and musicians active during the 1950s and 1960s. A prodigious artist known for his collages and his memoir “I Remember”, Brainard died from AIDS in May of 1994. The second half of the book, “The Second Hour of the Night” was a long poem that questioned the traditional assumptions about love told through a recounting of Ovid’s tale of Myrrha’s incestuous love for her father.This collection, which also included writings by Dante and Marcus Aurelius, received the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Prize and was a finalist for three awards: the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

Frank Bidart’s sixth book “Star Dust”, also divided in two parts, was nominated for a National Book Award and employed the familiar Bidart typography, including block capitals, italics and blank spaces, and used the techniques of quotations, paraphrases and monologues. His 2008 “Watching the Spring Festival” was his first book of lyric poems. Bidart’s  2013 collection “Metaphysical Dog” won the National Book Critics Circle Award and “Half-light: Collected Poems 1965-2016” won both the 2017 National Book Award for Poetry and the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. 

Frank Bidart has taught at Brandeis University and, since 1972, at Wellesley College, both located in the state of Massachusetts. Bidart’s poem “Herbert White” became the basis for actor and poet James Franco’s  2010 short film of the same name. Bidart became a chancellor of The Academy of American Poets in 2001 and, in 2017, won the Griffin Poetry Prize Lifetime Recognition Award.

Bill Hollands: “The Paradox of Beauty in the Midst of Suffering”

Photographers Unknown, The Paradox of Beauty in the Midst of Suffering

I sit in the darkened theater and watch
images of naked men on the screen. Is it wrong
to be turned on by a marble sculpture
from the Hellenistic period? Do you know
the story? Laocoön warned the Trojans
about Greeks bearing gifts (see also
Trojan Horse) and the gods sent big snakes
to punish Laocoön and his sons. The professor
drones on but the message is clear: Sons suffer
for the sins of their father. I, on the other hand,
can’t take my eyes off the son on the right.
He looks at his father and his brother and to me
his expression is not Help but I’m out. Meanwhile,
he slyly slips the coiled snake from around
his ankle as if he’s shedding a wet
Speedo. I return to my dorm room
and geek out. Apparently, my guy
wasn’t even connected to the others
when they unearthed the sculpture’s fragments.
Plus, in another version of the story, that son
escapes the snake’s jaws altogether. And,
anyway, the whole thing might just be a fraud.
One theory goes that it’s a forgery by Michelangelo
who passed it off as an antiquity for cash
and you know which son he had his eye on. So,
on the test when the professor asks about the paradox
of beauty in the midst of suffering
I write about the liberated son
and take my B and call it good.

Bill Hollands, Escape

Born and raised in Miami, Bill Hollands is an American poet and educator. He graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts, where he studied under poets Louise Glück and Lawrence Raab. As a Herchel Smith Fellow, Hollands studied at Cambridge University’s Emmanuel College, where he earned a Masters Degree in English. Continuing his studies, he earned a third degree at the University of Michigan. 

Hollands was the first internet librarian for the New York Public Library and had worked for many years on Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia, a multi-media digital information source. He is currently a teacher and poet in Seattle, where he resides with his husband and their child.

Bill Hollands’s work typically consists of narrative poems, a longer form of poetry, typically told by just one narrator, that contains all story elements, including plot, characters, conflict and resolution. A narrative poem’s story is more condensed than one in prose, the exception being epic poems. 

Hollands was recently named a finalist for North American Review’s James Hearst Poetry Prize. He was also a semi-finalist in the 2020 National Poetry Month competition for his submitted works “ICYMI” and “The Crocodile Pit at the Serpentarium, Miami, Florida”. Hollands was a recent contributor to the 3Elements Literary Review; his poem “Parrot Jungle, Polaroid, Miami, May 1981” appeared in the Summer 2020, Issue No. 27.

Bill Hollands’s poems have appeared in both online and print publications including The Summerset Review, PageBoy, Rattle, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The American journal of Poetry, The North American Review, and the online publication DIAGRAM, among others.

Bill Hollands’s poetry site can be located at: https://billhollandspoetry.com

Gaston-Marie Martin

Photography and Sculptural Work by Gaston-Marie Martin

Following a lineage of artistic personalities, Gaston-Marie Martin is a French photographer and sculptor who currently lives and works in Paris. His photographic work of male figures  are either in black and white format or tinted with colors.  

Revisiting classical references in his sculptural work, Martin creates reliquaries which, hidden away in their interiors, contain secret, almost ceremonial photographs of male figures. These instruments of memory blend the history of painting and the epic of photography with an archaeology of erotism. The reliquaries raise, in a very personal way, the art medium of nudity to a fascinating form of symbolism.

Gaston-Marie Martin’s works can be found at the artist’s sites located at: 

https://ofleadandlight.tumblr.com

http://gastonmariemartin.blogspot.com

Wilbur Underwood: “Deep as the Void Above Us and Sweet as the Dawn-Star”

Photographers Unknown,  Deep As The Void Above Us

All night long through the starlit air and the stillness,
Through the cool wanness of dawn and the burning of noontide,
Onward we strain with a mighty resounding of hoof-beats.

Heaven and earth are ashake with the terrible trampling;
Wild, straying feet of a vast and hastening army;
Wistful eyes that helplessly seek one another.

Hushed is the dark to hear the plaint of our lowing,
Mournful cry of the dumb-tired hearts within us,
Faint to death with thirst and the gnawing of hunger.

Day by day through the dust and heat have we thirsted;
Day by day through stony ways have we hungered;
Naught but a few bitter herbs that grew by the wayside.

What we flee that is far behind in the darkness,
Where the place of abiding for us, we know not;
Only we hark for the voice of the Master Herdsman.

Many a weary day must pass ere we hear it,
Blown on the winds, now close, now far in the distance,
Deep as the void above us and sweet as the dawn-star.

Wilbur Underwood, The Cattle of His Hand, Excerpt

Born in 1874, Wilbur Underwood was an American poet whose work had strong affiliations with the literary Decadent movement of the late-nineteenth century. This movement was characterized by a rejection of the world’s banal progress and its norms of morality and sexual behavior, a love for extravagant language in literature, and an emphasis on art for its own sake. 

Few prominent writers, however, were connected to the Decadent movement in the United States, one exception being the poet George Sylvester Viereck who wrote the 1907 “Nineveh and Other Poems’, as Americans at that time were reluctant to see value in the movement’s art forms. Although Underwood’s poetry had some affinities with the Romantic and Pre-Raphaelite eras, the vast majority of his work was written in a decadent style.

Wilbur Underwood worked in a clerical-administrative position in the United States State Department until 1933. He was a member of the homosexual underground scene of the period and is best known as the mentor and confidant of poet Hart Crane, whom he met in 1920 in Washington D.C.  Hart Crane’s intimate letters to Underwood have been published, often censored, in several anthologies. 

One of the first poems of Underwood to be published was his “The Cattle of His Hand”, which appeared in poet Edmund Clarence Stedman’s 1900 verse collection, “An American Anthology”.  Underwood published five volumes of poetry in his lifetime; the first of which was the 1907 “A Book of Masks” which was followed two years later by his “Damien of Molokai”. His third collection was the 1927 “The Way: Poems”, which was followed in the following year by “To One In Heaven”. Underwood’s final verse collection was “Fountain of Dark Waters”, published in 1933. 

Wilbur Underwood died in 1935 at the age of sixty-one. A collection of his poems, “Selected Poems”, was published posthumously in 1949. Underwood’s papers, amassed and catalogued by his brother Norman, were given to the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. These include journals, sketchbooks and illustrations, poems, photographs, legal records, and other printed material.

Notes: One of the best sources of information on Wilbur Underwood is Olive Fisher’s 2002 biography “Hart Crane: A Life”, published by Yale University. 

The 1980 Spring Issue of The Souther Review magazine contained the article entitled “Wind-Blown Flames: Letters of Hart Crane to Wilbur Underwood”. Unfortunately, it is not archived online.

Wilbur Underwood’s poem “The Cattle of His Hand”, in its entirety, can be found at bartleby.com located at https://www.bartleby.com/248/1676.html

Insert Images: Two hand-written poems from “A Book of Masks”, published 1907.

Richard Hovey: “He Flung Himself at the Eternal Sky”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Five

AVID of life and love, insatiate vagabond,
With quest too furious for the graal he would have won,
He flung himself at the eternal sky, as one
Wrenching his chains but impotent to burst the bond.
Yet under the revolt, the revel, the despond,
What pools of innocence, what crystal benison!
As through a riven mist that glowers in the sun,
A stretch of God’s blue calm glassed in a virgin pond.
Prowler of obscene streets that riot reels along,
And aisles with incense numb and gardens mad with rose,
Monastic cells and dreams of dim brocaded lawns,
Death, which has set the calm of Time upon his song,
Surely upon his soul has kissed the same repose
In some fair heaven the Christ has set apart for
Fauns.

Richard Hovey, Verlaine, Songs from Vagabondia, Richard Hovey and Bliss Carman, 1894

Born in Normal, Illinois, in May of 1864, Richard Hovey was a poet, translator, and dramatist. A talented poet at an early age, his first volume of poetry was privately published in 1880, at the age of sixteen. He graduated from Dartmouth college in 1885; he is known for writing its official Alma Mater, “Men of Dartmouth”. He was described by many who knew him as a self-conscious man, an American Oscar Wilde in both mannerisms and clothes.

After graduation, Hovey studied art in Washington, DC, and then theology at the Central Theological Seminary in New York City; he later became a lay assistant at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin. Hovey relocated to Boston where he became a newspaper reporter and, in 1887, met the Canadian poet Bliss Carman, with whom he would begin a lengthy collaboration. After studying acting for a brief period to become a better playwright, Hovey wrote the first collection of his dramatic poems, “Lancelot and Guenevere: A Poem in Dramas”, which was published in 1891. Originally planned as  a collection of nine plays, he only completed four volumes, one of which was the 1895 “The Marriage of Guenevere”. 

Richard Hovey moved to France in the following year and met many members of the French Symbolist movement, including the French poets Paul Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarme, and the Belgian poet Maurice Masterlinck, a future Nobel Prize winner who greatly influenced Hovey’s work. Hovey and Bliss Carman were both members of the “Visionists” group, a Boston-based social group of artists and writers who shared an interest in Aestheticism, Theosophy, and the Decadent movement. Members of this group also included writer and art critic John Ruskin, poet and painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and writer Oscar Wilde. 

After becoming one of the first translators of Maurice Masterlinck’s works, completing eight plays into English, Richard Hovey collaborated with Bliss Carman on their first project together, the “Songs of Vagabondia”. Published in 1894, this collective work celebrated the carefree life of a vagabond on the road in the fictitious place called Vagabondia. The Bohemian mood of their poems of masculine comradeship and college fraternity received critical acclaim and became an immediate success; it was followed by a second volume “More Songs from Vagabondia” in 1896 and a third “Last Songs from Vagabondia”, published in 1900 after Hovey’s death. 

Besides his collaborations with Bliss Carman, Hovey had a number of works published under his own name. These include the 1893 “Seaward”, an 1898 elegy on the poet Thomas William Parsons;  the 1898 “Along the Trail: A Book of Lyrics”; and the 1898 “Taliesin, A Masque”, a poetic play in which the bard Taliesin and Percival, a knight of the Round Table, meet the spirit of Merlin, the Three Muses, and Hermes, and other characters. Hovey’s “To the End of the Trail” was published posthumously in 1908. 

Richard Hovey lectured on Aesthetics at the Farmington School of Philosophy and, in 1888, became a lecturer at Columbia University in New York.  He also, in his last years, was a Professor of English at Barnard College in New York City. He died on February 24th of 1900, at the age of thirty-five, after undergoing minor surgery.

The Richard Hovey collection, containing manuscripts, correspondence, scrapbooks, notebooks, and newspaper clippings is housed in theDartmouth Library Archives and Manuscripts.

Notes: After a large fresco painted by Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco in the Dartmouth College campus library was judged by many alumni to be too critical of the college, alumnus and illustrator Walter Beach Humphrey was allowed to paint a mural more in character with the college. 

This mural was based on a drinking song written by Richard Hovey and portrays the mythical founding of the college by Eleazer Wheelock. In its first panel, he is seen pulling a five-hundred gallon of rum, and being greeted by young Native American men, whom he introduces to drunken revelry. This encounter circles the faculty dining hall and also features half-naked Native American women. In the early 1970s, the “Hovey Murals” became so controversial that they were covered over, and the room itself was closed.

An extensive article for those interested is Ezra Pound scholar Leon Surette’s “Ezra Pound, Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey” which contains the meeting of Carman and Hovey, and Pound’s recollections of them. It can be found at:  https://canadianpoetry.org/volumes/vol43/surette.html

Middle Insert Image: Robert Gryden, “Richard Hovey”, Date Unknown, Engraving

Samuel Greenberg: “And This Great Human Rebellion”

Photographers Unknown

And this great human rebellion, has it’s scattered laureates – sparks,
That kindle the flame to repeat my brother will cause the perfumed love more clear
And seek heavenly envy. In spite the selfish heart limits perhaps weave the better birth
We then easily blend a lodge, which can pray upon the universe of charm
And share the impulse of progress, this vital grain must plead thousand-fold
Live in us, as the blowing sea breeze! Through an angel gate,
The ecliptic change found me under a leafless Oak.
The cast shadowings of branches like madusa’s skull
There in on looking leveled my talent to flood the mind in abstract ecstasy,
The gallant spurtive land and heaven with the numberless diamond circle, gives joy hither,
Whether the banner contains power to plenty the soul,
This humble chip in our reverence doth limit it’s whole

end.

Samuel Greenberg, And This Great Human Rebellion

Poet and artist Samuel Greenberg, the sixth of eight children born to Jacob and Hannah Greenberg, was born on December 13, 1893, in a Jewish ghetto in Vienna, Austria. The family emigrated to the United States in October of 1900 and settled on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where his father worked as an embroiderer. With his mother’s death in  1908, Greenberg, at the age of fourteen, was compelled to leave school to support his family and began work at his older brother Adolf’s leather shop, where he likely contracted tuberculosis in 1912. 

Greenberg began writing poems in his notebooks sometime in 1912. In that year, he also began taking piano lessons, often drawing staff lines with musical notes in his notebooks. Greenberg was also a avid reader of British Romantic classics, as well as the works of John Milton, William Blake, and Oscar Wilde. He painted and was a sketch artist; many of his works, often portraying young men seen in Washington Square Park, were done on scraps of paper or in small sketchbooks. 

Samuel Greenberg was fluent in three languages, Yiddish, German and English. His existing poetry, written in a hard-to decipher English scrawl, was composed between 1913 and 1917. Greenberg’s work was raw in form, contained many spelling errors and unclear grammar; his preferred poetic structure, the sonnet, never extended beyond fourteen lines. Due to his fragile health and early death of both parents, Greenberg was deeply aware of his own mortality, a feeling he relayed in his poems.

After the death of his father in 1913, Samuel Greenberg spent the rest of his life living with one sibling or another. In his final years, he was in and out of charity hospitals in the boroughs of Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens, where he did most of his writing. Samuel Greenberg died of tuberculosis, at the age of twenty-three, in the Manhattan State Hospital on Wards Island on August 16, 1917.

Samuel Greenberg’s work, consisting of over six hundred poems and fifteen notebooks, was never published in his lifetime.His literary immortality is due to the praise and discovery of him by the well-known poet and critic Alan Tate. It was also due, in a large sense, to poet Hart Crane, an admirer of Greenberg’s work who excerpted material from the poems and, either verbatim or slightly modified, included it in his own work. An example of this is Crane’s “Emblems of Conduct”, where he took actual lines of Greenberg’s poem “Conduct”,  slightly altered, and included it in his own published work.

Samuel Greenberg’s work has appeared in several publications, including James Laughlin’s “Poems from the Greenberg Manuscripts”, published in 1939,  and “Self Charm: Selected Sonnets and Other Poems”, published in 2005. His papers are now housed in the Fales Collection at New York University.

Top Insert Image: Samuel Greenberg, Musical Staffs and Hands, Sketchbook Page

Bottom Insert Image: Samuel Greenberg, “Self Portrait”, 1916, Pencil on Paper

Note: A very interesting article by Jacob Silverman, entitled “Rimbaud in Embryo”, on the work and the tragically short life of Samuel Greenberg, including opinions of his poetic peers, can be found at the Poetry Foundation located at:  https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69896/rimbaud-in-embryo

There is also a reading of Samuel Greenberg’s “The Tusks of Blood” and a commentary by former Poet Laureate of New Jersey Gerald Stern at the Library of Congress’s Poetry and Literature Program: https://www.loc.gov/programs/poetry-and-literature/audio-recordings/poetry-of-america/item/poetry-00001018/gerald-stern-samuel-greenberg/

George Sylvester Viereck: “Each by Strange Wisps to Strange Abysses Drawn”

Photographers Unknown, The Faces of man: Photo Set Twelve

Sweet is the highroad when the skylarks call,
When we and Love go rambling through the land.
But shall we still walk gayly, hand in hand,
At the road’s turning and the twilight’s fall?
Then darkness shall divide us like a wall,
And uncouth evil nightbirds flap their wings;
The solitude of all created things
Will creep upon us shuddering like a pall.

This is the knowledge I have wrung from pain:
We, yea, all lovers, are not one, but twain,
Each by strange wisps to strange abysses drawn;
But through the black immensity of night
Love’s little lantern, like a glowworm’s, bright,
May lead our steps to some stupendous dawn.

George Sylvester Viereck, The Wanderers

A controversial figure in America in the first-half of the twentieth century, George Sylvester Viereck was a multi-sided figure who gained fame as a journalist and neo-romantic poet; he also earned equal infamy as a publicist for pro-German causes. Born in Munich in December of 1884, he was  the first-born son of Louis Viereck, a member of the Reichstag who was imprisoned in 1886 for attending socialist meetings, and  San Francisco-born Laura Viereck, Louis’s first cousin. The family emigrated to the United States in 1896 and, five years later, Viereck’s father became an American citizen.

George Viereck studied at the City College of New York where he graduated in 1906. While still in college, he published, with the help of literary critic Ludwig Lewisohn, his first collection of poems in 1904. Viereck’s  next collection, “Nineveh and Other Poems” published in 1905, brought him national fame. Several poems in this collection were written in the style of the Uranian movement, a movement of primarily gay male artists and philosophers in the English-speaking world from the 1870s to the 1930s. 

From 1907 to 1912, Viereck developed a profound identification with Germany and became fascinated with all aspects of the German culture and people. In 1907, he published a vampire novel, “The House of the Vampire”, which was not only one of the first psychic-vampire stories but, also,  one of the first known homosexual vampire novels. Viereck, in 1908, published his best-selling “Confessions of a Barbarian”, a collection of personal narratives on subjects such as morals, art, and both German and international culture. Viereck was invited in 1911 to lecture on American poetry at the University of Berlin. Due to his ardent support of Germany and pacifism during the period of estranged Anglo-German relations leading up to World War I,  he was later expelled from several organizations and social clubs. 

Outspoken in his views against America’s involvement in World War I, George Viereck founded and became editor of the German-sponsored magazine “The Fatherland”, which argued the German cause. He was later arrested and served time in a Washington D.C. jail, during which period his son George Jr. died as a  combat casualty of the first world war which Viereck had vigorously opposed.  In August of 1918, a mob stormed Viereck’s  Mount Vernon home: and, in the following year, he was expelled from the Poetry Society of America. In 1919, Viereck wrote the book “Roosevelt”, a psycho-analytical study of Theodore Roosevelt and his attitude on matters of international interest, which was published by New York City’s Jackson Press.

After the end of the war, Viereck traveled throughout Europe and America interviewing many notable personalities, including Sigmund Freud, George Bernard Shaw, Adolf Hitler, Henry Ford, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, Benito Mussolini, and Albert Einstein, among others.  In 1924, he published a collection of poetry, entitled “The Three Sphinxes and Other Poems”; the collection’s poem “Slaves” would be quoted several times in the 1968 psycho-thriller film “Twisted Nerve” and be the inspiration for its title. 

George Viereck became a well-known supporter of National Socialism and a regular apologist for Germany. In 1933, he again met Hitler, who had become Germany’s leader, and gave a speech in 1934 at New York’s Madison Square Garden to an audience of twenty thousand in which he supported National Socialism without its antisemitism. In 1941 George Viereck established his own publishing house, Flanders Hall, in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, but was eventually indicted by the government for a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Convicted in 1942 for failing to register with the U. S. State Department as a National Socialist agent, he was imprisoned from 1942 to 1947. 

In 1952, Viereck’s “Men Into Beasts”, a general memoir of the loss of dignity, brutality, and the situational homosexuality and rape he witnesse in jail, was published by Fawcett Publications. This book was shortly followed by two more works: the 1952 “Gloria: A Novel” and the 1953 “The Nude in the Mirror”. Between 1906 and 1953, he published twenty-three works in the genres of theater plays, poetry, works of fiction, and works of political discussion and criticism. 

George Viereck’s literary works after his release from prison were not very successful, except for his “Men Into Beasts”, which would become one of the first original titles of 1950s gay novels. In 1955, he suffered a series of mild strokes and ceased his writing. George Sylvester Viereck died in March of 1962 in Holyoke, Massachusetts, of a massive cerebral hemorrhage at the age of seventy-seven. 

Note: An interesting read on the emotional and psychological development of Viereck’s life, and his perception of his own sexuality, is Phyllis Keller’s “George Sylvester Viereck: The Psychology of a German-American Militant” from the MIT Press. It can be found at the JSTOR site: https://www.jstor.org/stable/202443

Joseph Hansen: “Wider Than a Man’s Two Stretched Arms”

Photographers Unknown, An Assemblage of Hands

“The waterwheel was twice a man’s height, wider than a man’s two stretched arms. The timbers, braced and bolted with rusty iron, were heavy, hand-hewn, swollen with a century of wet. Moss bearded the paddles, which dripped as they rose. The sounds were good. Wooden stutter like children running down a hall at the end of school. Grudging axle thud like the heartbeat of a strong old man.”

Joseph Hansen, Death Claims, 1973

Born in Aberdeen, South Dakota in July of 1923, Joseph Hansen was a poet and American crime novelist, best know for his series of novels featuring the gay private detective Dave Brandstetter. After his family settled in Altadena, California, Hansen attended the Pasadena Community College, where he focused on literature. Inspired by the ease with which Walt Whitman viewed his own sexual identity and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s call to be true to one’s self, Hansen made the decision to embrace his gay identity at an early age.

Beginning his writing career in the genre of poetry, Hansen’s  first published work was a poem submitted in 1952 to The New Yorker magazine. While employed part-time at bookstores, he continued writing poetry for various magazines, including the Los Angeles-based ONE, the first pro-gay publication in the United States. Hansen’s early fiction efforts, under various pseudonyms,  were also first published by ONE  He also used pseudonyms for his early pulp writings of gay erotica. A total of six early fictional works, including his first novel “Strange Marriage”, published in 1965, were under the names of either James Colton or Rose Brock. 

In 1970, Joseph Hansen published “Fadeout”, the first novel under his own name, which became the introductory novel for his Dave Brandstetter series. Similar in style to a Raymond Chandler character, Hansen’s protagonist was an openly gay insurance investigator, who embodied the tough, stoic, and no-nonsense personality of the classic, private detective. Published two years before the Stonewall riots, a heroic, central literary character, who was a homosexual and not a one-dimensional figure, was revolutionary for that period in history. The importance of the detective’s personal life, his dealing with the death of his partner, his aging and his loneliness, expanded the psychological dimension of the hardboiled genre and, at the same time, offered the genre’s enthusiasts a gay man’s point of view.

Cited now as a groundbreaker in both crime and gay fiction, the gay character of Brandstetter was originally rejected by Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1973 because the editor thought that subscribers were not ready for homosexuality in their novels , especially not presented as a part of ordinary social life. Just as the mystery novels of Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall can be read collectively as a long discussion of Swedish society, the twelve-volume series of “Brandstetter” can be read as a chronicle of gay lives in California during the 1960s and 1970s. Hansen  showed the heterosexual world through this series that being gay is no more homogenizing than any other social category.

Joseph Hansen won the 1992 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Private Eye Writers of America. For his 1991 “A Country of Old Men”, the final novel in the Brandstetter series, he won a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Mystery. Hansen created a second investigative series, the 1988 “Bohannon’s Book”, which consisted of five novellas, centered on the character of a former deputy sheriff. This was followed in 1993 by the five novella sequel “Bohannon’s Country”. Hansen won a second Lambda Literary Award in 1993 for his novel “Living Upstairs”, the story of a young gay man coming of age.

Jospeh Hansen was active in the Gay Rights Movement and was a co-founder in 1965 of the influential gay publication “Tangents”. He produced a radio program on Los Angeles’s KPFX in 1969 entitled “Homosexuality Today” and helped with the planning for the first Gay Pride Parade in Hollywood, held in 1970. Since his first publications in early gay tabloids, Hansen strove for an inclusive civil society without  divisions in regards to race or sexual orientation. 

Described in the American Hard-Boiled Crime Writers anthology as the father of the gay mystery novel, Joseph Hansen died on November 24th of 2004 of heart failure at his Laguna Beach home in California. He was predeceased by his wife of fifty-one years, artist and educator Jane Bancroft, a lesbian with whom he shared an arrangement to have same-sex lovers, and a daughter who later transitioned and changed her name. According to friends, Hansen also had two long-term male lovers.

”Of all the writers who contributed to the LA poetry renaissance in the second half of the 20th century, Joseph Hansen probably gave the most and got the least in return. Most significantly, Hansen was one of the co-founders of the Beyond Baroque poetry workshop (now the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center), a free and open-to-the-public gathering that has met on Wednesday evenings in Venice for 45 years. Along with John Harris, Hansen established an accessible public workshop with serious standards of literary excellence. The fact that Hansen won a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship for his fiction a couple of years after starting the workshop only reinforced his stature as the workshop’s standard-bearer.”

—Bill Mohr

James Schuyler: “I Remember Very Well the Morning”

Photographers Unknown, I Remember Very Well the Morning

Coming from the deli
a block away today I
saw the UN building
shine and in all the
months and years I’ve
lived in this apartment
I took so you and I
would have a place to
meet I never notice
that it was in my view.

I remember very well
the morning I walked in
and found you in bed
with X. He dressed
and left. You dressed
too. I said, “Stay
five minutes.” You
did. You said, “That’s
the way it is.” It
was not much of a surprise.

Then X got on speed
and ripped off an
antique closet and an
air conditioner, etc.
After he was gone and
you had changed the
Segal lock, I asked
you on the phone, “Can’t
you be content with
your wife and me?” “I’m
not built that way”,
you said. No surprise.

Now, without saying
why, you’ve let me go.
You don’t return my
calls, who used to call
me almost every evening
when I lived in the coun-
try. “Hasn’t he told you
why?” “No, and I doubt he
ever will.” Goodbye. It’s
mysterious and frustrating.

How I wish you would come
back! I could tell
you how, when I lived
on East 49th, first
with Frank and then with John,
we had a lovely view of
the UN building and the
Beekman Towers. They were
not my lovers, though,
You were. You said so.

James Schuyler, This Dark Apartment, The Morning of the Poem, 1980

Born in November of 1923 in Chicago, Illinois, James Marcus Schuyler was a poet who won the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection “The Morning of the Poem”. He spent his childhood years in East Aurora, New York, and, after high school graduation, attended Bethany College in West Virginia from 1941 to 1943. During World War Two, Schuyler served on a Navy destroyer in the North Atlantic; he remained in the U.S. Navy until 1947.

After moving to New York City in the late 1940s, Schuyler worked for the National Broadcasting Company and became friends with the English poet and playwright  W. H. Auden. In 1947, he relocated to the Isle of Ischia in Italy, where he shared an apartment and worked for two years as Auden’s secretary. While in Italy, Schuyler attended the University of Florence . 

James Schuyler returned to New York City in 1950; the next year he was introduced to poets Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery at a New York party. The three poets shared an apartment on 49th Street in Manhattan and worked closely together, often contributing to each other’s writing projects. In this early period of Schuyler’s writing, he wrote two play productions: “Presenting Jane”, performed at the Cambridge,  Massachusetts, Poet’s Theatre in 1952 and “Shopping and Waiting: A Dramatic Pause” performed in 1953 at New York’s American Theater for Poets. 

By the middle of the 1950s, Schuyler was a writer and art critic for Art News magazine and was curating for circulating exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art. Among the artists he befriended were Larry Rivers, William and Elaine de Kooning, Jane Freilicher, and landscape and portrait painter Fairfield Porter. Schuyler would live with Porter and his family at their homes for twelve years from 1961 to 1973; he dedicated his first major collection of poems, the 1969 “Freely Espousing”, to Fairfield Porter and his wife Anne. This collection received the Frank O’Hara Prize for Poetry in 1969. 

The most productive period in James Schuyler’s career occurred in the late 1969s and extended through the 1970s. He coauthored a novel, entitled  “A Nest of Ninnies”, with John Ashbery in 1969 and produced three major collections of poetry: “The Crystal Lithium” in 1972, the 1974 “Hymn to Life”, and the 1980 “The Morning of the Poem”, of which the title poem is considered to be among the best long poems of the postmodern era. Numerous other works have been published throughout the years, including a 1989 recording entitled “Hymn to Life and Other Poems” produced by Watershed Intermedia.

James Schuyler was a central figure in the New York School, an informal group of poets, painters, musicians and dancers active in vanguard of New York City’s 1950-60s avant-garde art scene. He was a Guggenheim Fellow, a fellow of the American Academy of Poets, a recipient of the Longview Foundation Award in 1961, and a 1985 recipient of the Whiting Award given to emerging writers. 

James Marcus Schuyler died in Manhattan following a stroke, in April fo 1991, at the age of sixty-seven. His ashes are interred at the Little Portion Friary, Mount Sinai, Long Island, New York. The major collection of his papers are in the Mandeville Department of Special Collections at San Diego’s University of California. 

Note: Although James Schuyler revealed very little of his personal life, it is known that he was gay and had a relationship  with military man and writer William Eric Aalto, near the end of Aalto’s life. Aalto is featured in Schuyler’s long, prose poem “Dining Out with Doug and Frank”, which describes a meal with Aalto , and  poet and critic Douglas Crase and his partner, professor in plant pathology Frank Polach. Schuyler also had a relationship with American realist, city-scape artist Frank Button, who was also associated with the New York School art movement.

The long conversational poem “Dining Out with Doug and Frank” can be found at: https://www.ronnowpoetry.com/contents/schuyler/DiningOut.html.

For those interested, twelve of James Schuyler’s poems can be found in their entirety at the Poetry Foundation located at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/james-schuyler#tab-poems

Marvin K. White: “And When I Placed My Lips on His”

Photographers Unknown, Doubles

When I learned of Gregory’s death
I cried silently
But at the funeral
Giiiirl! I’m telling you
I rocked Miss Church
Hell I fell to my knees twice
Before I reached my seat
Three people had to carry me
To my pew
I swayed and swooned
Blew my nose
On any and every available sleeve
The snot was flying everywhere
Then when I finally saw his body
My body jerked itself
Right inside that casket
And when I placed my lips on his
Honey the place was shaking
I returned to my seat
But not before passing by his mother
Who I’m sure at this point
Was through with me
I threw myself on her knees
Shouting “Help me
Help me Jesus”
When someone in the choir
Sang out “Work it girl
Wooooork it”
I was carried out
Kicking and screaming
Ushered into the waiting limo
Which sped me to his family’s house
Where I feasted
On fried chicken
Hot water corn bread
Macaroni and cheese
Johnny Walker Black
Finally in my rightful place

Marvin K. White, Last Rights, Last Rights, 2004

Born in Oakland, California, Marvin K. White is a poet, performer, playwright, public theologian, visual artist, and community arts organizer. He graduated with a Masters of Divinity from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. White holds a fellowship in the national African-American poetry organization, Cave Canem, and is a former member of the board of Fire & Ink, a national black LGBT writers’ organization.

White has authored four collections of poetry which were published by RedBone Press. His 2004 “Last Rights” contains poems which portray the caring, humor, despair, the kinship of friends and family, and the unqualified love that occurs in the everyday lives of the gay community. It was nominated as a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. In the same year, his second collection “Nothin’ Ugly Fly” was published. This collection of poems, both witty and intense, explores a boy’s life from its unpredictable and dangerous beginning to his becoming a man, a growth achieved through his love for another man. This collection was also a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.

In 2011, Marvin K. White followed his previous work with two new collections. His “Status”, a compilation of several years of Facebook statuses, is a collection of wisdoms, remembrances, lessons in life, riddles, and guiding principles, told in both poem and prose. The book is small in size and reads as if it was a conversation over a cup of coffee.White’s “Our Name Be Witness” is composed of freely written prose poems, spoken in women’s  voices, that describe the complicated communities of neighborhoods, and the aspirations and heart of their people. Aside from the introductory poem, “Devil’s food”, the following prose poems do not possess titles and range from three pages to a few short lines. 

White’s work has appeared in many anthologies including “The Road Before Us: 100 Black Gay Poets”, “Bad Boys and Barbarians: New Gay Writing”, and “My Brothers Keeper”, as well as local and national publications. He is the co-editor of  “If We Have to Take Tomorrow: HIV, Black Men and Same Sex Desire”. White’s  poetry has been adapted for stage at San Francisco’s Theater Rhinoceros; he has performed his own work at the 2014 BAN7 Festival held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Beginning as a Teaching Artist for WritersCorps, Marvin K. White continues to lead creative arts and writing workshops for a range of audiences, from youth centers for runaway kids to black gay support groups to literary conferences, faith communities and social justice organizations. He is cofounder of B/GLAM, the Black Gay Letters and Arts Movement, an organization located in the Bay Area of California, whose goal was to preserve, present and incubate black gay artistic expressions.

Note: More information on Marvin K. White and his current projects can be found at his site located at: https://www.marvinkwhite.com/copy-of-home-house-1

Gerrit Lansing: “Your Kiss Is My Justice”

Photographers Unknown, Your Kiss Is My Justice

Dreamer of purified fury and fabulous habit,
your eyes of deserted white afternoons
target, stiffen, riot with unicorn candor
so I swallow your body like meanings or whisky or as you swallow me.
 
Break rhythm here:      your kiss is my justice:
look then now how orange blooms of jubilation unfold in satisfied air!
This sex is more than sex, under the will of the God of sex,
so I softly invoke transformation of your rueful image of haven
–those frozen rocks, that guilty lighthouse isolate from temptation–
to warm Flemish landscape green and brighteyed with daisies of
     dizzying color
where pilgrims are dancing after gospelling bird who sing of
      new springs, good water.
 
Garret Lansing, A Poem of Love in Eleven Lines, Heavenly Tree, Northern Earth, 2009

Born in Albany, New York in February of 1928, Gerrit Lansing was a poet, editor and critic. After a brief stay in Colorado Springs, his family  moved to the Cleveland area where his father served on Western Reserve University’s board of trustees.  A piano prodigy, Lansing played Bach, Mozart and Scriabin for pleasure and, in his teen-years, played pop songs with a band. In the mid-1940s, he attended Harvard College, where he studied philosophy and  graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949.

Gerrit Lansing’s social set during his college years included the artist Eduard Gorey, poets Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery, and his childhood friend, the writer and poet Kenward Elmslie. His poetic origins can be traced back to his time at Harvard, where he studied the works of William Blake and William Butler Yeats, under critic and biographer Richard Ellmann, and attended readings by T.S. Eliot and Wallace Stevens. Upon graduation from Harvard, Lansing relocated to New York City, where he received his Masters Degree in English from Columbia University and worked on the Columbia University Press.

In the early 1950s, Lansing became friends with Harry Smith, the artist, filmmaker, and musicologist best known for his 1952 “Anthology of American Folk Music”. Both interested in jazz and bebop music, they also studied magic together under Count Stefan Walewski, owner of New York City’s Esoterica curio shop. It was through his association with lyricist John LaTouche that Lansing was introduced to the world of theater, ballet and opera and to a network of writers. Known in his circles as a thinker and conversationalist, he associated with writers Christopher Isherwood, Paul and Jane Bowles, Alan Ginsberg, and Jack Karouac; painters Larry Rivers and Jane Freilicher; and poets Robert Kelly and Jonathan Williams.

Lansing’s poetry first began to appear in New York School periodicals such as “A New Folder”, “Semi-Colon”. and later in a small offset literary journal entitled “Set” which he edited.  By the time the first of Set’s two issues appeared in 1961, Lansing had grown weary of New York City and accepted an invitation by his acquaintance John Hays Hammond Jr., the pioneer of the electronic remote control, to stay at Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The invitation to Lansing came through Harry Martin, who was LaTouche’s lover at that time and also the clandestine lover of John Hammond.

In Gloucester, Gerrit Lansing met two men who would greatly shape his life; the first was Charles Olson, an innovative poet and essayist who was previously rector at Black Mountain College. Lansing surprised Olson with an unannounced visit to the poet’s Fort Square apartment and soon became a fast friend, drinking companion, and regular correspondent with him. He also made arrangements for Olson’s first public reading of his work. Lansing was the understated expert for Olson on the role of tarot, astrology, and the esoteric; his knowledge would have an impact on Olson’s 1952 collection, “The Maximus Poems”. The second man to shape Lansing’s life was Deryk Burton, a sailor born in Wallasey, England, who skippered private yachts. They met at the Studio Restaurant on Rocky Neck in Gloucester and soon became lifelong partners.  Together they set up house in Gloucester and sailed private yachts to their winter berths in Florida and the Caribbean.

The deaths of close friends, Charles Olson and Boston poet Stephen Jonas, both within a month of each other in early 1970, greatly affected Lansing. In 1972, he and Burton left Massachusetts on a period of wandering which led to Annapolis, Maryland, due to Burton’s nautical career. There, Lansing co-founded the antiquarian bookstore, Circle West, which specialized in rare occult books. He was also hospitalized successfully for alcoholism, a result of his earlier drinking bouts with friends and gay bar cruising.

In 1982, Lansing and Burton returned to Gloucester. Intrigued by the occult since high school, Gerrit had become an encyclopedic resource on the topic and opened in Gloucester a second bookstore, Abraxas, which specialized in magic, philosophy, and rare esoteric volumes. Lansing operated the Abraxas bookstore until his and Burton’s retirements in 1992. They then purchased a sea captain’s house overlooking Gloucester Bay where they spent the remainder of their lives.

A careful reader and interpreter of Emerson’s works, Gerrit Lansing used a range of forms in his poetry to explore spiritual, social, and natural engagements with the world. His books of poetry include the 1995 “Heavenly Tree/Soluble Forest”, a cross-genre collection entitled “A February Sheaf” published in 2003 by Pressed Wafer, and the 2009 “Heavenly Tree, Northern Earth”. He collaborated, along with conceptual-installation artists Nora Ligorano and Marshall Reese, on the 2002 art book “Turning Leaves of Mind”.

Predeceased by his partner Deryk Burton, who died in 1997, Gerrit Lansing died peacefully at his Gloucester home on the evening of February 11th in 2018, at the age of ninety years.

Note: An interesting read on Gerrit Lansing’s work is an article, entitled “ The Metaphysics of Gerrit Lansing”,  written by Robert Baker for the online literary magazine, Rain Taxi. It can be found at: https://www.raintaxi.com/the-metaphysics-of-gerrit-lansing/

Also, the online publication, Wonderland, had a memorial article on Gerrit Lansing in which personal remembrances by three close friends of Lansing are included. That article can be found at: https://gregcookland.com/wonderland/2018/03/02/gerrit-lansing-3/

Melvin Dixon: “We Live Bravely in the Light”

Photographers Unknown, Parva Scaena (Brief Scenes): Photo Set Twenty-Four

They won’t go when I go. (Stevie Wonder)
Live bravely in the hurt of light. (C.H.R.)

The children in the life:
Another telephone call. Another man gone.
How many pages are left in my diary?
Do I have enough pencils? Enough ink?
I count on my fingers and toes the past kisses,
the incubating years, the months ahead.

Thousands. Many thousands.
Many thousands gone.

I have no use for numbers beyond this one,
one man, one face, one torso
curled into mine for the ease of sleep.
We love without mercy,
We live bravely in the light.

Thousands. Many thousands.

Chile, I knew he was funny, one of the children,
a member of the church, a friend of Dorothy’s.

He knew the Websters pretty well, too.
Girlfriend, he was real.
Remember we used to sit up in my house
pouring tea, dropping beads,
dishing this one and that one?

You got any T-cells left?
The singularity of death. The mourning thousands.
It begins with one and grows by one
and one and one and one
until there’s no one left to count.

Melvin Dixon, One by One, Love’s Instruments, 1995, Tia Chuca Press, Chicago

Born in Stanford, Conneticutt in May of 1950, Melvin Dixon was a creative writer, as a novelist, poet, translator and literary critic. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts in American Studies, and earned a Master of Arts in 1973 and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1975 from Boston University.

Dixon wrote poems, novels, short stories, essays, critical studies, and translated many works from French. Searching for his literary heritage, he traveled throughout the Caribbean, Africa and Europe, and researched such men as Leopold Senghor, the poet and former president of Senegal; the Haitian novelist and poet Jacques Roumain; and author Richard Nathaniel Wright, whose 1945 book “Black Boy” became an instant success and a work of historical and sociological significance.

Melvin Dixon wrote openly about his homosexuality in both his published and unpublished works. As an active spokesman for gay communities and their issues, he incorporated the complexities of gay lifestyle and identity, as well as his identity as a black man, into his work. Dixon’s first collection of poems, “Change of Territory” published in 1983, examined the involuntary journeys of African slavery and the later historical migration of African Americans from the southern United States to the north. In 1987, he wrote a critical study of African-American literature entitled “Ride Out the Wilderness”.

The influence of James Baldwin’s work upon Dixon’s writings can be seen in his two novels, the 1989 “Trouble the Water”, a novel of family reconciliation which won the Nikon Award for Excellence in Minority Fiction, and the 1991 “Vanishing Rooms”, a novel of homophobia and racism revolving around three people who are each affected by the death of a gay man in New York City. “Vanishing Rooms” was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Fiction. Dixon’s final volume of poetry, entitled “Love’s Instruments” published posthumously in 1995, was a tribute to gay men with AIDS-related illness.

Melvin Dixon translated many works from French to English. Included in these works are his translations of Haitian poet Jacques Roumain’s poetry; Professor of American Literature at the University of Paris, Genevierve Fabre’s history of black theater since 1945, entitled “Drumbeats, Masks, and Metaphor” and  published in 1983; and “The Collected Poetry of Leopold Seder Senghor”, published in 1991. This translation of Senghor’s work contains the majority of his poetic oeuvre, including his “lost” poems.

Dixon was an Assistant Professor at Williams College from 1975 to 1980, and a Professor of English Literature at Queens College of the City University of New York from 1980 until 1992. He also taught at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Fordham University and Columbia University. Dixon received a number of awards and fellowships including a Fulbright lectureship in Senegal from 1985 to 1986.

Melvin Dixon was in a long-term partnership with Richard Horowitz, an openly gay man who worked from 1983 to 1987 as a program officer of the Ford Foundation in Dakar, West Africa. Upon Horowitz’s return to the United States, he worked with the Ford Foundation to finance projects for AIDS patients internationally. He died at his summer home in Provincetown, Massachusetts, from complications due to AIDS in July of 1991. He was forty-four years in age.

Melvin Dixon had been battling AIDS since an initial diagnosis in 1989. At the age of forty-two, he died from AIDS-related complications in Stanford, Conneticutt, on October 28, 1992, one year after his partner. The Melvin Dixon Papers, which contain primarily of manuscripts, correspondence, notes, and journals, are part of the Archives and Manuscripts department of the New York Public Library. They are housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York City.

Note: “this one” in the second stanza of the poem, “One by One”, refers to Dixon’s lover, Richard Horowitz

Digby Mackworth Dolben: “For Should He Ever Pass. . .”

Photographers Unknown, For Should He Ever Pass

My sister Death! I pray thee come to me
 Of thy sweet charity,
And be my nurse but for a little while;
 I will indeed lie still,
And not detain thee long, when once is spread,
 Beneath the yew, my bed:
I will not ask for lilies or for roses;
 But when the evening closes,
Just take from any brook a single knot
 Of pale Forget-me-not,
And lay them in my hand, until I wake,
 For his dear sake;
(For should he ever pass and by me stand,
 He yet might understand—)
Then heal the passion and the fever
 With one cool kiss, for ever.

Digby Macworth Dolben, Sister Death

Born in Guernsey in February of 1848, Digby Augustus Stewart Mackworth Dolben was an English poet. His father, William Harcourt Isham Mackworth, was the younger son of the Third Baronet, Sir Digby Mackworth, and his mother Frances Dolben was the daughter and heiress of Sir John English Dolben, the Fourth Baronet. Digby Dolben was raised, under a strict and uncompromising Protestant discipline, at Finedon Hall, his mother’s family estate in Northamptonshire, England.

Digby Mackworth Dolben was educated at Cheam School, a mixed preparatory school in Hampshire, and, starting in 1862, at Eaton College, where he studied under Headmaster and poet William Johnson Cory. William Cory’s method of teaching and his collection of verses, “Ionica” were sources of inspiration for Dolben in his own poetic writings. While at Eaton in the early 1860s, Dolben met his distant older cousin, Robert Bridges, who became his mentor and introduced him to his circle of high church friends. During his school years, Dolben seemed abstracted and other-worldly to his college friends; by his activities, he appeared to his headmaster as an agitator who was dangerously misguided.

In 1863, Dolben started to cause considerable scandal at Eaton College with his eccentric and exhibitionist behavior. Defying his strict Protestant upbringing, he became a novice in the English Order of Saint Benedict and began to sign his letters ‘Dominic’. By associating with the new ritualistic, religious revival of that time and wearing a monk’s habit, Dolben would cause scandal by walking, often barefoot, through the streets of the city. He also began to mark his romantic attachment to fellow student Martin Le Merchant Gosselin, a year senior, with written love poems. It was during this period that Dolben destroyed by fire all his previous written poetic work.

In July of 1863, Robert Bridges left Eaton to attend Oxford College. Several weeks later on July 30th, Digby Dolben was dismissed from Eaton after engaging in secret meetings with Jesuit priests. He maintained his communication with Bridges through letters sent to Oxford; however, there is no evidence of any poems being written since the destruction of his earlier work. It was not until the Lenten season of 1864 that Dolben resumed his poetry writing. At the age of sixteen, he wrote his first mature poem “Homo Factus Est” and had six poems published in the Union Review.

On his seventeenth birthday in 1865, Digby Dolben was introduced by his cousin Robert Bridges to Gerald Manley Hopkins, a fellow poet who was attending Oxford’s Balliol College. In accounts to his biographer, Hopkins stated that meeting Dolben, who was four years his junior, was the most emotional event of his undergraduate years, and probably his entire life. After Hopkins was forbidden by his High Anglican confessor to have any contact with Dolben, Hopkins and Dolben maintained their communication through letters; Hopkins wrote, during this time, two poems about his love for Dolben, “Where Art Thou Friend” and “The Beginning of the End’.

In 1865, Dolben’s work began to mature as he turned from writing Christian themed poetry to poems portraying a more Greco or pagan ideal of beauty. By 1866, he had moved to the Welsh village of Boughrood and studied there under tutor Henry de Winton for his Oxford entrance exams. Dolben took his entrance exams on May 2nd of 1867; however, he fainted during the exams and received a failing score. Thirteen days later on June 28th, Digby Mackworth Dolben, at the age of nineteen, drowned in the River Welland.

In 1865, Dolben’s work began to mature as he turned from writing Christian themed poetry to poems portraying a more Greco or pagan ideal of beauty. By 1866, he had moved to the Welsh village of Boughrood and studied there under tutor Henry de Winton for his Oxford entrance exams. Dolben took his entrance exams on May 2nd of 1867; however, he fainted during the exams and received a failing score. Thirteen days later on June 28th, Digby Dolben, at the age of nineteen, drowned in the River Welland.

Digby Dolben had taken Walter, the ten year old son of his tutor, Reverend C. E. Pritchard, on his back across the deep river. Upon the return swim, Dolben sank within several yards of the shoreline. Walter Pritchard, only able to float on his back, made it to shore with the assistance of men who came to the rescue. Dolben’s body was found several hours later when it surfaced further down the river. He was buried under the altar at Finedon Estate on July 6th of 1867.

In 1911, Robert Bridges, who would become poet laureate of England two years later, published the poetry of his cousin Digby Dolben, all of which had been written in the last three years of Dolben’s life. Approached by Gerald Manley Hopkins as to whether the Dolben family would publish Dolben’s work, the independently wealthy Bridges decided he would finance the publishing of both Dolben’s and Hopkins’s collectibe poetry. Published in a single volume entitled “Poems”, Digby Dolben’s work is considered to be among the best poetry of the Oxford Movement.

In 1981, “The Poems and Letters of Digby Mackworth Dolben, 1848-1867”, compiled by Martin Cohen, was published by the Avebury press. In 2017, author Simon Edge published his historical fiction novel “The Hopkins Conundrum”, a story about Gerald Hopkins’s infatuation with Dolben.

Note: A journal article on the life of Digby Mackworth Dolben, written by Liam Brophy, can be found at the JSTOR site located at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/20513622

An online copy of Robert Bridges’s 1911 “Poems of Digby Mackworth Dolben”, published by Oxford University Press, can be found on The Internet Archive located at: https://archive.org/details/poemsofdigbymack00dolb_0/page/n3/mode/2up