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/

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. 

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/

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

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/

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

Carl Phillips: “How They Woke, Finally, in a Bed of Ferns”

Photographers Unknown, Twelve Men Seated

How they woke, finally, in a bed of ferns — horsetail ferns.
How they died singing. All night, meanwhile, as if somehow
the fox’s mouth that so much of this life has amounted to had
briefly unshut itself — and the moth that’s trapped there,
unharmed, gone free — a snow fell; the snow-filled street
seemed a toppled column, like the one in the mind called
doubt, or that other one,
                                              persuasion, the broken one, in three
clean pieces …Well, it’s morning, now. Out back, the bamboo
bows and stiffens. Thoughts in a wind. Thoughts like (but
nobody saying it): Nobody, I think, knows me better by
now than you do. Or like: The bamboo, bowing, stiffening,
seems like nothing so much as, in this light, competing forms
of betrayal that, given time, must surely cancel each other
out, close your eyes; patience; wait. Maybe less the foliage
than the promise of it. Less that shame exists, maybe, than that
the world keeps saying it does, know it, hold on tight to it, as if
the world were rumor, how every rumor
                                                                           rings true, lately.
When I’m ashamed, I make a point of reminding myself what
is shame but to have shown — to have let it show — that variety
of love that goes hand in hand with having wished to please
and, in pleasing, for a while belong. So shame can, like love, be
an eventual way through? There’s a minor chord sparrows make
with doves that’s not the usual business — it’s not sad at all, any of it:
this always waiting for what I’ve always waited for; this not being
able to assign to what’s missing some shape, a name; this body
neither antlered nor hooved — brave too, this body, unapologetic…

Carl Phillips, Blow It Back

Born in Everett, Washington in 1959, Carl Phillips is an American writer and poet. As a child of a military family, he moved frequently around the United States in his formative years until his family settled in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Phillips earned his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University and Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Massachusetts. He continued his education at Boston University, where he earned a Master of Arts in Creative Writing.

Along with other black poets such as John Keene, Natasha Trethewey, and Major Jackson, Carl Phillips was a member of the Dark Room Collective. Founded after the funeral of James Baldwin in 1987, this collective began as an intergenerational reading series which hosted and cultivated the work of black poets of various aesthetic movements. Many of the current leading figures in the poetic movement had their beginnings with the Dark Room Collective.

Beginning as a teenager, Phillips wrote poetry until his entry into Harvard University on a scholarship, where he began to study Latin and Greek. It was not until 1990, while coming to terms with his gay identity, that he resumed his poetic writing. A classicist by training, Phillips often uses classical forms in his work and often references classical art, music, and literature. He received critical acclaim early in his career with the publication of his debut collection, “In the Blood”, which won the Samuel Morse Poetry Prize in 1992.

Carl Phillips’s second collection, “Cortège”, was nominated in 1995 for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Six years later, his collections, “Pastoral” in 2000 and “The Tether” in 2001, were both well received, with “Pastoral” winning the 2001 Lambda Literary Award for Best Poetry. Two of Phillips’s works, the 2009 “Speak Low” and the 2011 “Double Shadow”, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry, were finalists for the National Book Award.

In addition to over a dozen volumes of poetry, Carl Phillips has published works of criticism and translation. Two collections of essays, “Coin of the Realm: Essays on Life and the Art of Poetry” and “The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination”, were published by Graywolf Press in 2004 and 2014, respectively. Phillips’s translation of Sophocles’s “Philoctetes” was published in 2003 by the Oxford University Press.

Before teaching English at the university level, Phillips taught Latin at several high schools in Massachusetts. He is currently a Professor of English at Saint Louis’s Washington University, where he also teaches Creative Writing. Phillips was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2006 and, since 2011, has served as a judge for the Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Carl Phillips’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Library of Congress. He is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Academy of American Poets Prize, and a Pushcart Prize, and he has been inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

John Giorno

 

Photographers Unknown, Thirteen Men Who Traveled Here

An unemployed
machinist
An unemployed machinist
who travelled
here
who travelled here
from Georgia
from Georgia 10 days ago
10 days ago
and could not find
a job
and could not find a job
walked
into a police station
walking into a police station
yesterday and said
yesterday
and said:

“I’m tired
of being scared
I’m tired of being scared.”

—John Giorno, An Unemployed Machinist, Balling Buddha, 1970

Born in New York City in December of 1936, John Giorno was a poet and performance artist. Raised in both Brooklyn and Roslyn Heights, Long Island, he graduated from New York’s Columbia University in 1958. In his early life, Giorno was a muse to and entered into romantic relationships with other artists, among them Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, whom he met in 1963 during Warhol’s first solo exhibition at the Stable Gallery in New York City. Giorno starred in Warhol’s 1963 four-minute film entitled “John Washing” and also appeared in Warhol’s eight-hour 1964 silent film, “Sleep”, the plot of which entailed Giorno sleeping on camera.

Inspired by his associations with Rauschenberg, Warhol, and Jasper Johns, Giorno began to appropriate found textual imagery to his poetry. An example of this can be found in the1964 poem “The American Book of the Dead”. Portions of this poem were used in works contained in Giorno’s first full collection “Poems”, published in 1967. Later meetings with sound poet and performance artist Brion Gysin and writer William S. Burroughs led to Giorno applying cut-up and montage techniques to found texts, and, influenced by the work of Gysin, the recording of his first audio poem pieces.

Established as an active presence in New York’s art scene, John Giorno collaborated with Brion Gysin on “Subway Sound” in 1965, and with Robert Rauschenberg in 1966 on “Nine Evenings of Theater and Engineering”. From 1967 to 1969, John Giorno presented his “Electronic Sensory Poetry Environments”, a series produced in collaboration with synthesizer creator Robert Moog and other artists. These psychedelic happenings and poetry installations were shown at St. Marks Church in Manhattan. In 1965, Giorno founded Giorno Poetry Systems, a non-profit production company that connected new audiences to poetry by the use of new technologies, engaged in political organizing, and created new artworks.

Giorno organized the first Dial-A-Poem event in 1968 at the non-profit Architectural League of New York. This poetic event was repeated at the Museum of Modern Art from 1969 to 1970, and resulted in a series of long-playing records issued by Giorno Poetry Systems. Poets who participated in these events included Patti Smith, William Burroughs, Eldridge Cleaver, and Bobby Seale. John Giorno was unapologetic in his use of politically-charged and sexually salacious content; he used his work to draw attention to his own status as a gay man, police violence in America, and the countless deaths caused by the war in Vietnam.

In the late 1960s, John Giorno’s work evolved to include the appropriation of entire texts from newspapers, the development of double-column poems, montages of diverse and often radically different texts, and the extensive use of repetition both across and down the page.This use of repetitive words and phrases reproduced textually the echos and distortions which occurred in Giorno’s vocal performances. Several of these poems were included in his 1970 “Balling Buddha”.

After traveling to India in 1971 and meeting His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, Giorno became one of the early Western students of Tibetan Buddhism, a practice in which he participated for several decades. His early poetic works occasionally reflect Asian religious themes; but those after the 1970 collection, “Cancer in My Left Ball”, are a mixture of Buddhist and Western practices and poetic techniques seen through Giorno’s original interpretation. For instance in his 1970-72 poem “Guru Rinpoche”, Giorno mixed pop imagery with sacred sutras and portrayed gay eroticism as a form of spiritual devotion.

In 1972, John Giorno began releasing compilation records under the newly incorporated Giorno Poetry Systems media label. Presented through cassettes, long-playing records and compact discs, these audio works included new wave and punk music, and an assortment of vocal artists, musicians, and poets. Giorno Poetry Systems expanded in 1984 with the establishment of the AIDS Treatment Project, an emergency response to the impacts of the epidemic on artists’ lives. This project provided funds for artists living with AIDS through the early 2000s, when it was officially transformed into the Poets and Artists Fund.

Retired from performing in 2017, Giorno spent the last two years of his life in meditation, composing his poetry, and editing his memoir “Great Demon Kings”. John Giorno died of a heart attack at age eighty-two in October of 2019 at his home in Lower Manhattan. At the time of his death, he was married to Swiss-born Ugo Rondinone, a mixed-media artist known for his paintings and large-scale land-art sculptures.

Notes:
The john Giorno Foundation can be found at: https://www.giornofoundation.org/the-foundation
There are two interesting reads for those interested in John Giorno and his work. The first is an interview between journalist and essayist Marcus Boon and John Giorno, which is presented by Bomb Magazine, It can be found at: https://bombmagazine.org/articles/john-giorno-1/

The second is an article, written in 1994, by journalist and author Robert Coe and entitled “Becoming Buddha: John Giorno”. This more extensive biographical piece can be found at The Buddhist Review, Tricycle, located at: https://tricycle.org/magazine/becoming-buddha/

Küçük İskender: “You Should Have a Macedonian Name: Nicola”

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

you decerebrate the rose, don’t do this
verses, cannot find the poems they deserted
you become a humiliated evening
your hair wet to your waist
your eyes
turned away and fixed on a couple of cracked glasses
left on a claret, velvet coverlet
almost exploded. Soon to blow
before the storm
closely shielding your face, poor and lonely child
storyless, bashful and amicable
you should have a macedonian name: nicola
I sat on your balcony, drank Choπcko beer,
over the way were
grand men wounded by the earth
grand women are sleeping
grand women wounded on account of grand men
turned into tramps by grand men
a pen knife, holds its blade inside like a secret
the pen knife I put on the table on leaving
a perfect portrayal
if it were nicola what would appear
somehow, not far away
was a beautiful graveyard where songs are laid

Küçük İskender, Nicola, Ascaracus Journal of Gay Poetry, February 2016, Translation by Caroline Stockford

Born Derman İskender Över in Istanbul in May of 1964, Küçük İskender was a Turkish critic, actor, and one of Turkey’s few openly gay poets. He studied at Istanbul University’s Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine, where he left in his last year. İskender later studied for three years at the university’s Department of Sociology. After leaving, he pursued his passions: cinema, theater and poetry.

Starting from the 1980s, İskender published poems, essays, and criticisms in various literary magazines, including the National Young Art Magazine where they appeared under the name Alexander Över. His first poem, “Milliyet Genç Sanat (National Young Art)”, was published under the name İskender Över. His poetry began to be published professionally in 1985 when Adam Sanat Magazine accepted his work.

Küçük İskender was one of the top ten poets in Italy’s 2000 European Young Poets Competition, and in the same year, was awarded at the annual poetry, film, and photography competition held in honor of Turkish poet Orhon Murat Ariburnu. Between 2001 and 2002, he was a speaker at poetry performances in Germany and the Netherlands, and at Berlin’s 2003 First Gay Turkish Congress. In 2004,  İskender lectured and read poetry at universities in New York and North Carolina; he also joined panels and workshops at various educational facilities in Turkey.

Reminiscent of the poems of García Lorca and Arthur Rimbaud in their urgency, İskender’s work is close to the clarity of expression found in the works of Spanish poet Luis Cernuda. His poems contain many sensual affirmations of gay life, but they also contain political and cultural commentaries. Many of his poems, written outside the traditional style of Turkish poetry, were polemic and abrasive in their language and spoke of injustice, the arrogance of those who plunder others, and intolerance in regard to sexual identity.

In additional to his poems and poetry collections, İskender wrote three novels: the 1998 “Flu’es”, “Cehenneme Gitmo Yöntemleri (Gitmo: Methods in Hell)” published in 1999, and the 2000 “Zatülcenp”. He also acted in two of director Mustafa Altioklar’s movies, the 1997 “Agir Roman” and the 2002 “O Simdi Asker”. 

Küçük İskender was diagnosed with cancer in June of 2018. His last year was spent in the intensive care unit of the state hospital in Istanbul. He died on July 2nd in 2019 and is buried in Zincirlikuyu Cemetery in Istanbul.

Christoper Soden: “Dionysus”

Photographers Unknown, Dionysus

i am wielder of chaos
bearer of cozy poison
hidden son of jupiter
gestated from his thigh
supple strapping boy
follow the crooked
steps of spontaneous
capering i will soothe
your terrified gaze
summon frantic defiant
nymphs to slake
your thumping skull
with tender anarchy
my fierce priestesses
in robes of moonlight
diaphanous cobweb
will sing lilting implacable
spells to wreck
planets in their courses
wine and feral milk spouting
from tap of hyssop branch
i will swaddle you
in mother night caress
you with snake tongue
drizzle silky
secret language
of the rapacious
in your ear nudge
succulent fissure
yearning for arc
of scalding bliss
sap of brief
delectable death

Christopher Soden, Dionysus

Born in Texas, Christopher Soden is a poet, playwright, and a critic of film, literature and theater. He attended the Vermont College of Fine Arts where he received in January of 2005 his Masters of Fine Art in Poetry. Soden has taught classes on the craft and theory of poetry, English literature, and the process of publication; he currently teaches literature in the Continuing Education Program at the Dallas College Richland Campus.

Soden’s first full-length poetry collection, “Closer” was published by Rebel Satori Press in June of 2011. While realizing that one can get only so close to another being, the works in this collection, written mostly in free verse, display the persistent sense of longing that one has for another. Soden’s collection of confessional narratives present an honest look at same-gender sexuality, maleness, loss and regret, and the complexity of the human condition.

Christopher Soden’s “Queer Anarchy”, a collection of short plays, monologues and performance pieces, dealt with gay and lesbian life in America; it received the Best Stage Performance award from The Dallas Voice, the first newspaper to represent Dallas’ LBGTQ community. Two of his plays, “Water” and “A Christmas Wish” were staged at Dallas’ Bishop Arts Theater Center. Other plays written by Soden include “All That Glitters Ain’t Goldie”, “Lizards Need Love Too”, and “Space Cowboy, Aunt Velma and the Macaroon”.

Soden received a Full Fellowship to Lambda Literary’s Retreat for Emerging LBGT Voices. He is a member of the Distinguished Poets of Dallas, the Poetry Society of America’s Poetry in Motion Series, and is a Founding Member and President Emeritus of the Dallas Poets Community. Soden’s poetry has appeared in many print and online magazines, including G&L Review and Chelsea Station; he currently writes for the Dallas Art Beat, the Examiner.com, and the online theater review, sharpcritic.com.

“I remember the first time I heard Sylvia Plath’s ‘Lady Lazarus’ in a writer’s workshop I was taking. Our teacher, Jack, read it aloud, and I was unacquainted with Plath and her poetry. Didn’t even know she was dead. As anyone who knows the poem can tell you, it gathers steam and just continues to escalate by way of rage and audacity. Plath just keeps pushing and pushing until you think she couldn’t possibly go any further, and yet she does. By the time Jack finished with those three lines, ‘Herr God, Herr Lucifer, Beware. Beware. / Out of the ash I rise with my red hair, / and I eat men, like air,’ I could feel deep shudders traveling up my back. My scalp was ablaze. Until that moment I didn’t even know such poetry was possible. That was when I knew I wanted to be a poet.”

– Christopher Soden

Sjohnna McCray: “We’re Mostly Made of Water”

Photographers Unknown, We’re Mostly Made of Water

Driving the highway from Atlanta to Phoenix
means swapping one type of heat for another.
A bead of sweat rolls over my chest,
around my belly and evaporates
so quickly I forget I’m sweating.
Body chemistry changes like the color
of my skin: from yellow to sienna.
My sisiter says, it’s a dry heat.
At dusk, lightning storms over the mesas.
Violets and grays lie down together.
Mountains are the color of father’s hands,
layers of dark–then light.
People move west to die, retire in a life
of dust, trade the pollen of the south
for a thin coat of grit, the Arizona desert–
promesas, promesas.
We stop on the outskirts of town
and think about being reborn.
When he places his mouth near my mouth
because he’s so obviously thirsty,
when he moves to the well
where my tongue spouts out
because we’re mostly made of water
two-thirds of me is certain:
este infierno vale la pena.

Sjohnna McCray, I Do, 1972

Born on March 7, 1972 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Sjohnna McCray is an American author and poet. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio University and his Master of Fine Art from the University of Virginia, where he was a recipient of the Henry Hoyns Fellowship. McCray also received his Master of Arts in English Education from the Teachers College at Columbia University.

Growing up in the diverse working-class neighborhoods of Cincinnati, McCray was raised by his mother and his father, a Vietnam War veteran. Influences on his work include contemporary poets James Wright and Sharon Olds; Lucille Clifton, a finalist twice for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry; Robert Hass, Poet Laureate from 1995 to 1997; and Robert Hayden, the first African-American to serve as Consultant to Poetry to the Library of Congress, a post now known as Poet Laureate.

Sjohnna McCray’s poetry collection “Rapture”, a chronological poetic narrative published in 2016 by Graywolf Press, was selected by Poet Laureate of the United States, Tracy K. Smith, as the winner of the 2015 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets. The poems in the latter half of the collection portray some of the intimate and middle-age aspects of gay life. McCray has also be honored with the Intro Journal Award from the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, Ohio University’s Emerson Poetry Prize, and a Pushcart Prize nomination.

McCray’s poetry is interwoven with family memories, history, and the issues of race and desire. In addition to his poetry, he has published essays on race, mental illness, and homosexuality in numerous journals. His poems and essays have appeared in Tin House Online, The Southern Review, The Tahoma Literary Review, StorySouth, The Columbia Daily Tribune, and Harpur Palate.

Sjohnna McCray has taught in Chicago, Phoenix, and New York City. He and his partner currently live in Savannah, Georgia, where he teaches in the English department of the Savannah State University.

“My partner and I have been together for seventeen years and in retrospect, before gay marriage was legal, our commitment was sealed when we decided to mover across the country- to the desert. The poem (“I Do”) attempts to address how external shifts in landscape can transform and reflect on what’s going on internally.”- Sjohnna McCray, 2021