Benoit Prévot

The Artwork of Benoit Prévot

Born in the Ardennes region between France and Belgium in 1968, Benoit Prévot is a French illustrator and comic artist. A graduate of EMSAT, he has worked at various design and advertising studios. Prévot received formal training at the CFT Gobelins, a Paris school for visual communication and the arts,  after which he worked on several animated television series. Throughout his career, he has created artwork for comic books and fanzines, as well as illustrated book covers and promotional posters. 

Prévot’s more current and  personal work, reminiscent of illustrations produced in the 1920s, often displays a stylish homoerotic atmosphere. Although his favorite medium is ink and graphite on paper, Prévot has also produced works with watercolors and oil paints. 

Benoit Prévot is the writer and illustrator for Class Comics’s “Angelface”, a graphic novel series set in the 1920’s era of prohibition, which was epitomized by that era’s illicit liquor bars, swing music, and loose morals. The illustrated series combines the elegance of that era with Prévot’s stylish homoeroticism. The story of Alan, known as Angelface, and his lover Red conjures up the glamour of upper-class wealth and Trans-Atlantic ocean liner travel as well as the grime of the working class world which Alan and Red want to escape. 

Prévot’s work has been shown at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City and has been shown regularly at the Tom of Finland Art and Culture Festivals. Issues of the graphic novel “Angelface” were donated in 2011 to the Tom of Finland Foundation. Benoit Prévot currently lives and works in Paris. 

Bottom Insert Image: Benoit Prévot, “Décolleté”, Date Unknown

 

Igor Sychev

The Paintings of Igor Sychev

Born in February of 1987 in the northern city of Nadym, Igor Sychev is a Russian artist known for his Magic-Realistic figurative paintings. At the age of five years having shown an inclination towards the arts, his parents enrolled him in the city’s art school where he studied until the age of sixteen. Sychev left Nadym upon graduation and relocated to Novosibirsk, the capital of Siberia, where he entered the Faculty of Industrial Design at the State Academy of Architecture, Design and Fine Arts.

After graduating from the Academy in 2010, Sychev moved to Moscow, which as Russia’s capital offered wider prospects for a career and self-expression. He soon obtained employment as an industrial designer and created designs for furniture and interior spaces. In 2011 while working in the design field , Sychev began a personal study of oil painting techniques. Over the next ten years, Igor Sychev gradually redirected his energies into pursuing a career as a painter. 

In addition to the primary medium of oil paints, Igor Sychev also produces works in the mediums of watercolor, pencil, sepia and charcoal. His work is inspired by the works of the recognized Master artists , such as Michelangelo’s “David”, who viewed the nude male body as a source of beauty, Other influences on Sychev’s work include the paintings of Lucian Freud and Egon Schiele, the large-scale expressive paintings of Paolo Troilo, painter Gregory Little’s boldly colored figures in everyday scenes,  and Portuguese painter Carlos Barahona Possollo’s male nude paintings.   

As the present politics and attitudes in Russian are predominantly homophobic, Igor Sychev has not been able to exhibit in galleries or museums. He holds his private exhibitions in establishments offered by friends. Sychev’s work is held in many private collections throughout the world, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark, and South Africa, among others. 

Images of Igor Sychev’s paintings, watercolors and drawings, as well as contact information, can be found at the artist’s website located at: https://www.igorsychev.com

Bottom Insert Image: Igor Sychev, “Concrete Colours” Sketch, Date Unknnown, White/Black Pencil and Pen on Paper, Artist Collection (Available)

Mark Doty: ‘What Do We Want In Any Body But the World?”

Photographers Unknown, What Do We Want In Any Body But the World?

When the beautiful young man drowned—
accidentally, swimming at dawn
in a current too swift for him,
or obedient to some cult
of total immersion that promised
the bather would come up divine,

mortality rinsed from him—
Hadrian placed his image everywhere,
a marble Antinoüs staring across
the public squares where a few dogs
always scuffled, planted
in every squalid little crossroads

at the furthest corners of the Empire.
What do we want in any body
but the world? And if the lover’s
inimitable form was nowhere,
then he would find it everywhere,
though the boy became simply more dead

as the sculptors embodied him.
Wherever Hadrian might travel,
the beloved figure would be there
first: the turn of his shoulders,
the exact marble nipples,
the drowned face not really lost

to the Nile—which has no appetite,
merely takes in anything
without judgment or expectation—
but lost into its own multiplication,
an artifice rubbed with oils and acid
so that the skin might shine.

Which of these did I love?
Here is his hair, here his hair
again. Here the chiseled liquid waist
I hold because I cannot hold it.
If only one of you
, he might have said
to any of the thousand marble boys anywhere,

would speak. Or the statues might have been enough,
the drowned boy blurred as much by memory
as by water, molded toward an essential,
remote ideal. Longing, of course,
become its own object, the way
that desire can make anything into a god.

Mark Doty, The Death of Antinoüs, Bethlehem in Broad Daylight, 1990

Born in August of 1953 in Maryville, Tennessee, Mark Doty is an American poet and memoirist who is best known for his 1993 volume “My Alexandria”, which won the T.S. Eliot Prize, Britain’s most prestigious award for a collection of poetry. Born into an army family, he spent his early life in various sun-belt cities in the western and southern sections of the United States. Unsure of his sexual identity, Doty married at age eighteen and divorced after completion of his undergraduate studies at Iowa’s Drake University. 

Doty earned his Master’s Degree in creative writing from Goddard College in Vermont. While at college, he met Wally Roberts who would become his first great love and lifetime partner. They lived together in Manhattan and Provincetown for twelve years. Roberts tested positive for HIV in 1989; his illness and death in 1994 became a pivotal event in Doty’s development as a person and a poet.

Known for his intelligent and elegant verse, Mark Doty composes well-formed and aesthetic free verse poems, honest and direct elegies to Roberts and others lost, and lyrical poems that examine urban gay life. Doty’s work is molded from his individual character and from the specific experiences he has uniquely endured. 

Mark Doty’s first collection of poems, entitled “Turtle, Swan”, was published in 1987. Written from a gay perspective, the volume explored themes of childhood memories and nostalgia, the fragility of life, fate, hope and survival. Doty published his second collection of poems “Bethlehem in Broad Daylight” in 1991. His poem from that collection “Tiara”, which critiqued society’s perception and treatment of homosexual AIDS sufferers, was printed earlier in the anthology “Poets for Life: Seventy-Six Poets Respond to AIDS”.

Doty’s third book of poetry “My Alexandria”, published in 1993,  was written before Wally Roberts developed symptoms of the HIV virus. In contrast to poems of remembered youth in his earlier works, these poems contemplate an adult view of the prospect of mortality and the desperate attempts to try to make impending loss even momentarily bearable. This third collection was chosen for the National Poetry Series and won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Doty’s winning of the T.S. Eliot Prize for this work made him the first American poet to win Britain’s annual award.

Among Mark Doty’s many poetry collections are the 1995 “Atlantis”, a  mixture of his own memories and letters from friends written in response to the tragedy of Wally Roberts’s illness and death; the 2001 “Source”, a collection of lyrical works on the paradox of self-perception; and the 2008 “Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems”, a collection written over twenty years on our mortal situation, the transforming power of desire, and the ability of art to shape human lives. “Fire to Fire” received the National Book Award for Poetry in 2008. All three collections received the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Men’s Poetry in their published year. 

Doty’s memoirs include the 1996 “Heaven’s Coast”, a deeply-felt, painful account of his thoughts after learning Roberts’s AIDS diagnosis; the 1999 “Firebird: A Memoir” an autobiography of his childhood from age six to sixteen in Arizona and the American South; the 2007 “Dog Years” an poignant account of his adoption of the dog Beau as a companion for Roberts during his darkest days; and the 2020 “What is the Grass: Walt Whitman in My Life”, an exploration of Whitman’s life and poetry and the effect Whitman’s work had on Doty’s own work and experiences. “Dog Years” was a New York Times Bestseller and won both the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Memoir/Biography and the Stonewall Book Award. 

Mark Doty has taught at Princeton University, Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Iowa, Columbia University, Cornell, and the New York University. He is currently Distinguished Professor and Writer in Residence in the English Department of Rutgers University. Doty lives with his husband Alexander Hadel in New York City and in the hamlet of The Springs in East Hampton, New York. The couple married in October of 2015 in Muir Woods National Monument.

Notes:
An extensive 1998 interview with Mark Doty by Dale Boyer for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs on Doty’s life and craft can be found at: https://www.awpwriter.org/magazine_media/writers_chronicle_view/1689/an_interview_with_mark_doty

A collection of fifteen poems and two prose pieces by Mark Doty can be found at the Poetry Foundation, a resource for new and contemporary poets. His biography and poems can be found at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/mark-doty

Adrien Pelletier

Portraits by Adrien Pelletier

Born in Paris in 1981, Adrien Pelletier is a French painter whose work focuses on the art of portraiture. He earned his Bachelor of FineArts in Graphic Design at Paris’s Central Saint Martins in 2004 and his Master of Fine Arts at London’s Royal College of Arts in 2006. Pelletier also studied graphic design history and semiotics at Ecole Estienne in Paris. He has held the position of art director for many years at fashion magazines based in Paris and London.

For his Bachelor of Arts graphic design dissertation at Central Saint Martins in 2004, Adrien Pelletier produced “SWAG: The Talent of the Others”.  The home-printed book was a collection of fictional interviews around the theme of borrowing from others. The research investigated various dialectic oppositions, such as original versus copy, authentic versuss fake, author versus artist, legal versus legitimate, authority versss integrity, and the concept of you versus me.

Executed in the mediums of acrylic or gouache, Pelletier’s works  are intimate portraits of strangers, friends and lovers who are situated in outdoor or personal interior settings. These compositions, either innocent or sexual in nature, are painted using bold and complimentary colors in a straightforward, naive style. Pelletier uses personal photographs of people in his life as references for his work. His first exhibition in Paris was as part of Exposition Collective Libre N. 2 held at the 3537 Gallery in March of 2022.

At the invitation of Jean Pierre Blanc, the director of the arts center  La Villa Noaillees, Pelletier began in 2017 an Art Residency on the Île du Levant off the coast of the French Riviera. While there, he painted a series of forty-five portraits of the residents of the island’s naturalist village, a society of independent individuals who shun cars and clothes.

In Pelletier’s Despina residency project, a more documentary approach was developed in which he often combined interviews with the portraiture. The project was to portray the cultural resistance to the political far-right movement and the possibilities of interactions among local communities. Portraits of activists, artists, intellectuals and people on the street were combined with dialogues on the environment, the rights of the individual, LBGTQ issues, and the protection of the indigenous Amazon communities.

Middle Insert Image: Adrien Pelletier, “Andreas à Athènes”, 2021, Paris, Gouache on Paper, 15 x 20 cm

Bottom Insert Image: Adrien Pelletier, “Mathias”, 2022, “To Paint is to Love Again” Series, Paris, Acrylic on Canvas, 75 x 50 cm

Jeffery Beam: “Life Stings the Pale Horses of My Desire”

Photographers Unknown, Life Stings the Pale Horses of My Desire

I try to find the words to describe the body of your plea-
sure. A cool lnaguage of tundra or a language incandescent
as water, as the ocean. All words are rooted, forests and fields
overgrown with violets and acids, with physical properties of
an object seeded in lead or oxygen. Let the forest grow wings
and the incandescent populate the night sky! The web net
fabric of your pleasure is purple pink magenta. Your veins
spill over with blood and the blood is lava, rumbling into my
valley. When I enter the mangle of our sexes, the deepthroat-
ed hummingbird flies.

When I see you, there are visions before me that sunflowers
cannot expel, of dark roses of blood and terror pricking me
with thorns. When I see you, my life is invalid with gauze, a
screen of soft thickness, a desiring and bereavement found
and lost. To touch, have, share you. . .this is flow, or a dark
corrosion of the senses, like rust building a rainbow of stone.
What we give hatches the egg of an apocryphal bloom. Every
moment your breathe, life stings the pale horses of my desire.
Each moment the invisible arms of my love stretch across
mountains. The wild hawk delivers its claw into your chest.

Jeffery Beam, When I See You, Poems from the Golden Legend (1981), The New Beautiful Tendons, 2012

Born in the textile-town of Kannapolis, North Carolina in April of 1953, Jeffery Beam is an American poet, essayist, and musical collaborator. In his lyrical work, known for its simplicity and physicality, he creates conversations between the body and the natural and spiritual worlds. Until his retirement in November of 2011, Beam was a botanical librarian for thirty-five years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since 1984, he has lived with his husband, Stanley Finch, at their residence ‘Golgonooza at Frog Level’ in Hillsborough, North Carolina.

In his early life,  Jeffery Beam realized the connection between his spiritual understandings, his queer identity and his existence as a Poet. In the 1970s, he delved into Zen Buddhism, the Way of the Tao, and the teachings of the Vedanta. From the literary works of such writers as Walt Whitman, Jean Genet, Kabir Das, Frederico Garcia Lorca, and Rainer Maria Rilke, Beam gained a new perception of the nature of desire in the material world. His understanding and acceptance of his true nature as a spiritual, queer poet is carried throughout all of his many works.

In 1979 with the arrival of a postcard from nationally published poet Jonathan Williams, Beam began a long association with Williams and his life-long partner poet Tom Meyer, as well as other members of The Jargon Society and the Black Mountain College community of artists. Williams, through his encouragement and frequent correspondence, would become one of the most important influences in the development of Beam’s poetic work.

Jeffery Beam has been a judge in the Poetry Division of the Lambda Book Awards for ten years. He also judged the annual poetry contest of Durham, North Carolina’s “The Independent Weekly” in 2014. Beam began teaching workshops in the spring of 1996; among these were “The Dog of Art in the Garden of Toads”, and “Fossil Poetry: Seeing the Word, Hearing the World”, which was sponsored by the North Carolina Writers Network. 

Beam’s “An Elizabethan Bestiary: Retold” was published in January of 1999 by Horse & Buggy Press in an edition of one thousand copies. Illustrations by Ippy Patterson accompanied Beam’s poetry which reworked the bestiaries found in Pliny’s ancient Roman and Edward Topsell’s 15th century works as published in English translation in Muriel St. Clare Byrne’s 1926 “The Elizabethan Zoo”. The collection was awarded an IPPY Award in 2000 as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year and received one of the 50 Books 2000 Awards from the American Institute for the Graphic Arts. With grants and support from such organizations as the Duke Museum of Art and the North Carolina Zoological Park, as well as private contributions, the publication of the collection was complemented by exhibitions, readings and interactive presentations across North Carolina.

Jeffery Beam’s “Spectral Pegasus: Dark Moments” was a result of a six-month collaboration with the Welsh painter Clive Hicks-Jenkins. The 2019 collection, based loosely on an ancient Welsh folk tradition and the death of Hicks-Jenkins’s father, joined the two men’s understandings of myth and dream into a singular poignant but joyful design. “Spectral Pegasus” details a hero’s journey through death and resurrection, psychological and spiritual trials, and ultimately towards a revelatory, redemptive vision. Following its publication, Beam held a poetry reading and discussion of this work at the Museum Arts Center of the Black Mountain College in August of the same year. This poetry/art collection includes an audio CD and downloadable MP3 files. 

Beam’s “The New Beautiful Tendons”, a collection of queer poems from 1969 to 2012, contains previously published works, selections from his CD collection “What We Have Lost: New and Selected Poems 1977-2001”, and several unpublished poems that expressed his queer identity. The poems in this collection are written in spare and direct language that delights in the body’s beauty and show the connection between a naturalized gay man and a spiritualized nature.

In addition to his poetic chapbooks and collections, Jeffery Beam’s literary works include: his co-editorship of “Jonathan Williams: The Lord of Orchards”, a biography and a homage to the renowned poet; the 2008 “On Hounded Ground”, an autobiographical essay with poems; and the 1998 “Light and Shadow”, a monograph on the photographic work of Claire Yaffa known for her documentary work on homelessness and child abuse. Beam has also worked with mezzo-soprano Shauna Holiman, cellists Barbara Stein Mallow and Wendy Law, and pianist Brent McMunn on “Life of the Bee”, a work written by Lee Holby based on a cycle of poems by Beam characterizing the residents and activities of a beehive.

“Poetry, music and dance all started in the cave and were meant to pull down that Divine, mysterious energy in the universe that no one could quite figure out and felt that they needed to access. In this way music and dance and poetry are almost inseparable.  That’s why when I am on stage you see me sort of dancing as well as singing and reciting the poems.  I don’t think you can or should separate them. What I do is attempt to access the Divinity that permeates this world, that’s my role as a poet— it’s not the mainstream now but it’s an ancient mode of poetry— which is vatic, and for me also rooted in Vedic mysticism — the one-in-all, the Atman.”

—Jeffery Beam, “Nantahala Interview” with poetry editor Mark A Roberts, North Carolina Literary Festival, Chapel Hill, April 2002

Note: Jeffery Beam’s website includes interviews with the poet, poetry readings and songs composed on his work, recent publications, contact information and works about poet Jonathan Williams. The site is located at: https://jefferybeam.com

Jeffrey Beam’s papers, which among other items include correspondence, poetry notebooks and recordings, are housed in the Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina

Top Insert Image: Bernard Thomas, “Jeffery in the Woods”, 2000, Durham Herald

Third Insert Image: Stanley Finch, “Jeffery Beam at William Blake’s Grave, London”, 2017

Fifth Insert Image: Kyle Hodges, “Jeffery Beam at Golgonooza”, 2015, The Daily Tar Heel

Burgess (Jess) Franklin Collins

The Artwork of Jess Collins

Born in Long Beach, California in August of 1923, Burgess (Jess) Franklin Collins was an American visual artist best known for his elaborate collages that addressed science, mysticism, sexuality, history and popular culture. In his early years, he read books which ranged from Proust to L. Frank Baum, listened to classical music, and constructed scrapbooks with a great aunt. 

In 1942, Jess Collins entered the California Institute of Technology to study chemistry; however with the start of World War II, he was drafted in 1943 into the Army Corps of Engineers.  Collins worked in a junior position at the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on the production of plutonium for atomic bombs until 1946. Upon his release from military service, he continued his education at California Institute and graduated with honors in the field of radiochemistry. Collins was given a position at the Hanford Atomic Energy Project located on the Columbia River in the state of Washington.

During his employment at the Hanford site, Jess Collins began adult education classes to study painting. Due to his growing concerns about the nature of his work in the atomic energy sector and the future of the industry, he left his position and decided to pursue a full-time career in the arts. Collins moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and began to study art: first at the University of California at Berkeley and later at the California School of Fine Arts. Due to an estrangement with his family, Collins changed his name during this period of study to the singular Jess.

At the California School of Fine Arts, Jess studied with visual artist Elmer Bischoff, a forerunner of Abstract Expressionism in the Bay Area; abstractionist painter Edward Corbett, known for his use of the color black in his work; painter Hassel Smith, whose work went through a succession of art forms from plein air to figurative expressionism; and Clyfford Still, whose work encompassed a wide range of materials. Jess quickly became a member of the 1950s San Francisco art scene and was actively engaged in exhibitions, poetry readings and other creative activities in the area. 

In 1951, Jess met poet Robert Duncan, a member of the Black Mountain College and one of the most influential post-war American poets. They began a lifelong romantic relationship that evolved into a domestic household and an artistic collaboration that became central to the development of their art and poetry. This relationship lasted until Duncan’s death in 1968, thirty-seven years later. Along with abstract expressionist Harry Jacobus, Jess and Duncan opened the King Ubu Gallery in 1952, a venue which became an important exhibition space for alternative art in San Francisco.

Inspired by a gift from Duncan of “ Une Semaine de Bonté”, Max Ernst’s surrealist collage book, Jess began making collages, or Paste-Ups, in the early 1950s. These works, which combined text and image fragments from engravings, photographs, jigsaw pieces, and comic strips, became increasingly more complex over time. Eventually the Paste-Ups would contain thousands of distinct pieces. In 1959, Jess began a series of thirty-two works, entitled “Translation”. Each of the works were painted, enlarged reproductions of found images, such as children’s book illustrations and scientific drawings from old Scientific American periodicals, After being copied on new canvases, the paintings were combined with literary texts from such authors as William Blake, Gertrude Stein, and Plato.

The “Scavenger” series was based on painted or repainted canvases found in  thrift shops. Thick layers of paint were applied covering parts of the former works while leaving other image areas exposed for viewing. Built in layers, the thick new paint reinterpreted the existing work with its added texture and images. The 1959 “Narkossos” began as a pencil drawing for a painting that was based on the myth of Narcissus. This initial drawing became a large scale mixed-media work of graphite rendering and paste-up fragments featuring references from literary and popular culture. This large-scale work with original artist’s frame is currently housed in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. 

For the remainder of his life, Jess lived and worked in San Francisco except for a period of travel with Duncan in the mid-1950s to Europe and the Black Mountain College. The couple entertained their extensive but intimate circle of friends at their large Victorian home in the Mission District. The household was filled with artworks by Jess and their many friends, Duncan’s vast library, the couple’s recorded music collection, and many beautiful domestic objects salvaged by Jess from thrift shops. Jess had a major retrospective of his work in 1993-1994 which toured museums in San Francisco, Buffalo, and Washington, DC. 

Jess died of natural causes at his San Francisco home on the second of January in 2004 at the age of eighty. His work appears in major museum collections around the country including: the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. and the Museum of Modern Art and the Fine Arts Museums, San Francisco. His work is now represented by the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City.

Note: The Jess Collins Trust established an archive for Jess’s papers and writings in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. The Trust, which contains images of Jess’s work, exhibition and event information, and information on Robert Duncan’s work, can be found at: https://jesscollins.org

Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Jess, Berkeley, California”, 1956-57, Gelatin Silver Print

Second Insert Image: Helen Adam, “Jess Collins, Beach Near Pidgeon Point”, Date Unknown

Third Insert Image: Jess Collins, “Untitled (Car and Male Nude), Date Unknown, Collage, 30.5 x 20.3 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Jess Collins and Robert Duncan, Stinson Beach”, 1958-59

Tim Dlugos: “You Draw Your Own Breath, Then I Draw Mine”

Photographers Unknown, You Draw Your Own Breath, Then I Draw Mine

Underneath your skin, your heart
moves. Your chest
rises at its touch. A small bump
appears, every
second. We watch for what appears
to be hours.

Our hands log the time: the soft
light, darkness
underneath your eyes. Our bodies
intersect like highways
with limitless access and perfect spans
of attention.

We pay for this later. I pay
for breakfast. We
can’t stay long. We take off
to the museum
and watch the individual colors
as they surface

in the late works of Matisse.
They move the way
your heart moves, the way we breathe.
You draw your own
breath, then I draw mine. This is
truly great art.

Tim Dlugos, Great Art (For Donald Grace), A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos, 2011

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in August of 1950, Tim Dlugos was an American poet know for his openly gay work infused with pop-culture references. Raised by adopted parents in Massachusetts and Virginia, he joined the Christian Brothers, a Catholic religious order, in 1968. The next year, Dlugos entered the order’s La Salle College in Philadelphia where he started writing poetry and became active in the anti-Vietnam War movement. In 1971, he made the decision to leave the Christian Brothers and embrace an openly gay and politically active lifestyle. With his interest in academic life lessened, Dlugos left La Salle College in his senior year and relocated to Washington DC.

Dlugos became active in the city’s Mass Transit poetry scene and regularly attended poetry readings at Dupont Circle’s Community Book Shop. Among his associates were Irish-American poet and author Terence Winch, Language poet Tina Darragh, writer and historian Mícheál Lally, and Bernard Welt, an author and professor of cultural dream studies. While in Washington DC, Dlugos worked on Ralph Nader’s newspaper “Public Citizen”, a position that led to a successful future career with liberal and charitable organizations.

In 1976, Tim Dlugos moved to New York City where he settled in Manhattan and became a prominent poet in the downtown literary scene, particularly the Poetry Project of the East Village’s St. Mark’s Church. His poetry, with its openly gay topics and allusions to popular culture, was well received. In 1977, Dlugos began a correspondence and friendship with author and artist Dennis Cooper, the founder of the punk “Little Caesar Magazine” and the author of the semi-autobiographical series “The George Miles Cycle”. Dlugos published two books through Cooper’s Little Caesar Press: the 1979 poetry chapbook “Je Suis Ein Americano” and the 1982 “Entre Nous”

During his New York years, Tim Dlugos became friends with artist and writer Joe Brainard, who experimented with the use of comics as a poetic medium; biographer and novelist Brad Gooch; poet Eileen Myles who served as artistic director of St. Mark’s Poetry Project; poet Donald Britton, a member of the New York gay avant-garde poets who is best known for his 1981 “Italy”; and author, journalist and librettist Jane DeLynn whose 2002 “Leash” is considered the definitive portrait of lesbian life in the late twentieth-century.

In New York, Dlugos edited and contributed to such journals as Christopher Street, New York Native, and The Poetry Project Newsletter. After his HIV positive diagnosis in 1987, he decided to return to train for the Episcopalian priesthood. Dlugos relocated in 1988 to New Haven, Connecticut, where he enrolled at the Yale School of Divinity. However, he was unable to complete his degree. Tim Dlugos died of complications due to AIDS on December 3rd of 1990 at the age of forty.

Tim Dlugos published five books of poems in his lifetime; three books of his work have been published posthumously. He is widely known for the poems he wrote while hospitalized at Manhattan’s Roosevelt Hospital. Published in The Paris Review a few months before his death, Dlugos’s poem “G-9”, entitled after the hospital’s AIDS ward, celebrated life while accepting impending death. His close friend David Trinidad edited the posthumous “A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos”, which won the 2011 Lambda Literary Award.

Note: In addition to his poetry, Tim Dlugos kept a diary, from June 3rd to November 23rd in 1976, of his daily life as a gay man in New York City. It was published posthumously in 2021 by Sibling Rivalry Press. The following is an excerpt:

“Yesterday sunned on roof in a.m., read Diane di Prima’s Memoirs of a Beatnik in about 2 hours, then walked to Pier 51, where people sunbathe nude (among other things). Caught the eye of someone tall with reddish hair & freckles [this makes me think of Frank again], and we sat in a window on the second floor watching the cruise ships go by (incl. The Statendam, bearing Rob to Bermuda) for hours. Then came back here (my apt.), had coffee & went to bed—clean salt-water taste of his body. We had dinner together at a great looking restaurant w/ OK food called Chelsea Place, just up Eighth Avenue—ducks swim in their garden, “real ducks!” as every group of diners passing our table near the garden entrance exclaimed.”

Film History: Tommy Lee Kirk

“Tommy Lee Kirk as Travis Coates”, “Savage Sam”, 1963, Walt Disney Productions, Cinematographer Edward Coleman, Director Norman Tokar

Born in Louisville, Kentucky in December of 1941, Tommy Lee Kirk was an American actor best known for his performances in films produced by Walt Disney Studios. His teen idol status became closely associated with the clean, wholesome product that Disney Studios produced during the late 1950s and early 1960s. 

One of four sons, Tommy Kirk moved at the age of fifteen months with his family to California where they settled in Downey, a city in southeast Los Angeles. In 1954 at the age of thirteen, he  accompanied his older brother Joe to an audition at the Pasadena Playhouse for a role in Eugene O’Neill’s “Ah, Wilderness”. Although Joe was not cast in a role, Tommy Kirk had his stage debut with a role consisting of five lines of dialogue. His small role was seen favorably by a representative from the Gertz Agency of Hollywood who signed him to a contract. 

Kirk made his first television appearance in an episode entitled “The Last of the Old Time Shooting Sheriffs” for the anthology drama series “TV Reader’s Digest”. He appeared in two more Pasadena theater plays and was cast in small roles on other television productions, including  “Gunsmoke” and “The Loretta Young Show”. In August of 1956, Kirk was given a long-term contract by Walt Disney Productions and became a member of the 1955 “The Mickey Mouse Club” television series. He next was cast as Joe Hardy for the Mickey Mouse Club series “The Hardy Boys” and performed in two serials alongside actor Tim Considine who played his older brother Frank Hardy. Broadcasted in that October, the show and Kirk’s performance were well received and led to his long association as a ten idol with the Disney Studio.

Tommy Kirk’s career accelerated with his casting as Travis Coates in the 1957 Disney film “Old Yeller”, an adventure tale of a boy and his heroic dog. Due to the success of his lead role in “Old Yeller”, Kirk became the Disney Studio’s first choice for future American teenager roles. In July of 1958, he was cast in “The Shaggy Dog”, a Disney comedy about a boy inventor who is repeatedly transformed into an Old English Sheepdog. This film, the second highest grossing film of 1959, teamed Kirk with Fred MacMurray, Annette Funicello and Kevin Corcoran, his former co-star from “Old Yeller”. 

With his Disney contract completed, Kirk went to Universal Pictures where he did English dubbing for “The Snow Queen”, a Soviet animated feature. As revenues increased from the screening of “The Shaggy Dog”, Disney Studios resigned Kirk to a long-term studio contract and cast him as the middle son, Ernst Robinson, in its 1960 family adventure film “Swiss Family Robinson”. This family film was followed by a second huge hit, “The Absent-Minded Professor”, a fantasy comedy starring Fred MacMurray as the professor and Kirk as Biff Hawk. Kirk was next cast in several films in which he costarred with actors MacMurray and Jame Wyman in the 1962 “Bon Voyage”, Ed Wynn in the 1961 “Babes in Toyland”, and Annette Funicello in the 1962 “Escapade in Florence”.

In 1963, Tommy Kirk appeared in Disney’s “Son of Flubber”, a sequel to “The Absent-Minded Professor” which became his last film with MacMurray. He next reprised his role as Travis Coates in “Savage Sam”, a sequel to “Old Yeller” which was not as popular as the original film. In 1964, Disney Studios cast Kirk as the student inventor in “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones” where he played opposite Funicello. After it became an  unexpected box office sensation, a sequel entitled “The Monkey’s Uncle” was released in July of 1965 which was equally successful.

Kirk knew he was gay from an early age; however, due to the public intolerance at that time towards homosexuality, he felt isolated and believed that the exposure of his sexuality would damage his film career. In 1963 while filming “The Misadventures of Merlin Jones”, Kirk began a relationship with a boy, six years younger, who lived in Burbank. The boy’s mother informed the Disney Studio which fired him from his role in the 1965 John Wayne western “The Sons of Katie Elder”. Out of protection for its interests, the Disney Studios released Kirk from his contract. However due to the financial success of the “Merlin Jones” film, he was allowed to return to make the 1965 sequel “The Monkey’s Uncle”.

The news of Kirk’s termination from Disney Studios was not made public: he joined American International Pictures which needed a leading man to play opposite Annette Funicello in the 1964 “Pajama Party”. From 1964 to 1969, Kirk appeared in several popular teen-oriented films, musical stage productions of “The Music Man” and “West Side Story”, and mediocre sci-fi and beach films. Practically blacklisted by an industry which deemed outed gay actors as box-office poison, Kirk returned to the musical theater in his home state of Kentucky with appearances in such shows as “Hello, Dolly” and “Anything Goes”.

In 1970, Tommy Kirk did two movies that were not Screen Actors Guild productions, “Ride the Hot Wind” and “Blood of Ghastly Horror” which caused him to lose his SAG membership.. While loss of SAG membership does not disqualify someone from acting, most film productions hire only union members, thus limiting the opportunities for an actor to be hired. Depressed and angry, Kirk sought solace in drugs and once nearly died from an overdose. After overcoming his drug addiction, Kirk began a successful carpet-cleaning business in Los Angeles which he ran for twenty years. He continued to act occasionally, appeared in films and documentary interviews for the DVD releases of some of his best known films and TV shows, and occasionally made personal appearances at film festivals and nostalgia convention/memorabilia festivals.

Tommy Kirk came out publicly as gay in a 1973 interview with Marvin Jones that was published in the January 31st edition of Gay Today. He was studying acting at that time with the Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute while working in a Los Angeles restaurant. Kirk was inducted as a Disney Legend in October of 2006 alongside his former co-stars Tim Considine and Kevin Corcoran. In 2006, the first of the “Hardy Boys” serials was issued on DVD as part of the Walt Disney Treasures series. Royalties from the sales of the “Hardy Boys” serials provided Kirk an additional income. 

Tommy Lee Kirk died peacefully in his Las Vegas, Nevada, home at the age of seventy-nine on the 28th of September in 2021. His neighbor Beverly Washburn, an “Old Yeller” co-star, notified Kirk’s longtime friend and former Disney actor Paul Peterson, known for his role as the son on “The Donna Reed Show”. Peterson posted notice of Kirk’s death on Facebook mentioning in the message that Kirk’s family had disowned the gay actor.

Top Insert Image: Tommy Kirk, “Old Yeller”, 1957, Film Shot

Second Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk and Tim Considine”, 1956, “The Hardy Boys” Series

Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk”, Studio Publicity Photo Shoot

Fourth Insert Image: hotographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk, Pajama Party”, 1964, Film Shoot

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Tommy Kirk and Dorothy Lamour, Pajama Party”, 1964, Studio Photo Shoot

Aaron Shurin: “Under the Night Stillness Inclined My Morning Beach”

Photographers Unknown, Under the Night Stillness Inclined My Morning Beach

I heard my name, the day rose and disappear over the beach. the day on each breath tasted my food, that night roll slowly cover in the cool, his face around my breast. the day inhaling grow pale and disappear, water on his way, up the shores hissing. under the night stillness inclined my morning beach, undressing the friend of my liquid, my most same. at evening while whispering from the bed by me, his way was accomplished. his full perfect arm a health of ripe waters. the day received moon laughing, love lay me that night.

Aaron Shurin, Excerpt from City of Men, A’s Dream, 1989

A room of thought is wedged between the androgyny of hair and new leaves gasping for light. Membrane of membrane, skin of my crown. I thought a forest bound by kinship towers — elusive in the blue glow inside the gray cloudbank — indigo friction — a hurricane cult — where his eyes boring over my shoulders fall like hot breath, gravity failing. He is whirling like a haystack, engineered in twilight, his syllables aquatic, lullaby stutter. Scale of my scale, raveling hive. A skate-boarder rocks the concrete, cutting the muscle of silence. You, too, seeping memories, as we spin in place. An epiphyte: a love nest. Inextricable, shadow for shadow, rhyme for rhyme..

Aaron Shurin, Steeped, Citizen, 2012

Born in Manhattan, New York in 1947, Aaron Shurin is an American essayist, poet and educator. After spending his teenage years in Los Angeles and eastern Texas, he attended the University of California at Berkeley in 1963 during a period of political protest and cultural upheaval. In the late 1960’s, Shurin met and studied under poet Denise Levertov, an advocate of political and social consciousness who fostered Shurin’s interest in poetry. It was during this period that he became attracted to the principles of Projective Verse, a poetic form which re-imagines a poem’s verse lines and line breaks to convey its nuances of breath and motion to the reader through typographical means.

In 1980, Shurin entered the New College of California, an experimental college centered around the Socratic Seminars, where he studied under poet Robert Duncan, a prominent gay poet and member of the Black Mountain school. At New College, Shurin was inspired by the long lines of Walt Whitman’s prose poetry and began to develop his own poetic form, prose poetry which combined the prose form of the Language poets with the life-story format of the New Narrative writers. Bonding with the enthusiastic atmosphere of San Francisco’s counter-culture and its active gay scene, Shurin integrated his gay identity into his poetic process. He graduated from New College with a Master of Arts in Poetics with a thesis entitled “Out of Me: Whitman and the Projective”. 

Aaron Shurin is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, among which are the 1976 “The Night Sun” published by Gay Sunshine Press; “A’s Dream” published in 1989; the 1993 “Into Distances”; “The Paradise of Forms: Selected Poems” published in 1999; the 2005 “Involuntary Lyrics”; and the 2012 “Citizen”. His published essay collections include “The Skin of Meaning: Collected Literary Essays and Talks” published in 2016; the 2008 “King of Shadows”; and “Unbound: A Book of AIDS” published in 1997.  Shurin’s most recent work is “The Blue Absolute”, a collection of lyrical prose poems of love and loss, sex and death in our daily lives.

Shurin has won fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Gerbode Foundation, the San Francisco Arts Commission, and the California Arts Council. A pioneer in both LGBTQ studies and innovative verse, he cofounded the Boston-based writing collective Good Gay Poets. Shurin has written numerous critical essays about poetic theory and compositional practice, as well as personal narratives on sexual identity, gender fluidity, and the AIDS epidemic. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of San Francisco for its MFA Writing Program.

“We know that verses live in the white space of the page in a dance with erasure and silence; prose poems fill in the space and flirt shamelessly with story. To my joy they can hold a lot of words, a lot of shades, and the tensions of their dual inheritance are generative: wild horses pulling in opposite directions that somehow get bridled and yoked to form a new beast.” – Aaron Shurin, “Always Presently There: Aaron Shurin in Conversation with Micah Ballard”, April 2020

Notes: For those interested, an in-depth conversation between poet and publisher Micah Ballard and Aaron Shurin on the development of Shurin’s poetic form was held in April of 2020, just after the publication of Shurin’s work “The Blue Absolute”. This conversation, entitled “Always Presently There”, can be found at the interdisciplinary publishing platform “Open Space” located at: https://openspace.sfmoma.org/2020/04/always-presently-there-aaron-shurin-in-conversation-with-micah-ballard/

A essay by Chales Olson’s poetic theory, “Projective Verse”, can be found at the Poetry Foundation located at: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/articles/69406/projective-verse

Yevgeny Kharitonov: “All the Vibrations from the Best Moments of Your Life”

Photographers Unknown, All the Vibrations from the Best Moments of Your Life

I know what happens at the moment of death. Suddenly, after all your illnesses, you feel so improbably, so impossibly much better, that it is more than a man can take. All the vibrations from the best moments of your life, from all your impossible youth, come together in one mind-blowing instant, like the moment of your first love, like the hope of new love, like just before your first trip to Moscow, like all sorts of moments in your life; and it all comes together in a single minute, and it is more than you can bear, and your heart bursts, and you die. And everyone whom you loved and everyone who loved you, they all think of you at that moment, wherever they maybe on earth, or under the earth.

Yevgeny Kharitonov, Under House Arrest, 1997

Born in Novosibirsk in June of 1941, Yevgeny Kharitonov was a Russian poet, writer, playwright and theatrical director. In his literature, he was a chronicler of the LBGTQ culture of the Soviet period in the 1970s. Kharitonov described in his work the feelings that people of non-traditional orientation experienced, a subject that the government saw as taboo. 

Kharitonov graduated from the acting department of Moscow’s Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography (VGIK). After a brief acting career, he earned his graduate degree in filmmaking with the presentation of his thesis on the art of pantomime in the education of an actor. After graduation, Kharitonov wrote and directed the play “The Enchanted Island”, which was performed at Moscow’s Mimics and Gesture Theater with roles performed by deaf-mute actors. 

Yevgeny Kharitonov led the pantomime studio of the Moskovorechye Workers’ Club, a recreation center in Moscow, and did choreography for the rock band “Last Chance”. He also worked at the department of psychology at Moscow State University where he studied the problem of speech defects. In addition to his study and literary work, Kharitonov staged a production of the classical opera “Faust” for the Moscow Conservatory. 

Appearing at the crossroads of several movements in twentieth-century Russian prose, Kharitonov emphasized in his work an aloofness between the author and the literary subject, a characteristic which would appear in the later works by Russian writers Victor Erofeyev, founder of the literary magazine Metropol, and Vladimir Sorokin, author and recipient of the Russian Booker Prize. Kharitonov shared with writers Pavel Ukitin, Marcel Proust and James Joyce an indirect and cryptic approach to the placement of emotion in the descriptions of events. Acquainted with typography, he was well aware of the expressive properties of the typewritten text format and typed all his manuscripts himself. 

Because of the frankness with which he dealt with the theme of homosexuality in his work, Yevgeny Kharitonov had difficulty in getting his work published. The few works that were published in his lifetime were translations of German poetry, those works circulated in dissident Eastern Bloc periodicals such as the Mitin Journal, and a simple monologue entitled “Oven”. In the early 1980s, Kharitonov made an attempt to have his work printed in the “Catalog”, an American publication of unpublished Russian writers; this however  failed due to interference by the KGB.

Kharitonov is today recognized as a founder of modern Russian gay literature; his work can not be separated from his sexuality and the legal and cultural prohibition he worked under. Kharitonov was doubly vulnerable to state repression being both an underground writer and a gay man. In 1979, he was questioned by the KGB as a suspect in the death of his lover. As knowledge of his work spread through the general public, surveillance and harassment by the authorities became increasingly a part of daily life. 

On June 29th of 1981, Yevgeny Kharitonov, who had just finished his manuscript “Under House Arrest”, walked to meet his friend, the poet Tatian Scherbina, to show her his new work. He died on Pushkin Street in Moscow of a heart attack at the age of forty years old; his body is buried in his homeland of Novosibirsk. Following Kharitonov’s  death, his apartment was sealed by the KGB. His friends broke in the apartment to salvage and preserve his writings, however, most of Kharitonov’s written work was later recovered by the KGB during raids on their apartments.

After Russia’s period of perstroika, Kharitonov’s works began to get published in Russia. His play “Tink”, based on an interpretation of Odoevsky’s fairy tale “Town in a Snuffbox”, was published in the late 1980s and later performed in 1989. His “Under House Arrest”, a collection of autobiographical fictions which chronicled the difficult life of a homosexual in the Kafkaesque atmosphere of the Soviet Union, was published in January of 1997.

Note: An interesting article to read is Alex Karsavin and Mara Iskander’s 2017 “Language Under House Arrest”, which discusses queer Russian poets and the adaption of queer literature to the Russian political situation. The article can be found at the literary blog “The New Inquiry” website located at: https://thenewinquiry.com/language-under-house-arrest/

Film History: Clifton Webb

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana in November of 1889, Webb Parmelee Hollenbeck, known professionally as Clifton Webb, was an American actor, dancer and singer. He is known for his roles in films, his Broadway appearances in successful musicals, and for his stage appearances in the plays of English playwright and actor Sir Noël Coward.

Clifton Webb was the only child of Jacob Hollenbeck, a ticket-clerk for the Indianapolis- St. Louis Railroad, and Mabel Parmelee, the daughter of a railroad conductor. In 1891, the couple separated and Mabel took young Webb with her to New York City in 1892. After the divorce was finalized, Mabel married Green B. Raum, Jr., a copper-foundry worker and the son of a former U.S. Commissioner of Internal Revenue; the new family settled in New York City on West 77th Street. 

Webb, at the age of five, began dancing lessons; two years later, he made his official debut in Carnegie Hall as a member of the Children’s Theater in a performance of Canadian author Palmer Cox’s children series “The Brownies”. This was followed with a vaudeville tour in which Webb appeared in “The Master of Charlton Hall” and performed as Oliver in “Oliver Twist” and as Tom Sawyer in “Huckleberry Finn”. As a young teenager, he studied painting with Realist artist Robert Henri, a pioneer of the Ashcan School, and music with French operatic baritone Victor Maurel. His studies with Maurel led to Webb’s debut in 1906 with Boston’s Aborn Opera Company’s production of Ambroise Thomas’s “Mignon”.

Returning to New York, Clifton Webb teamed with Mae Murray in a ballroom dance act; they toured a chain of vaudeville theaters known as the Keith Circuit and performed in Manhattan restaurants. Webb had his Broadway debut in April of 1913 with the premiere of “The Purple Road” at the Liberty Theater, in which he played the role of Bosco for one hundred-thirty six performances. Between 1913 and 1917, Webb was continually on the Broadway stage and appeared in such vehicles as Sigmund Romberg’s “Dancing Around”, Ned Waybum’s all-star revue “Town Topics” , and Cole Porter’s comic opera “See America First”. 

In 1917, Webb was the sensuous dancing star of “Love O’Mike”, a musical comedy produced by Lee Shubert and Elisabeth Marbury, a theatrical agent who lived in an open relationship with actress and famous interior decorator Elsie de Wolfe, also known as Lady Mendl. By the middle of the 1920s, Webb was one of Broadway’s highest-paid stars and reached his apex with the 1930 “Three’s a Crowd” and the very successful 1933 “As Thousands Cheered”, which featured the steamy torch song “Moanin’ Low” sung by Webb and actress Libby Holman. 

In 1935, Webb relocated to Hollywood where Metro Goldwyn Mayer, who hoped to make Webb a successful dancing star like RKO’s Fred Astaire, gave him an eighteen-month contract at three-thousand dollars a week. He was to star opposite Joan Crawford in a musical entitled “Elegance”; the picture was abandoned, however, Webb was paid all his money. For the next eighteen months, he was not offered any work but made many high-profile social appearances. He  often appeared wearing white gloves and a top hat, with his mother Mabel on his arm and his poodle Ernest, after Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest”, trailing behind on a leash.  

In 1938, Clifton Webb returned to New York’s Broadway in “You Never Know”, written by his longtime friend Cole Porter. The stage version of “The Man Who Came to Dinner”, starring the stage and film actor Monty Woolley, premiered in the fall of 1939. Webb was cast as the acidic character Sheridan Whiteside for its touring version, a role in which he remained for eighteen months. In 1941, he played the character Charles Condomine, a successful novelist curious about seances,  in the initial performances of Noël Coward’s comic play “Blithe Spirit”. 

Webb is probably best known today for his many film appearances. In his mid-fifties, he was chosen by director Otto Preminger, despite objections from 20th Century Fox’s Darryl Zanuck who though Webb too effeminate, to play the evil radio columnist Waldo Lydecker in the 1944 film noir “Laura”. Webb’s performance won him wide acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The Fox Studio signed him to a long-term contract, which provided Webb with work for the rest of his career. His first role under contract was as a suave villain in Henry Hathaway’s 1946 film noir “Dark Corner”. This was followed with his role of elitist Elliott Templeton, playing opposite Gene Tieeney, in the 1946 “The Razor’s Edge” for which he received another Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. 

Clifton Webb achieved stardom with his role of Mr. Belvedere, a snide know-it-all babysitter with a mysterious past, in the 1948 comedy film “Sitting Pretty”, based on the 1947 novel “Belvedere” by Gwen Davenport. This role became so popular that it was followed with two sequels: the 1949 box office success “Mr. Belvedere Goes to College” and the 1951 “Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell”.  In 1950, Webb and actress Myrna Loy played the roles of efficiency experts Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, the parents of twelve children, in the film “Cheaper by the Dozen” which made Webb one of the biggest stars in the United States. 

In addition to these comedic films, Webb played more serious character roles for 20th Century Fox. He starred in the 1952 Technicolor film biography of bandmaster John Phillip Sousa entitled “Stars and Stripes Forever”. Webb’s most dramatic role was the brave but doomed husband of Barbara Stanwyck’s Julia Sturges in the 1953 “Titanic”, the winner of the 1954 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The following year, he appeared as the novelist John Frederick Shadwell in the romance film “Three Coins in the Fountain”. Webb appeared in the 1956 British war film “The Man Who Never Was”, based on the Allied invasion of Sicily in World War II, and as a sarcastic but self-sacrificing Catholic priest in the 1962 “Satan Never Sleeps”, his final film role. 

Clifton Webb was one of the few gay actors to appear in decidedly heterosexual character roles, most notably the devoted husband who fathered twelve children in “Cheaper by the Dozen”. Obsessively proper, correct and well-mannered, he lived his bachelor life as close to being openly gay as any leading actor in Hollywood could be. Although he lived with his mother until her death in 1960, Webb threw lavish parties and enjoyed the company of young men who gathered poolside at his pink stucco house in Beverly Hills. His friends included many member of the gay circles in the film industry: Noël Coward, Cole Porter, actor Monty Woolley, director George Cukor, stage and costume designer Oliver Messel, film director Irving Rapper, actors William Hanes and Jimmie Shields, among others.

Due to health issues, Webb spent the last five years of his life as a recluse at his home in Beverly Hills. He suffered a fatal heart attack, at the age of seventy-six, at his home on the 13th of October in 1966. He is interred in a crypt in the Abbey of the Psalms at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, alongside his mother. For his contributions to the motion picture industry, Webb was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6850 Hollywood Boulevard. An archive of his papers, including typed manuscripts, notes, correspondences, financial records and Webb’s last will and testament, is housed at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.

Note: Clifton Webb’s portrayal of the character Mr. Lynn Belvedere was the model for the “Mr. Peabody” character in the animated cartoon series “Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends”, which ran from November of 1959 to June of 1964.

Hervé Lassïnce

The Photography of Hervé Lassïnce

Hervé Lassïnce is a French theatrical actor, screen writer, and self-taught photographer who grew up in Créteil, a culturally diverse suburb of Paris. Before he pursued his passion for photography, he had begun a career as a theatrical actor, a talent which he still continues. Lassïnce has performed with actors Jérôme Deschamps and Macha Makeîff and, in 2016, appeared in a Jean-Michel Ribes play at Paris’s Théâtre du Rond-Point.

Lassïnce began his career in photography with images of those closest to him, his family, friends and lovers. The strong emotional connection he had with these subjects, displayed in his initial work, is still evident in his most recent photographs. Generally, Lassïnce prefers to photograph subjects he knows as the sense of familiarity is stronger; however, he often photographs people he meets who catch his attention. As he considers his photography a story of friendship, Lassïnce still makes an effort to know his subject better before attempting the composition of the shoot.

Hervé Lassïnce photographs natural landscapes, an example of which is his large format photograph of water rushing over the cliffs of Niagara Falls. For many of his photographs, however, natural scenes serve as settings for his nude male subjects. In these shoots, Lassïnce presents natural and joyful images that show men as ordinary people comfortable in their skin. There exists in most of his nude compositions an unexpected, often curious, element that catches the eye and draws the viewer’s interest, such as tinted lighting, vased flowers, lit cell phones, or a cat sitting quietly nearby. 

Lassïnce first began showing his work through Facebook and Instagram. After seeing images of his work printed on fine art paper, he began to exhibit in galleries and sell editions to collectors. In 2015, Lassïnce’s first photography collection was published by Florian Gaité, entitled “Mes Fréres (My Friends)”. At this time, he also expanded his work as a freelance photographer by shooting personality portraits and illustrating articles for magazines. 

Among the influences on his work, Hervé Lassïnce has listed the work of American photographer Nam Goldin who became known for her exploration of the lives and intimacies within the LGBT subcultures. He was also influenced by the compositions and homo-eroticism in works by such painters as José de Ribera, Caravaggio, and Théodore Géricault, one of the pioneers of France’s Romantic movement.

Lassïnce’s photography has been the subject of several exhibitions including those at Paris’s Galerie P38 and Galerie Agathe Gaillard; the November 2020 exhibition at Villa Noailles in Hyères, France; the International Festival of Fashion and Photography in Los Angeles; the Offarch Gallery in Milan; the Philharmonie de Paris; and the 2021 “Gallery of Instant Love” exhibition at the Design Museum of London. 

Hervé Lassïnce’s website, which includes contact information and purchasable prints, can be found at https://h-photography.format.com

McDermott & McGough

McDermott & McGough, “If You Had Been the Moon”, April 2009, 10:16, Directed by Peter Mc  Gough, Starring Michael  Kavalus, Bryan Deckhart, Claybourne Elder, Christopher Le Rude, Alex Michael Stoll, and Andrew Lord

The art collective McDermott & McGough consists of the contemporary artists David McDermott and Peter McGough who are known for their work in sculpture, painting, film and photography. Their work examines such issues as religion, popular culture and art, medicine, advertising, fashion, and sexual behavior. McDermott and McGough are best known for their gay-themed paintings and the use of historical processing techniques in their photographic work, which includes film development with palladium, gum bichromate, salt, platinum, and carbon black.

Born in Hollywood, California in 1952, David McDermott studied at Syracuse University in New York from 1970 to 1974. He moved to New York City where he became famous in the downtown area for his odd manners and outdated formalwear, such as detachable collars, cummerbunds, and top hats. Born in Syracuse in 1958, Peter McGough studied at Syracuse University in 1976. He relocated to New York City where he briefly studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After dropping out from the Institute, McGough was employed to sell tickets at Danceteria, a famous, albeit illegal, nightclub with several locations in the city.

Peter McGough met David McDermott in a Manhattan theater at the end of the 1970s. As David kept Peter company during the early club hours before sunrise, a strong relationship developed between them  that also included an artistic alliance which would last forty years. In the 1980s, the gay couple became known in New York’s East Village art scene for their immersion in the Victorian era. McDermott and McGough questioned the ideas of nostalgia; they pursued an art form and lifestyle narrative of reorienting the past for the future. Dressed and living as early 1900s dandies with an air of erudition and impertinence, their lives and art became an exploration of time and history, as well as, a challenge to the boundaries of art history and cultural identity.

McDermott and McGough’s collaborative output was expressed through a proliferation of drawings, paintings, film and photographs, and architectural interiors. Their photographs and films, which appropriated images and objects from the late 19th century to the style of the 1930s, explored contemporary cultural issues but produced them through vintage materials and techniques. McDermott and McGough’s obsession with the past is reflected in the styles and subjects they resurrect; many of their works are titled with fictional dates that reference the latter years of the 1800s. 

The later work of McDermott and McGough was inspired by advertising motifs, Hollywood cinema, and the comic books of the 1950s and 1960s. They reinvented major works of twentieth-century photography, Pop Art icon images, and produced photo-realistic paintings of vintage film stars. During the 1980s when their work was selling well, McDermott and McGough were a major part of the downtown New York scene, where the attended clubs and mingled with Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Andy Warhol. They bought three properties including a 1860s French Second Empire style bank, owned horses and vintage automobiles, hosted lavish baroque parties, and bestowed expensive gifts to friends.

 In 1992, the art market began to feel the effects of the stock market crash of October 1987. Out of all the paintings McDermott and McGough had on  exhibit at the Armory Show, only one small painting sold. Their debts, which included framing costs for their exhibitions, came due; many of these debts were paid through the transfer of their existing artwork to galleries and other debtors, among whom was the Internal Revenue Service. Eventually everything the couple had was auctioned off except for a few pieces they managed to save and later shipped to the docks of Dublin, Ireland. David McDermott relocated to a small  rental house near Ballsbridge, Ireland, and in 1995 McGough reunited with him. 

McDermott and McGough started painting and soon were able to rent a small art studio in Temple Bar in downtown Dublin. Through Swiss art dealer and gallery owner Bruno Bischofberger, they received many silhouette commissions. With the assistance of the gallery’s director Andrea Caratsch, McDermott and McGough had an exhibition in 1998 entitled “The Lust That Comes from Nothing” at Paris’s Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont.

McDermott and McGough’s previous exhibitions include the Whitney Biennial, New York, in 1987, 1991 and 1995, and a mid-career retrospective at the Provincial Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Oostende, Belgium. In 2017, their work was the subject of the exhibition “I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going’ held at the Dallas Contemporary Museum in Texas. Other solo and group exhibitions include such institutions as the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, Centre Pompidou in Paris, New York City’s Galleria Gian Enzo Sperone, and the Frankfurter Kunstverein in Germany. 

McDermott and McGough’s work is represented in numerous collections including the International Center of Photography in New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in Lawrence; Tampa Museum of Art in Florida; Minneapolis’s Walker Art Center; and Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, among others.

Notes: In 2017, David McDermott and Peter McGough opened the Oscar Wilde Temple, a non-secular sacred space for LGBTQ people in a chapel at the Church of the Village located in New York City’s Greenwich Village. It is both an art exhibition space and a place for marriages; donations go to homeless LBGTQ youth. A second location at the gallery Studio Voltaire in London was opened in October of 2018.

In 2019, Peter McGough published his memoir “I’ve Seen the Future and I’m Not Going There” through Penquin Random House. Set in New York’s Lower East Side, the memoir chronicles his life withDavid McDermott during the 1980s and mid-1990s.

Top Insert Image: David McDermott and Peter McGough, “Portrait of the Artists, 1928, 1990”, Palladium Print on Paper, 35 x 26.5 cm, Private Collection

Second Insert Image: David McDermott and Peter McGough, “Love is Gone- So What Can Matter? 1966, 2008”, Oil on Linen, 152.4 x 122.2 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: McDermott and McGough, “Joel at Lower Baldonell House, Dublin, 1910, 2003”, Palladium Print on Paper, 50.8 x 40.6 cm, Private Collection

Fourth Insert Image: McDermott and McGough, “The Annointed”, 1991, Photographers and Friends Against AIDS Exhibition, Palladium Print on Paper, 16.5 x 11.8 cm, Private Collection

Fifth Insert Image: McDermott and McGough, Title Unknown (Reading Comics), Image from the “Detroit, 1958” Series,  2007, Carbro Print, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: McDermott and McGough, “Portrait of the Artist (With Top Hats) 1865”, 1991, Palladium Print on Paper, Collection of the Artists

Winthrop Smith: “The Coldness of the Floor. . .”

Photographers Unknown, The Coldness of the Floor

The coldness of the floor
In the boys’ lav., the cold-
Ness of the boys themselves
Stripping off their gym shorts

And t shirts: the wetness
Of the spot which showed on
The shorts of each boy who
Climbed alone on ropes, the

Wetness of sweat which
Soaked the boys who wrestled
In the matroom, glistened
On the bodies of the

Boys who stood for weighing-
In with jockey shorts or
Nude: the odor of the
Floor in the boy’s lav., the

Odor of the boys them-
Selves from the soap they passed
Among themselves in the
Showers, the odor of

The soap they passed among
Themselves when older, stop-
Ping from their showers, dress-
Ing for their classes in

Laundered cotton shirts and
Boxer shorts: the coldness
Of rain soaked running trails
In Late October, the

Cold, red hands of the run-
Ners after practice: the
Wetness of their hairy
Bodies drying off near

Steamfilled showers, the wet-
Ness of the gym itself
With aingle shower’s drip
Dripping late at night: the

Motion of the young men
Washing, young men dressing,
Young men acting out their
Conflicts and frustrations. . .

Winthrop Smith, Excerpt from Retrospective at 33, The Weigh-In: Collected Poems,1996

Raised in Rye, New York, Winthrop Smith is a gay minimalist poet whose work explores the the undercurrent of gay experience in America. Having lived in New York City from 1987 to 2003, his early poetry covers a period of gay life before the gentrification of the city. In his work, Smith captures the gay male experience of pre-DisneyTimes Square, the St. Mark bathhouses, the city’s docks and cruising areas, and the scene on the West Village’s Christopher Street known for being the “Main Street” of gay New York.

Winthrop Smith’s first collection of poems, “Ghetto: From the First Five: Sixty-Four Poems”, was published in January of 1990. His second collection was the 1996 “The Weigh-In: Collected Poems”. Influenced by contemporary minimalist music and the work of modernist poet Gertrude Stein whose writing style broke the conventions of the linear narrative, Winthrop Smith formats his poetry into short pictorial lines each of which contain a complete mental image or thought. These narrative lines are stacked, sometimes  ending in split hyphenated words,  to form sentences that often trail into the following stanza. 

Smith’s third collection, the 2006 “Skin Check: New York Poems”, is a minimalist book-length poem of encounters experienced during a walk taken by Smith, his partner, and their two dogs from their Chelsea apartment to the West Village and back. His next collection was”Wrestling Starting Position” which was published in December of 2016. It is an autobiographical book-length poem which spans from his childhood in Rye, New York, to the second decade of the new century. The poem, told through the basic positions of wrestling, expounds on the issues of the artwork of Patrick Angus, the 1960s and city life at that time, the death of peers, personal ads, and capital punishment, among other topics. 

Winthrop Smith’s latest work is the 2021 “Take Down Portraits: Drawings and Portraits by Larry Stanton”, which include poems by Smith that envision conversations and scenes that may have taken place in Larry Stanton’s studio during his lifetime. Although he never actually met Stanton, Smith was inspired by his artwork, having had dozens of Stanton’s works in his care. The poems, duets in essence, are composed in fragmented phrasing with small details to evoke the emotion of the conversations. 

Smith was infected with the HIV virus during his first sexual experience at a Times Square bathhouse in 1984. After moving to New York City in 1987, he worked as a home attendant for the first program which was dedicated to terminal AIDS patients. Since then, Smith worked on the National AIDS hotline and was on the board for the People with Aids Coalition.

Winthrop Smith is a trustee and a program manager of the EGR Writers House in Augusta, Maine, which subsidizes housing for writers. He currently resides and writes in Wappingers Falls, New York. Smith is the author of four blog sites which can be found through: https://www.blogger.com/profile/11816360238911707217

James Broughton: ‘Luncheon Had Made Us Hungry”

Photographers Unknown, Luncheon Had Made Us Hungry

Luncheon had made us hungry
for one another
After the curry and fried bananas
we added our own heat to
the hot afternoon
simmering in sweat and coconut oil
as our two humidities rose
high   higher                     Bang!
outside the window        Bang!Bang!
and the houseboy’s laughing shout

He had been tossing firecrackers
at the roof
to dislodge itinerant pigeons
But at his feet had fallen
a passing oriole
shocked into gape      beak ajar

Hurrying from the bedroom
half-saronged
we saw him kneel to the yellow bird
fondle      cajole      kiss it      offer it
back to the day
Still it sat rigid in his hand

Chuckling then      you said
Is this a golden trophy of
our shooting match?
At which the oriole blinked
stretched and puffed
spurted into the air
vanished beyond the pawpaw tree

James Broughton, Afternoons in Ceylon I, Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry, 2000

Born to affluent parents in Modesto, California in November of 1913, James Broughton was a poet and filmmaker. He was a member of the San Francisco Renaissance movement, a 1950s collective of American avant-garde poets which included such poets as Kenneth Rexroth, Madeline Gleason, Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer, among others. Known best for his cinematography, Broughton made poetic experimental films, both in color and black and white, throughout his career.

After the death of his father in the deadly 1918 influenza epidemic, James Broughton spent his early years in San Francisco. He started his formal education at a military school; however, at the age of sixteen after having an affair with a classmate, he was expelled. Broughton pursued a career in writing at Stanford University until 1935, at which time he relocated to New York City and became a theater critic. Through his written work, Broughton met artist Sidney Peterson, who would later establish San Francisco Art Institute’s Workshop 20, the first college program to teach filmmaking as art.

After he moved back to San Francisco, Broughton wrote and produced the play “Summer Fury”, for which the Stanford Dramatists’ Alliance gave him the 1945 Alden Award for Original Screenplay. In 1946, a collaboration between Broughton and Sidney Peterson produced the 16mm film “The Potted Palm”, a depiction of Freudian desires that combined the erotic with the decaying. Broughton later credited his working with Peterson on this film as the influence that led him to experimental filmmaking.

James Broughton’s early 16mm short films, which ran from nine to thirty-eight minutes, covered a wide range of genres, including personal journals, comedy, music, theater, and queer stories. Broughton’s first solo film was the 1948 avant-garde classic “Mother’s Day” which dealt with human pain and lack of emotion. He followed this film’s success with five more films between 1950 and 1953, among which was the 1953 “The Pleasure Garden”, a collaboration with partner Kermit Sheets. Made in England, the film was successful only in Europe where it received several awards including one at the Cannes Film Festival presented byJean Cocteau.

In 1953, Broughton stopped his filmmaking to concentrate more fully on his writing which, through his career, totaled more than twenty published works. His poetry collection “True & False Unicorn”, poems of Broughton’s complex search for his true self, was published in 1955 and later choreographed on stage by Jergen Verbruggen. Broughton’s autobiographical prose poem collection “The Androgyne Journal”. published in 1977, was a strongly personal book about breaking creative boundaries.

James Broughton published two retrospective collections of his poetry: “A Long Undressing: Collected Poems 1949-1969”, published in 1971 by Jargon Society Press, and “Packing Up for Paradise: Selected Poems 1946-1996” published in November of 1997 by Black Sparrow Press. In 1993, Broughton published his memoir, an autobiography entitled “Coming Unbuttoned”, which documented his eighty-year artistic journey in life through the famous and infamous circles of 1930s New York to the avant-garde culture of San Francisco in the 1960s and 70s.

Starting in the late 1960s, James Broughton returned to filmmaking and produced both short and full length films. His first film was the 1968 “The Bed”, which won prizes at many film festivals. Containing a highly energetic musical score by Warner Jepson, it featured ground-breaking full-frontal, yet innocent, nudity of male and female figures gathered around the same bed. Broughton’s later poetic films include such works as the 1972 “Dreamwood”, a story of one man’s journey to a mysterious island: “The Water Circle”, a 1975 poetic homage to sage Lao-tsu on the world’s bodies of water; the 1979 “Hermes Bird”, a celebration of the transformative power of the phallus; and the 1988 “Scattered Remains”, one of six films created with his partner Joel Singer, in which Broughton acts out his verses in unlikely situations.

Broughton’s honors include a Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an American Film Institute Award for Independent Film and Video Artists. He was an early poet member of the Radical Faeries, a counterculture movement that redefined queer consciousness through secular spirituality, and a member of The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a protest and street performance group that used drag and religious imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance. Broughton also taught at both San Francisco State University and San Francisco’s Art Institute.

James Broughton had relationships with both men and women. He lived briefly with film critic Pauline Kael, with whom he had a daughter in 1948. At the age of forty-nine, Broughton married Suzanne Hart, with whom he had two children. In 1973, he met Joel Singer, a twenty-five year old student at one of his San Fransisco Art Institute classes, and began both a strong personal relationship and a lengthy film collaboration. In 1989, Broughton and Singer moved to Port Townsend, Washington, where they lived until Broughton’s death, at the age of eighty-five, in May of 1999.

“The quietest poetry can be an explosion of joy. True delicacy is not a fragile thing. The most delicate and yielding of our necessities, water, can be the most powerful destroyer, swallowing everything.

True delicacy is indestructible. Take Shelley, Dickinson, Firbank, Basho. I like things which appear fragile but are tough inside. In the long run the deadly can outmaneuver the brute, the bird is more resourceful than the rhino.” – James Broughton

Note: A remembrance on the life of James Broughton by Martin Goodman as well as an except from Goodman’s interview with Broughton can be found at: http://www.archipelago.org/vol4-1/broughton.htm

Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “james Broughton and Joel Singer”, Photo Shoot from “Devotions”, 1983, Gelatin Silver Print

Third Insert Image: Imogen Cunningham, “The Poet and His Alter Ego (James Broughton)”, 1962, Gelatin Silver Print, New Orleans Museum of Art

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “james Broughton and Joel Singer in “Devotions”, 1983, Gelatin Silver Print

Martin Wong

Paintings by Martin Wong

Born in Portland, Oregon in July of 1946, Martin Wong was an American painter of Chinese-Mexican ancestry whose work was a studious blend of visionary and social realism art styles. His work explored different ethnic and racial identities, and acknowledged his own queer sexuality.

Raised by a supportive family in the Chinatown district of San Francisco, Martin Wong began to express his artistic inclination at an early age. He entered California’s Humboldt State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Ceramics in 1968. Wong won a competitive ceramics exhibition held in 1970 at San Francisco’s de Young Museum.

Wong resided in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district from 1964 to 1978. While at home, he studied art history and became interested in subjects such as modern painting and Asian decorative objects. During this period, Wong was active in the art scene of the Bay Area, often painting portraits under the pseudonym of Human Instamatic. He also served as the set designer for the art performance group The Angels of Light, a social trope that was part of the emerging gay consciousness of the period.

Encouraged by his friends’ response to his art, Wong made the decision in 1978 to settle in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for a career as an artist. Largely self-taught, his work was inspired by his immediate surroundings and ranged from uncompromising renderings of the Lower East Side’s decay to colorful paintings of the Chinatowns of New York and San Francisco. Wong also painted a series of work entitled “Traffic Signs for the Hearing Impaired”, artworks identical in color and shape to standard city traffic signs that utilized sign-language of the deaf to express their message.

In 1982 at the group exhibition “Crime Show” held at the collective gallery ABC No Rio in the Lower East Side, Martin Wong met poet Miguel Piñero, a leading member of the Nuyorican literary movement and author of the Pulitzer Prize winning play “Short Eyes”. Shortly after their meeting, Piñero moved into Wong’s apartment which began a relationship that would last until Piñero’s death in 1988. Through Piñero association, Wong became more integrated into the local Latino community; he began a series of collaborative work with Piñero that became entitled “Urban Landscapes”. This series of paintings combined Wong’s meticulous cityscapes and stylized sign-language with Piñero’s prose and poetry. Wong presented these paintings at a solo exhibition in 1984 at curator and recording artist Barry Blinderman’s Semaphore Gallery East.

In 1985 and 1986, Wong began a series of work entitled “The Last Picture Show”, a series of life-size images of shuttered storefronts. He amassed a large graffiti collection while living in New York and, in 1989, co-founded with friend Peter Broda the Museum of American Graffiti on the East Village’s Bond Street. By the 1990s, Wong’s work became quieter and more grim as gentrification took over the neighborhood and his peers were dying for drug addiction and AIDS.

In 1993, Matin Wong had a solo exhibition, “Chinatown Paintings”, at the San Francisco Art Institute. In these works based on his own memories and experiences, he presented an outsider’s view of Chinatown that lent itself more to myth than reality. Following complications in his health in 1994, Wong donated his graffiti collection to the Museum of the City of New York. In 1994, he was diagnosed with AIDS and, with declining health, moved back to San Francisco. He died under his parents’ care at the age of fifty-three from AIDS-related illness in August of 1999.

A retrospective of Martin Wong’s work was held at the Bronx Museum of Arts in 2015. His work can be found in many public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Syracuse University Collection, the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.

Note: Martin Wong’s 1984 painting, “My Secret World”, included in the above images, is an image of his first residence in Manhattan, a cheap hotel bedroom on the Lower East Side with a view to the South Street Seaport. The bedroom pictured is tidy with three of his earlier works on the walls. One depicts a series of hands sprouting from white cuff=links, The hands spell out in American Sign Language the words “Physiatrist Testify: Demon dogs drive man to murder”, which references the serial killer Son of Sam who stalked New York in 1983. Included in the books presented on the dresser are fictional works by Raymond Chandler and John Cheever.

Second Insert Image: Martin Wong, “Starry Night”, 1982, Oil on Canvas, 55.9 x 76.2 cm, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York

Third Insert Image: Martin Wong, “Crossing Sign”, Traffic Signs for the Hearing Impaired Series, 1990, DOT Aluminum Steel Signs

Fourth Insert Image: Martin Wong, “Angelito”, 1992, Acrylic on Canvas, 61 x 56.2 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Martin Wong, “Tell My Troubles to the Eight Ball”, 1978-1981, Acrylic on Canvas, 122 x 122 cm, Private Collection

Christopher Soto: “Last Time I Saw Myself Die..”

Photographers Unknown, Last Time I Saw Myself Die

Last time I saw myself die is when police killed Jessie Hernandez

                                      A 17 year old brown queer // who was sleeping in their car

Yesterday I saw myself die again // Fifty times I died in Orlando // &

                        I remember reading // Dr. José Esteban Muñoz before he passed

I was studying at NYU // where he was teaching // where he wrote shit

                        That made me feel like a queer brown survival was possible // But he didn’t

Survive & now // on the dancefloor // in the restroom // on the news // in my chest

                        There are another fifty bodies that look like mine // & are

Dead // & I’ve been marching for Black Lives & talking about police brutality

                        Against Native communities too // for years now // but this morning

I feel it // I really feel it again // How can we imagine ourselves // We being black native

                        Today // Brown people // How can we imagine ourselves

When All the Dead Boys Look Like Us? // Once I asked my nephew where he wanted

                        To go to College // What career he would like // as if

The whole world was his for the choosing // Once he answered me without fearing

                        Tombstones or cages or the hands from a father // The hands of my lover

Yesterday praised my whole body // Made angels from my lips // Ave Maria

                        Full of Grace // He propped me up like the roof of a cathedral // in NYC

Before we opened the news & read // & read about people who think two brown queers

                        Can’t build cathedrals // only cemeteries // & each time we kiss

A funeral plot opens // In the bedroom I accept his kiss // & I lose my reflection

                        I’m tired of writing this poem // but I want to say one last word about

Yesterday // my father called // I heard him cry for only the second time in my life

                        He sounded like he loved me // it’s something I’m rarely able to hear

& I hope // if anything // his sound is what my body remembers first.;

Christopher Soto, All the Dead Boys Look Like Me, Bullets into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, 2017

Born in 1991 to El Salvadoran parents who immigrated to the United States, Christopher Soto is a poet and prison abolitionist who spent the formative years of life in Los Angeles. Soto studied at New York University as a Goldwater Hospital Writing Fellow and, in 2015, earned a Master of Fine Arts in Poetry .Soto has worked with the Lambda Literary Foundation since 2014 as editor of the online literary journal “Nepantia”.

Christopher Soto’s first chapbook collection of poems was the 2012 “How to Eat Glass”. Soto’s second collection, the chapbook “Sad Girl Poems” was published in January of 2016. This collection of narrative poems dealt with the social issues affecting young queer people of color, among which are homelessness, gender identity, abuse in the family, and death of a lover. In 2016, Soto co-founded, along with Macelo Castillo and Javier Zamora, the Undocupoets Campaign which successfully removed the citizenship requirement from first-book competitions, thus allowing undocumented poets and writers to participate. For this, the organization and Soto received the Barnes & Noble Writer for Writers Award.

After receiving an invitation from The Center for Justice at New York’s Columbia University, Soto taught a community-based writing workshop in 2017 at the university as part of the June Jordan Teaching Corp, named in honor of the queer black poet and essayist. In 2018, Soto edited and published through Nightboat Books the anthology “Nepantia: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color”. This publication was the first major literary anthology of queer poets of color in the United States.

Relocating back to Los Angeles in 2019, Christopher Soto began working with the University of California’s Ethnic Studies Research Center. Soto became a member of the Boardof Directors for Lambda Literary and joined the CantoMundo Fellowship which supports Latino poets and poetry. Working alongside Javier Zamora, Jan Henry Gray and Anni Liu, Soto co-organized the “Writers for Migrant Justice” campaign, a national movement in over forty cities to raise the necessary funds to aid migrant families in detention.

As a lecturer in 2020 with the University of California’s Honors College, Soto began teaching inter disciplinary creative writing courses, such as “Poetry and Protest Movements”. Awarded in 2021 a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, Soto became a visiting Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Los Angeles’s Occidental College, where he still teaches.

In May of 2022, Copper Canyon Press will be releasing Soto’s new collection of poetry, “Diaries of a Terrorist”. This collection of political surrealist poems, which discusses the issues of power and police violence, is expressed through alternating humor, deep vulnerability, and frank queer punk bawdiness.

Christopher Soto’s poetry, reviews, interviews and articles can be found in many literary publications, including Poetry magazine, Tin House, American Poetry Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Guardian, among others. Soto’s workis available in many translations including Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai.

Film History: Nils Asther

Photographer Unknown, “Nils Asther”, July of 1932, Publicity Shot for Cine-Mundial, A New York-based Spanish Magazine

Born in Copenhagen in January of 1897, Nils Anton Althild Asther was a Swedish gay actor who was active in Hollywood from 1926 until the mid-1950s. He was the son of Anton Andersson Asther and Hildegard Augusta Åkerlund, who had accepted his father’s proposal but was unwed at the time of Nils’s birth. Asther spent his first year as a foster child and rejoined his parents after their marriage on May 29th of 1898 in the city of Malmö. He grew up in a deeply religious Lutheran home, where homosexuality was considered a sin by the church and viewed as a disease by Swedish society.

Nils Asther, still a young man, moved to Stockholm where he studied acting under the tutelage of Swedish silent-film and stage actress Augusta Lindberg. Through the endorsement of his teacher, he received his first theatrical engagement at Lorensbergsteatern, the art performance theater in the city of Gothenburg. Asther performed in several productions in Stockholm which included two plays in 1923, “The Importance of Being Earnest” and “ The Admirable Crichton”, and the 1924 production of “Othello” at the Royal Dramatic Theater. 

In 1916 at the age of nineteen, Asther was cast by the pioneer Swedish film director Mauritz Stiller for his silent film “Vingarne (The Wings)”. This production was based the novel “Mikaël” by the internationally recognized Danish author Herman Bang. It starred silent-film actors Egil Eide, Lars Hanson, and Lill Bech, with Nils Asther in a supporting role. Besides being an early gay-themed film, it is recognized for it innovative use of a framing story, a main narrative which is divided into a set of shorter stories, and for its use of flashbacks as the primary plot source. Although only thirty minutes of its seventy-minute length survived, a 1987 restoration used still photos and title cards to bridge the missing sections. 

Now residing in Copenhagen, Nils Asther received support from actor Aage Hertel, a member of the Royal Danish Theater and a leading actor at Nordisk Film. Between 1918 and 1926, Asther appeared in a number of film roles in Denmark, Sweden and Germany. After being approached by a representative from United Artists, he traveled to Hollywood  where he was given the role of  George Shelby in director Delmer Lord’s “Topsy and Eva”, a 1927 silent drama produced by Feature Productions. By 1928 Asther’s suave appearance placed him in leading roles; he soon played opposite such stars as Marion Davies and Joan Crawford.  

Asther appeared in director Harry Beaumont’s 1928 “Our Dancing Daughters”, a silent drama depicting the dangers of loose morals among the young. The film cast included John Mack Brown and Joan Crawford; it was this film role of Charleston-dancing, Prohibition-era drinking Diana Medford that launched Joan Crawford’s career. Asther was next given the leading role of handsome Prince de Gace, who played opposite Greta Garbo’s role of Lillie Sterling, in director Sidney Franklin’s 1929 drama “Wild Orchids”. Though often listed as a silent film, it was released as a non-talking film with orchestral score, sound effects, and title cards for dialogue. Asther had previously known Garbo in Sweden and would continue to be close friends; they appeared together in a second film of the same year, the MGM romantic drama “The Single Standard”. 

With the arrival of sound in film, Nils Asther began voice and diction lessons to minimize his Nordic accent. Due to his accent, many of his early roles in sound films were characters of foreign origins. Asther appeared with Robert Montgomery and, once again, with Joan Crawford in Clarence Brown’s 1932 drama “Letty Lynton”, which recounts the historical murder allegedly committed by nineteenth-century Glasgow socialite madeleine Smith, played by Crawford. In 1933, he was given the role of General Yen in Frank Capra’s drama war film “The Bitter Tea of General Yen”, where he  played opposite Barbara Stanwyck and, after its premiere, received good reviews for his portrayal.

After an alleged breach of contract led to a studio-based blacklist, Asther was forced to work in England between the years 1935 and 1940. He made six films in England before his return to Hollywood. Upon his return, Asther made nineteen more films before 1949; however, he was mostly given small supporting roles from which his career never returned to its former height. During the early 1950s, Asther attempted to revive his career with appearances on television which was becoming a rapidly growing phenomenon in the United States. Managing only to secure roles in a small number of minor television series, he decided in 1958 to return to Sweden. Asther had four film roles and an engagement with a local theater before 1963, at which time he retired from acting and devoted himself to painting. 

Nils Asther passed away on the 13th of October in 1981, at the age of eighty-four, at the Farsta Hospital in Stockholm. He is buried in the village of Hotagen, located in Jämtland, Sweden. Asther was inducted in 1960 into the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the film industry; his star is located at 6705 Hollywood Boulevard. 

Asther was a gay man in a time when it was both a personal and professional social stigma. Although the film industry in the 1920s accepted gay actors with little reservation, the actors had to remain discreet about their sexual orientation. In August of 1930, Asther entered into a lavender marriage with Vivian Duncan, one of the his costars from the 1927 “Topsy and Eva”. This turbulent marriage produced one daughter and resulted, after much media discussion, in a divorce in 1932. 

Nils Asther’s memoir, “The Road of the Jester: Not a God’s Tale: A Memoir”, was published posthumously in 1988 in Stockholm. In this volume, he mentions relationships he had in the 1930s with director Mauritz Stiller and Swedish author Hjalmar Bergman. Asther also had a long-term relationship with actor and  stuntman Ken DuMain, whom he met on Hollywood Boulevard in the early 1940s. 

Top Insert Image: George Hurrell, “Nils Asther”, circa 1930s, MGM Publicity Still, 25.4 x 33 cm, Private Collection

Second Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Nils Asther and Greta Garbo”, 1929, MGM Publicity Shot

Third Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Nils Asther”, French Postcard by Europe, No. 909, MGM Studio Publicity Shot, Date Unknown

Fourth Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Nils Asther”, Date Unknown, Publicity Shot, John Kobal Foundation, Getty Images

Bottom Insert Image: George Hurrell, “Nils Asther and Joan Crawford”, 1932, MGM Publicity Shot

Dennis Cooper: “Their Jeans Sparkled, Cut Off Way Above the Knee”

Photographers Unknown, Their Jeans Sparkled

Their jeans sparkled, cut off
way above the knee, and my
friends and I would watch them
from my porch, books of poems
lost in our laps, eyes wide as
tropical fish behind our glasses.

Their football flashed from hand
to hand, tennis shoes gripped
the asphalt, sweat’s spotlight on
their strong backs. We would
dream of hugging them, and crouch
later in weird rooms, and come.

Once their ball fell our way
so two of them came over, hands
on their hips, asking us to
throw it to them, which Arthur did,
badly, and they chased it back.
One turned to yell, “Thanks”

and we dreamed of his long
teeth in our necks. We
wanted them to wander over,
place deep wet underarms to
our lips, and then their white
asses, then those loud mouths.

One day one guy was very tired,
didn’t move fast enough,
so a car hit him and he sprawled
fifty feet away, sexy, but he was
dead, blood like lipstick, then
those great boys stood together

on the sidewalk and we joined them,
mixing in like one big friendship
to the cops, who asked if we were,
and those boys were too sad to counter.
We’d known his name, Tim, and how
he’d turned to thank us nicely

but now he was under a sheet
anonymous as God, the big boys crying,
spitting words, and we stunned
like intellectuals get, our high
voices soft as the tinkling of a
chandelier on a ceiling too high to see.

Dennis Cooper, “After School, Street Football, Eighth Grade”, The World is Us: Lesbian and Gay Poetry of the Next Wave, 2000

Born in Pasadena, California in January of 1953, Dennis Cooper is a novelist, poet, critic and short story writer. He is best known for his autobiographical novels that feature intense analyses of human obsessions and relationships. 

The son of conservative parents, Dennis Cooper was educated at Pasadena City College and Pitzer College, a private liberal arts college in Claremont, California. He was influenced in his early years by French novelists and directors such as Jean Cocteau, Marguerite Duras and Alain Robbe-Grillet. An astute student, Cooper began writing surreal stories at the age of twelve. He was already focused toward a career in writing at the age of fifteen having written stories  in the styles of Arthur Rimbaud and the Marquis de Sade. 

Cooper was attracted to the Punk culture in his teenage years. In 1976 at the age of twenty-four, he founded the punk “Little Caesar Magazine”, which ran for four years and featured contributions from Debbie Harry, Andy Warhol, and artist / AIDs activist David Wojnarowicz. In 1978, Cooper founded the Little Caesar Press which published works by such artists as poet Amy Gerstler and critic and poet Peter Schjeldahl. Through his publishing company, he published his first book of poetry “Idols” in 1979. Two years later Cooper published his “Tenderness of the Wolves”, a collection of short stories and poetry which was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. 

After working for four years as the Director of Programming at the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Dennis Cooper moved to New York City in 1983. He soon published his first novella, “Safe” and began a series of five books, the “George Miles Cycle”, a collection of work he aspired to write at the age of fifteen. After relocating to Amsterdam with his boyfriend, Cooper in 1985 published “Closer”, the first volume of the “Cycle” series. This book later won the first Ferro-Grumley Award for Gay Literature. During this period, Cooper also contributed articles for magazines such as The Advocate, Art in America, and Artforum. 

Returning to America in 1987, Cooper published his 1991 novel “Frisk”. He also worked on several art projects including collagist and sculptor Richard Hawkins’s 1988 “Against Nature: A Group Show of Work by Homosexual Men” held at the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibition space. From 1990 to 2005, Cooper lived in Los Angeles collaborating with other artists including painter Lari Pittman, composer John Zorn, and sculptor Jason Meadows. He also founded the ‘Little House on the Bowery’ imprint, which issued works of new creative writers through the publishing company Akashic Books. 

In 1996, Dennis Cooper published s retrospective of his work from 1969 to 1993 entitled “The Dream Police”. This collection includes the best poems from his last five books, both darkly erotic early works and the more refined post-punk works of the later years. In 2000, Cooper published “Period”, the last volume in his “George Miles Cycle”. This series of work, an examination of Cooper’s fascination with sex and violence as well as his love affair with friend George Miles, has been translated into eighteen foreign languages and has been the subject of academic studies. The cycle, in addition to the five volumes, includes two essay collections by Cooper devoted to the cycle: the 2004 “Enter at Your Own Risk” and the 2008 “Writing at the Edge”.

In 2005, Cooper relocated to Paris where he currently resides. He has collaborated with composers Peter Rehberg and Stephen O’Malley, as well as theater director Gisèle Bienne, on several works for the theater including the 2005 “Un Belle Enfant Blonde” and a stage adaption of his 2003 novella “Jerk”. Cooper has since published several novels, short fiction works, and collections of poetry, including the 2004 “Thee Tight Lung Split Roar Hums”, the 2008 limited edition “The Weaklings”, and the 2013 “The Weaklings (XL)”. 

Notes: In the middle of 2016, Cooper engaged in a two-month confrontation with Google after it deleted his blog for “unspecified violations of their terms of use policy”. This blog contained ten years of writing plus a novel in progress. After mass media attention on Google’s actions and long negotiations through attorneys, Google returned his data. 

Harold Norse: “The Sea Broke Wild Beneath the Cliff”

Photographers Unknown, The Sea Broke Wild Beneath the Cliff

we sailed into the harbor
all the church bells rang
the main street on the crescent shore
hung iridescent silks from windows
stucco house-fronts gleamed
rose, pistachio, peach
and a procession sang
behind a surpliced priest
carrying a burnished Christ
when I set foot on shore
a youth emerged from the crowd
barefoot and olive-skinned
and we climbed up rocky slopes
till dusk fell and close to the moon
at the mouth of a cave we made love
as the sea broke wild beneath the cliff

Harold Norse, Island of Giglio, In the Hub of the Fiery Force: Collected Poems of Harold Norse (1934-2003)

Born in New York City in July of 1916, Harold Norse, born Harold Rosen, was an American poet and writer who broke new ground beginning in the 1950s by his exploration of gay identity and sexuality through plain language and direct imagery. 

The only son of an unmarried Lithuanian Jewish immigrant, Harold Norse earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature in 1938 from Brooklyn College where he edited its literary magazine and began writing poetry. While at the college, Norse entered into a relationship with fellow student Chester Kallman, who became a poet and opera librettist. He and Kallman became part of poet W. H. Auden’s inner circle of acquaintances after Auden and Christopher Isherwood relocated to New York City in 1939. Chester Kallman later became Auden’s companion until Auden’s death.

By the early 1940s as a member of Auden’s circle, Norse cultivated a number of relationships, both professional and personal. He met Allen Ginsberg on a Manhattan subway and became friends with James Baldwin after meeting him in Greenwich Village. Norse spent a summer with Tennessee Williams while the playwright finished his “The Glass Menagerie”, and in 1950 became friends with Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. After earning his Master’s Degree in English Literature at New York University in 1951, Norse met modernist poet William Carlos William who encouraged him to embrace a more direct, conversational language in his poetry. 

After accepting Williams’s mentorship, Harold Norse found a common cause with the Beat Generation poets in their rejection of academic poetry and traditional metric formats. as well as, his peripheral status in society as a gay man. Norse began publishing his work in The Paris Review, The Saturday Review, and Poetry Magazine. In 1953, he published his first collection of poem, “The Undersea Mountain”. Frustrated with New York’s poetry scene, Norse began a fifteen year period of travel in Europe and North Africa. While in Italy, he translated the sonnets of Giuseppe Gioachino Belli from the Romanesco, the dialect of Rome, with the assistance of street hustlers.

Between 1960 and 1963, Norse lived in Paris , along with William Burroughs, Alan Ginsberg and Gregory Corso, at the hotel known as “The Bear” in the city’s Latin Quarter. He briefly collaborated with painter and performance artist Brion Gysin on Gysin’s cut-up Dada work. After traveling to Greece where he met songwriter and author Leonard Cohen, Norse went to North Africa where he became friends with stage actor Paul Bowles. He returned to the United States and settled in the Mission District of San Francisco in 1972, which became his home for the rest of his life.There he became friends with writer Charles Bukowski and met Arnold Schwarzenegger, at that time a beginning bodybuilder.

It was in San Francisco that Harold Norse’s literary career became very productive. In 1974, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s publishing house, City Lights, released Norse’s “Hotel Nirvana” Selected Poems 1953-1973” to critical acclaim. With the publication of “Carnivorous Saint: Gay Poems 1941-1975″, he was considered one of America’s leading gay poets. Norse followed these successes with two more collections: “The Love Poems 1940-1985” and his final volume, “In the Hub of the Fiery Force: Collected Poems 1934-2003”. In 1989, his autobiography, “Memoirs of a Bastard Angel: A Fifty Year Literary and Erotic Odyssey”, was published. 

Norse was an outsider of society, Jewish, homosexual and illegitimate, who produced new and technically accomplished work from the fringes of the literary scene in the United States. With the gay liberation movement gathering momentum, his poetry was given a new sense of direction and meaning. Norse wrote new poems about the idea of masculinity, such as his “I Am Not a Man”, and works about unrequited gay love and loneliness. In his latter years, his work reflected on what it meant to be an aged gay man in San Francisco. 

Toward the end of his life, Harold Norse was surrounded by a group of friends who looked after him. He still read his poetry at the age of ninety-one to enthralled audiences. Both a two-time National Endowment of the Arts grant recipient and a National Poetry Association Award winner, Harold Norse died on the 8th of June in 2009. 

Note: For those interested, I highly recommend a visit to the Harold Norse Centennial website. Dedicated to preserving the work and legacy of Norse, it was established by his close.  decades-long friend Todd Swindell. The site contains interviews, readings of Norse’s work, book reviews, videos, photographs, and other articles. The site is located at: https://haroldnorse.com