Rane Arroyo: “Secret Sleepwalking into Each Other’s Doubts”

Photographers Unknown, A World of Color

It’s the story of my life; minus
the big budget close-ups, plus a film
director unsure of my fate, minus
a season among sheep, plus mountains
looking like saddles for my true
love to ride, minus extras with tire irons,
minus awards, but the yes of two
men becoming one, the sí of kissing far
from angels (how Blakean), plus
Mormon underwear stripteases, Sundays
wearing vodka haloes, plus
nights spent on the floor and somehow
not stepped upon by God, plus
exorcisms and cold rivers, whispers in
Spanish from our missions, plus
secret sleepwalkings into each other’s
doubts, free to quote Wilde, plus
a plan to escape America, but
it’s the exact story of my life with
my cowboy, minus the sense of an impending
Patmos, that franchise of whispers and
wild kisses, minus the script
(we were our best scriptures), we the scarred
ghosts wearing landscape’s honesty, photogenic
Adam’s Apples, designer sorrow, minus
talk show rodeos, paparazzi round-ups,
politically-correct high fives, minus
the nightmares of winged horses with
hooves striking rocks to start fires, plus
slow motion nights on Speed, education
and library cards, the Spanish of my skin, plus
a belief in doom, nights bedding the moon,
two men without spin doctors, plus
an unedited nakedness, joy rides in beds
offering amnesty for the crime of being,
plus our Tijuana plans for a destiny makeover,
our nights as free verse Rimbauds
in cowboy boots, plus vaqueros keeping
quiet about specifics that become
the story of my life, plus Judgement Day
drinking games: showing God just
Brokeback Mountain to explain myself,
minus the editing, each moment as
Love’s monument and God’s cameo, in my
image, in my imagination, in my
nation while I and my cowboy are silent
having to learned to speak wind,
wind from nowhere, wind with news of home,
of our entangled shadows seeking
us with the plus and the minus of having
form, and we ride away from the cosmic
to the specifics of long nights without stars
with clenched fists, us undressed and
wondering what it feels like to become fiction

Rane Arroyo, Brokeback Mountain

Born in November of 1954 in Chicago, Rane Arroyo was an American poet, playwright and scholar of Puerto Rican descent. He earned his PhD in English and Cultural Studies form the University of Pittsburgh. Arroyo was a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Toledo in Ohio. 

In the 1980s, Rane Arroyo began his career as a performance artist in Chicago’s art galleries and eventually focused on his poetry. Openly gay, he wrote poetry, short stories and plays that were frequently self-reflexive, autobiographical works. Arroyo’s work dealt to a large degree with the issues of homosexuality, immigration, and the Latino culture. In his poetic stanzas and narratives, he juxtaposed his literary knowledge with contemporary pop culture.  

Arroyo’s 1996 poetry collection, “The Singing Shark”, won the 1997 Carl Sandburg Poetry Prize and his poem “Breathing Lessons”, published in Emerson College’s literary journal, won a 1997 Pushcart Prize. For his 2005 collection “The Portable Famine”, Arroyo won the2004-05 John Ciardi Poetry Prize. Included among his ten poetry collections are the 2006 “Don Quixote Goes to the Moon”;“The Roswell Poems” and “Same-Sex Séances”, both published in 2008; and his last collection, the 2010 “White as Silver: Poems”.

In addition to his poetry, Rane Arroyo wrote a book of short stories in 2005 entitled “How to Name a Hurricane”. His performed plays include such works as “The Amateur Virgin”, “Emily Dickinson in Bandages”, Prayers for a Go-Go Boy”, and “The House with Black Windows”, co-written with poet Glenn Sheldon, and performed in 1995 by the Polaris Theater in New York City.

Arroyo served as the co-Vice President of the Board of Directors for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs and as the co-Chair for the 2009 Chicago Conference. Nominated sixteen times for the Pushcart Prize for Poetry, Arroyo was awarded a Stonewall Books Chapbook Prize, the Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Prize, The Sonora Review Chapbook Prize from Arizona University, and a 2007 Ohio Arts Council Excellence Award in Poetry. 

Rane Arroyo died in the early morning of April 7th in 2010 due to a cerebral hemorrhage. He is survived by his life-long partner, American  poet Glenn Sheldon. In 2015, Rane Arroyo was inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame. His papers are archived at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City.

Thom Gunn: “I Dozed. I Slept. My Sleep Broke on a Hug”

Photographers Unknown, Positional Images of Men

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined
    Half of the night with our old friend
        Who’d showed us in the end
    To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.
        Already I lay snug,
And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.

I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,
        Suddenly, from behind,
In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:
         Your instep to my heel,
     My shoulder-blades against your chest.
     It was not sex, but I could feel
     The whole strength of your body set,
             Or braced, to mine,
         And locking me to you
     As if we were still twenty-two
     When our grand passion had not yet
         Become familial.
     My quick sleep had deleted all
     Of intervening time and place.
         I only knew
The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.

Thom Gunn, The Hug, The Man with Night Sweats, 1992

Born in August of 1929 in Gravesend, a port town in Kent, Thom Gunn was an English poet. A reader of works by Keats, Milton, and Marlowe, he attended Hampstead’s University College School in his youth. Gunn spent two years in the British Army for his national service and lived for six months in Paris before entering Cambridge’s Trinity College to study English literature. 

After his graduation in 1953, Gunn, young and gay at a time when it was illegal, published his first volume of poetry, “Fighting Terms”, a collection of poetic metaphors of love and self-disclosure. Received with acclaim, the volume contains his poems “Carnal Knowledge” and the tender “Tamer and Hawk”. Gunn’s initial poetry became associated with The Movement, a group of English poets who wrote traditional, simple poems nostalgic for an earlier, more pastoral Britain. His later poetry was associated with the work of Poet Laurette of England Ted Hughes who wrote frequently about the mixture of beauty and violence in the natural world.

After his first volume was published, Thom Gunn emigrated with his life-long partner Michael Kitay, whom he had met at Cambridge, to the United States. Taking a position at California’s Stanford University to teach writing, Gunn began to study poetry with poet and literary critic Yvor Winters, a modernist poet whose clear, sharp-language work was heavily influenced by Native American poetry. He began reading and studying the works of poets Gary Snyder, Robert Duncan, and William Carlos Williams, all of whom would influence his poetry. 

Gunn began teaching at the Berkeley campus of the University of California in 1958, a position he held for forty-two years, with a seven year absence beginning in 1966. His second collection of poems, the 1957 “Sense of Movement”, was a winner of the Somerset Maugham Award. Contained within that volume is the poem “On the Move”, a celebration of black-jacketed motorcyclists. In 1961, Gunn published his “My Sad Captains”, a book divided in two sections. The first section contained epic poems written in heroic verse which, in its purest form, consists of two rhyming lines written in an iambic pentameter. Gunn experimented in the second section with syllabic verse where the meter of the work is determined by the total number of syllables per line, rather than the contained stresses. This juxtaposition between two poetic forms would be repeated in other Gunn collections. 

Affected by the San Francisco bohemian lifestyle of the 1960s and 1970s, Thom Gunn became increasingly bolder in his verse and began to explore themes of homosexuality and drugs. Notable collections from the period include the 1967 “Touch”, “Moly” published in 1971 and the 1976 “Jack Straw’s Castle”. While he continued to use the  sharp, metrical forms that characterized his early work, Gunn continued his experiments with the freedom of free verse.  Coupled with his writing to a specific set of images, these free verse poems with their non-rhyming lines followed the natural rhythms of speech.

In 1982, Gunn published his first collection of essays, “The Occasions of Poetry”, which included critical pieces on writers ranging from William Carlos Williams and Gary Snyder to Thomas Hardy and Robert Duncan. The volume also contained five autobiographical essays, which covered Gunn’s development as a poet and discussed the contemporary literary currents in England and the United States, places that Gunn considered as home.

Gunn lost many of his friends when the AIDS epidemic came to the gay community in the 1980s. His grief was described to a profound degree in his 1992 “The Man with Night Sweats”, a series of first person perspective poems that explored the horrors of the epidemic as seen through the eyes of the inflicted. Through these poems, Gunn described his heartbreaking personal loss. Poems contained in this collection include “Lament”, “In Time of Plague”, and the title poem “The Man with Night Sweats”. Gunn received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for this 1992 volume. Although AIDS was a focus of much of his later work, he remained HIV-negative himself. Spared from the disease, Gunn continued in his work to consider death and what it meant that he was one to survive.

Among Thom Gunn’s other works are his 1979 “Selected Poems 1950-1975”; “Passages of Joy” published in 1982; and his final book of poetry, the 2000 “Boss Cupid”, which won Publishing Triangle’s inaugural Triangle Award for Gay Poetry in 2001. This award was, after his death, renamed the Thom Gunn Award in his memory. Gunn published a second volume of critical and autobiographical essays entitled “Shelf Life” in 1993. He won many awards for his work and received fellowships from the Guggenheim and the MacArthur foundations.

Thom Gunn died in April of 2004 of acute polysubstance abuse at his home in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, where he had lived since 1960. Five years after his death, a new edition of his “Selected Poems” was republished.

Notes: In the summer 2005 edition of The Threepenny Review, there is an article written by Michael Kitay about his first meeting and life with Thom Gunn. It can be found at: https://www.threepennyreview.com/samples/kitay_su05.html

A collection of Thom Gunn’s poetry can be found at the Classic Poetry Series located at:  https://www.poemhunter.com/i/ebooks/pdf/thom_gunn_2012_8.pdf

 

 

Jim French

The Photography of Jim French

Born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania in July of 1932, James Thomas French was an American artist, photographer, illustrator, filmmaker, and publisher. He is best known for his association with COLT Studio, one of the most successful gay male erotica companies in the United States.

For his formal art education, Jim French entered the Philadelphia Museum School of Art in 1950 to study towards a career in fashion illustration similar to that of J.C. Leyendecker. In 1953, the year before his graduation from the Museum School, he joined the United States Army Reserves and went on active duty in 1955; French earned a honorable discharge from service in 1957. Settled in New York City, he pursued a successful freelance career as an advertising illustrator for several Madison Avenue advertising firms. 

In addition to his work for Neiman Marcus and other high-end department stores, French also created textile designs for designer Tammis Keefe; collections of her work are now housed in Cooper Union and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Working with Columbia Records, he created portrait drawings of singers, such as Johnny Mathis. Frank Sinatra and Maria Callas, for use as album art. While working on Madison Avenue in the mid-1960s, French drew homoerotic drawings in his spare time, under the pseudonym of Arion. His drawings were offered in 1966 through Ed Wild’s Times Square Studio as well as his own short-lived mail order venture, the Arion Studio. 

Jim French was approached by a friend from his Army days, Saul Stollman, who had seen some of his Arion drawings, to create a physique studio in New York City. French adopted a new pseudonym for this venture, Kurt Lüger, and under the name of Lüger Studios began producing new, more masculine figured illustrations, which featured leather men, cowboys, wrestlers, and other similar archetypes. Lüger Studio artwork first appeared as two drawings from the “Cowboy” series in the May/June 1966 issue of “Young Physique”. This series of six to eight drawings was advertised in other male erotica magazines and was available for purchase through mail order. 

The success of Lüger Studio developed quickly after being featured in the pages and on the covers of a wide assortment of physique magazines. Saul Stollman bought out French’s interests in the studio in February of 1968 and briefly ran the business on his own. However, now featuring photographs and eight millimeter films from substandard producers, Lüger Studio did not attract enough interest to survive beyond 1968. 

On December 5th of 1967, Jim French and Lou Thomas, a friend and astute businessman, took out a business license to form COLT Studio. Although originally named to evoke the image of the Colt pistol, the studio quickly changed its COLT image to that of a stallion. For this new venture, French adopted a new pseudonym, Rip Colt, and began to make highly detailed pencil drawings, using the newly marketed Polaroid camera to shoot photographs of male models for research studies. Before the camera’s  advent, it had been a challenge getting erotic subject matter that was shot on film processed as many venues were reluctant to deal with this material. The Polaroid camera which contained its own processor solved that issue with its instant results. 

In the initial years of the company, COLT Studio released French’s illustrations, under the Rip Colt name, and photo sets of masculine male models, The studio eventually added short films, magazines and calendars. Based for six years in New York City, COLT Studio was relocated in 1974 to Studio City in California, due to French’s frequent travels to Southern California. At this time, French bought the company shares owned by his partner Lou Thomas, who soon formed his own business, Target Studios, a venture which provided the underground demographic with quality homoerotic art and film. 

COLT Studio grew into one of the most successful gay photography studios of its time and offered the highest quality male erotica commercially available. Jim French’s company was famous not only for its stable of male models, but also for its magazine brands which included Spurs, COLT Men, Manpower, and its film venue, COLT Studios Presents. French ran the company until 2003 when he sold the studio to former Falcon Studios director John Rutherford and his partner Tom Settle. For a few years after the sale of COLT Studio, Jim French continued to privately sell salon-style prints of his photographs before he settled into quiet retirement. Jim French died peacefully in his sleep at his Palm Springs, California, home on the 15th of June in 2017. He was  survived by his husband Jeff Turner.

Under his own publishing imprint State of Man, Jim French published eight volumes of fine art male photography from 1972 to 1999, among which are “Man”, “Quorum”, “The Art of Jim French: the Nude Male”, and “Opus Deorum”. French’s work has been published in several collections: Felix Lance Falkon’s 1972 “A Historic Collection of Gay Art”; a collection of early 1970s photographs of model David Scrivanek entitled “Like a Moth to a Flame”; and an anthology of his early Polaroid photographs from the 1960s and early 1970s entitled “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor: Jim French Polaroids”. French’s photographs and illustrations can be found in many private and public collections.

Notes: In 2004, Gabriel Goldberg convinced Jim French to tell his own story to the public for the first time. This personal account entitled “Life Thru a Lens: Jim French: In His Own Words” can be found at the Advocate online magazine located at: https://www.advocate.com/people/2017/6/29/story-jim-french-and-colt

Many of Jim French’s Polaroid photographs can be found at the Wessel and O’Connor Fine Art website located at:  https://wesseloconnor.com/exhibits/french/french1.phpd

Second Insert Image: Jim French, Untitled (Sailor with Shadow), Polaroid Print, 10.8 x 8.3 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Jim French, Untitled (Sailor), Polaroid Print, 10.8 x 8.3 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Jim French, Untitled, circa 1970s, Gelatin Silver Print, 56.5 x 71.7 cm, Private Collection

Maurice Kenny

Photographers Unknown, Hands Which Did Not Recognize Me

The book lay unread in my lap
snow gathered at the window
from Brooklyn it was a long ride
the Greyhound followed the plow
from Syracuse to Watertown
to country cheese and maples
tired rivers and closed paper mills
home to gossipy aunts   .   .   .
their dandelions and pregnant cats   .   .   .
home to cedars and fields of boulders
cold graves under willows and pine
home from Brooklyn to the reservation
that was not home
to songs I could not sing
to dances I could not dance
from Brooklyn bars and ghetto rats
to steaming horses stomping frozen earth
barns and privies lost in blizzards
home to a Nation, Mohawk
to faces I did not know
and hands which did not recognize me
to names and doors
my father shut

Maurice Kenny, Going Home, Between Two Rivers, 1988

The youngest of three children to a father of Mohawk and Irish heritage and a mother of English and Seneca heritage, Maurice Frank Kenny was born in Watertown, New York, in August of 1929. He spent his younger years in Watertown and on a family farm in nearby Cape Vincent. After his parents’ separation, Kenny remained with his father in Watertown until running away, at age sixteen, to Bayonne, New Jersey, to live with his mother. Truant at school, he was returned to his father’s custody in Watertown where he completed his high school education. 

Upon graduation, Maurice Kenny spent the summer traveling with a theater troupe in New York State. He spent a year in New York City attempting to establish a career as an actor; but after a year, he returned home. Kenny studied under Professors of English Warner Beyer and Roy Marz, a Fulbright Scholar, at Indiana’s Butler University, where he graduated in 1956 with a degree in English. He took additional classes under author and Professor of English Douglas Angus at St. Lawrence University in New York. 

Kenny moved to Manhattan, New York, in 1957 and became a manger for Marboro Books, which put him in contact with literary, cinematic and theatrical figures. He also took courses at New York University, where he met and studied under the fourth Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress,  Louise Bogan, who influenced his early development as a writer. 

Maurice Kenny began writing poetry as a teenager. He was particularly influenced by the writings of Walt Whitman, whose natural language and rhythm were qualities he found later in Native American oral literature. Encouraged by his former professor Douglas Angus, Kenny wrote the poems of his first chapbook, the 1956 “The Hopeless Kill”. His first full-length collection, “Dead Letters Sent and Other Poems”, was published in 1958, his first year at New York University. After a hiatus of travel in the early 1960s, Kenny settled for two decades in Brooklyn Heights, New York, to concentrate on his poetry. 

Kenny’s career coincided with a period of activism for Native Americans. In 1969 Native American activists occupied Alcatraz Island and, two years later, the American Indian movement was formed. A series of confrontations with federal authorities followed, which culminated in a violent confrontation in early 1973 at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. Native Americans were starting to embrace their traditional cultures and reject assimilation into the general society. A renaissance in Native American literature began as a result of native writers and poets seeking to authenticate their cultural identities. Poets, such as Kenny, began to draw on their heritage to produce a synthesis of traditional and modern forms in their work. 

Maurice Kenny’s exploration of his heritage resulted in his long 1973 poem “I Am the Sun”, which was written in response to the actions at Wounded Knee, the site of the 1890 massacre and the culmination of the pan-tribal Ghost Dance religion. His 1977 “North: Poems of Home”, the first full-length collection published after a span of thirteen years, and the 1979 “Dancing Back Strong the Nation” epitomized the growing consciousness of his native heritage. 

Kenny asserted his gay identity in the 1976 “Gay Sunshine” which included the poem “Winkle” and “Tinselled Bucks: An Historical Study in Indian Homosexuality”, a essay that claimed the two-spirit, or berdache, tradition as a shining example for contemporary Native Americans. Kenny was among the first nationally recognized American Indians to come out publicly as gay. 

Maurice Kenny’s “Blackrobe Isaac Jogues”, published in 1982, told the story of a Jesuit missionary martyred in 1646 by the Mohawks; it received the National Public Radio Award for Broadcasting and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His “Takonwatonti / Molly Brant” is narrated by a prominent Mohawk woman who married an Englishman. Kenny in these works and later ones portrayed individuals who inhabit two worlds at the same time and crossed the boundaries between cultures and identities, such as missionaries among Indians, Indians in a white society, and gay men in a heterosexual world. 

In 1986, Kenny moved back to upstate New York and settled in Saranac Lake. He continued to travel and teach, and held the position of poet-in-residence at North Country Community College and the Potsdam campus of the University of New York. In 1995, Kenny received an honorary doctorate from the St. Lawrence University. He published over thirty collections of poetry, essays and fiction; his work has appeared in many journals and anthologies. A recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, Maurice Kenny passed away, at the age of eighty-six, on April 16th of 2016. 

Note: The anthropologist James Mooney, born 1861, wrote a thousand-page account of the tragic events at Wounded Knee which was published in 1896. A summary of this account and others written about the massacre, including an article on the Ghost Dance, can be found at: https://www.encyclopedia.com/places/united-states-and-canada/miscellaneous-us-geography/wounded-knee

Kenneth Pobo: “I Colored the Paper Lavender”

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

After Langston Hughes

Professor, you tell us about
your nice wife and two children.
People should be nice. I’m nice.
Sometimes I’m smug. I have
bad days. You’re straight,
a perfectly fitted back door.
Gay, I don’t fit. Is it good
to fit? You say tonight
I should write a poem
about myself. I’ve written
a few before. They stay in
my notebook like condoms
in a wallet. I’ll pull one out.
It won’t be about wives
and kids and fitting in.
Is that OK? I could fake it
for an A. You wouldn’t
dock me for following
instructions, right?

So here’s my poem-
I colored the paper lavender
just for you.

Kenneth Pobo, Theme for English C, The Antlantis Hit Parade, American Journal of Poetry, 2019

Born in August of 1954 in suburban Chicago, Kenneth Pobo is a poet, essayist, critic and story writer. The only child of Louis Pobo, a chemist, and Myrtle Pobo, a housewife active in church activities and later.very supportive of her gay son and his partner. Both of Pobo’s parents were enthusiastic gardeners, a trait which he later emulated in his adult life. 

Kenneth Pobo began his early poetic work, influenced by his love of 1960s popular music, as an outlet for emotions he could not express as a gay child in the contemporary society. His first poem, written on July 4th of 1970, was an imitation of the 1969 song “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James and the Shondells. As Pobo stated in the introduction to his 2002 collection entitled “Greatest Hits” , he used the bubblegum imagery of pop music as an overlay for emerging sexual feelings.

Pobo received his Bachelor of Arts in 1976 from Wheaton College in Illinois. In 1979, he earned his Master of Arts in English at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee where he studied under James Liddy, a poet both Irish Catholic and gay, who is best known for his collections, “A Blue Smoke” and “Blue Mountain”. Pobo’s creative writing thesis, later published with changes as a chapbook in 1981, was entitled “Billions of Lit Cigarettes”. Pobo was awarded his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1983; his creative writing dissertation was entitled “A Vision Tested in the Flower: The Aaron Stern Poems”. 

Kenneth Pobo writes  in a wide variety of styles and poetic forms. His work contains references from all the things that enthuse his life, including music, gardening, his friends, astronomy, movie stars, naps, and martinis, among others. Pobo’s poetry covers many topics including politics and popular culture, as well as contemporary gay life with its love and passions. The majority of his poems are of medium length; however, great attention is paid to the smallest detail even though it might at first seem mundane.

The first collection of poetry by Pobo was the 1979 “Musings from the Porchlit Sea”. In this volume, he uses his knowledge of past literary verse and, by the addition of popular cultural models such as disco, gives the verse a new voice for contemporary culture. A prominent example is his poem “The Disco Version of the Love Song of  J.Alfred Prufrock” which took T. S. Eliot’s 1915 canonical poem and molded it into a campy exposé of contemporary life.

Pobo’s second volume of poetry, “Evergreen”, was published as a chapbook in 1985. Inspired again by Tommy James and the Shondells, the collection takes its title from a song on their 1969 “Cellophane Symphony” album. “Evergreen” features poems about plants, places, and people he admires; the volume includes the poem “Cass” about Mama Cass Elliot of the Mamas and the Papas band.  A fictional poem set during the Civil War is also included in this collection. Entitled “Joshua to Andy, Appomatox, 1865”, the poem tells the story of two soldiers who were lovers and, ironically, parted with the end of hostilities. Within this homage to previous war poems by such poets as Whitman and Melville, Pobo placed homosexual love and tenderness inside the world of warfare.

Kenneth Pobo’s 1986 chapbook “A Pause Inside Duck” contains overtly political poems that are composed in traditional poetic form. Contained in the 1991 “Ferns on Fire” is his angriest gay political poem, “Shasta”, which connects the centuries-long holocaust of Native Americans peoples with the lives of contemporary gay men. The 1996 “A Barbaric Yawp on the Rocks” contains the usual mundane details and pop references, such as The Cowsills and the Rolling Stones; however, Pobo uses these references more sharply in his depictions of both political and romantic modern gay life experiences.

Pobo is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections. His most recent works include the 2011 chapbook “Ice and Gaywings” which won the Qarrtsiluni  Chapbook Contest; the 2012 chapbook “Save My Place”; a collection of both prose and traditionally composed poems entitled “The Antlantis Hit Parade” and “Dindi Expecting Snow”, both published in 2019; and the 2020 “Lavender Fire, Lavender Rose” which won the Stonewall Chapbook Competition. 

In addition to poetry, Pobo also writes fiction and essays which include “The Gay/Lesbian Teacher as a Role Model” for the March/April 1999 edition of “The Humanist” magazine and “But Can You Dance to It? Musical Imagery in the Poetry of Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde, and David Trinidad” for the October edition of the “Intercultural Writer’s Review”.

Kenneth Pobo taught English and Creative Writing at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, for thirty years until his retirement in 2020. He shares his life with his husband, Stanley Slater, in Media, Pennsylvania.

Note: A reading by Kenneth Pobo of his poem “Sudden Fear”, titled after the 1952 Joan Crawford movie, can be found at the online crime poetry weekly, “The Five-Two”, located at: https://poemsoncrime.blogspot.com/2015/09/kenneth-pobo.html

Douglas Alain Powell: “The Earth Has Asserted Itself”

Photographers Unknown, The Earth Has Asserted Itself

had no direction to go but up: and this, the shattery road
its surface graining, trickle in late thaw—is nothing amiss?
            —this melt, the sign assures us, natural cycle
                         and whoosh, the water a dream of forgotten white

past aspens colored in sulfur, they trembled, would
—poor sinners in redemption song—shed their tainted leaves

I tell you what boy I was, writing lyrics to reflect my passions:
the smell of a bare neck in summer
a thin trail of hairs disappearing below the top button of cut-offs
the lean, arched back of a cyclist straining to ascend a hill

in the starlight I wandered: streets no better than fields
the cul-de-sacs of suburbia just as treacherous, just as empty

if wood doves sang in the branches of the acacias, I could not hear them
anyone lost in that same night was lost in another tract

the air pulsed and dandelion pollen blew from green stalks
                        —that was all

and yes, someone took me in his car.   and another against the low fence
in the park at the end of our block.   under the willow branches
where gnats made a furious cloud at dawn and chased us away

I knew how it felt to lie in a patch of marigolds: golden stains
the way morning swarmed a hidden rooftop, the catbirds singing
the feel of ruin upon lips rubbed raw throughout the night

granite peaks: here, the earth has asserted itself. and the ice asserted
and human intimacies conspired to keep us low and apart

for an ice age I knew you only as an idea of longing:
a voice in the next yard, whispering through the chink
a vagabond outlined against the sky, among the drying grass

we journey this day to darkness: the chasm walls lift us on their scaly backs
the glaciers relinquish their secrets: that sound is the ice bowing
and the sound underneath, the trickle: the past released, disappearing

you pinnacle of my life, stand with me on this brink
half-clouded basin caked in flat grays, the very demise of green

you have surmounted the craggy boundary between us.

you open a place for me in earth, receiving my song

                                 —for Haines Eason

D. A. Powell, continental divide, Chronic, 2009, Graywolf Press

Born in Albany, Georgia in May of 1963, Douglas Alain Powell is an American poet whose work is experimental in form. Growing up in Georgia and Tennessee, he relocated, after his parents’ divorce, with his brother to live in California with their mother and new stepfather. Powell lived on and off the streets in his teen years, often running away from home and working odd jobs to support himself. He graduated from Lindhurst High School and made several attempts at colleges, including a short term at San Jose State University.

At the age of twenty-two, Powell entered Sonoma State University where he began to write poetry under the tutorage of poet David Bromige. During his years in Sonoma County, he organized poetry readings and co-founded “Avec”, which became a major journal of the post-Language Poetry avant-garde. Powell received his Bachelor of Arts in English in 1991 and his Masters in English in 1993, both from Sonoma State University.

After completing his graduate studies, Douglas Powell entered the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa and received his Masters in Fine Arts in 1996. For his work during the Writer’s Workshop, he received an Academy of American Poets prize. While in Iowa, Powell wrote his first full-length poetry collection, “Tea”, which focused on AIDS in particular and the gay subculture in general. The poems in this collection examine pain, loss, abuse, rejection and suffering; however, the essence of the volume is one of survival. Published in 1998 after Powell’s return to California. this first work generated a great deal of excitement. Powell’s openness about his HIV-positive status contributed to interest in the book and readers’ response to it.

The writers cited by Powell as influences on his work cover a wide range; he uses their writings as a litmus test for his own work. These writers include t. S. Eliot, Sylvia Plath, Wallace Stevens, Frank O’Hara, Gertrude Stein, Federico García Lorca, and the Black Mountain poets, among others. Known for his syntactically inventive, longer lined and sometimes untitled work, Powell creates poems that are almost collage-like in form, where fragmentary elements of allusions and references are joined together into mosaic compositions. The source list for his 1998 volume of poems, “Tea”, include the following: Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, the Supremes, Tennessee Williams, mid-1980s disco divas, gay slang, Batman’s sidekick Robin, and “The Exorcist”, among others.

Settled in California, Powell began doing work in San Francisco’s new media industry. In 1997, he was awarded a Paul Engle Fellowship from the James Michener Foundation. In addition to his career as a poet, Powell was a university professor with teaching positions at Columbia University, Sonoma State University, San Francisco State University and Harvard University, where he was the Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Poetry, a prestigious five-year position.

In 2000, Douglas Powell’s second collection of poetry, entitled “Lunch”, was published by the Wesleyan University Press. This volume built on the survival aspect in “Tea” and directed it onward to restoration and rejuvenation. While again examining the issue of AIDS, the poems were not about dying from the virus, but about living with it and through it. “Lunch” was more eclectic, both in its formality and theme, and contained biblical and mythological allusions, such as the stories of King Midas and the birth of Aphrodite. The lines in the poems were shorter than those in “Tea”, almost conventional, while the poems were generally longer in length, with a greater variety.

Powell’s next collection of poems, “Cocktails”, was published in 2004 and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. His 2009 “Chronic” won the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and also was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. The 2012 “Useless Landscapes, or a Guide for Boys” was a witty and emotional collection of poems which examined the occupied spaces of boonies, backstages, bathhouses, and bars. This fifth volume of poetry by Powell won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. His poetry can also be found in the 2008 anthology “Best American Poetry” and “American Hybrid”, an anthology published in 2009.

Note: A collection of twenty-six poems by Douglas Alain Powell, including a reading of his poem “continental divide”, can be found at the Poetry Foundation. The link to the recorded reading is: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/51144/continental-divide

Alejandro Amenábar: Film History Series

Photographers Unknown, A Collection of Thirteen Men

Born in Santiago in March of 1972, Alejandro Fernando Amenábar Cantos is a Spanish-Chilean film director, composer, and screenwriter. In August of 1973, his family relocated to Spain where they settled in Madrid, initially living in a camper-van and later moving to a complex in Madrid’s outer neighborhoods. From the age of fifteen, Amenábar was passionate about cinematic art; he also wrote stories and musical compositions for the guitar and keyboard.

Amenábar began his education at The Immaculate Piarist Fathers, a parochial multi-discipline school in Madrid, and later transferred to the secular Alameda de Osuna Institute, one of Madrid’s prominent private schools. After graduating, Amenábar enrolled at the sciences faculty of Madrid’s historic, public research Complutense University where he studied cinema and directing. There he met people who would lend support to his career in cinema including Argentine journalist Carlos Montero, actor Eduardo Noriega and Mateo Gil Rodriguez,  a filmmaker who would co-write most of Amenábar’s films.

In 1991, Alejandro Amenábar released the first of his short films, “La Cabeza (Head)”. The script, based on an urban legend, was written by Mateo Rodriquez and Amenábar, who also composed the musical score in collaboration with Alfredo Alonso. This film earned Amenábar a prize from the Amateur Independent Film Association. His second short film, the 1992  “Himenóptero”, was shot on location at Alameda de Osuna Institute, his former high school. Amenábar wrote the script and music for the horror suspense film, was director and editor, and performed the only male role. (Note: Hymenoptera is a large order of insects which includes wasps, bees, sawflies and ants.)

At the age of twenty-two, Amenábar released his first full-length film, the 1996 “Tésis (Thesis)”, which secured his reputation as one of Spain’s most promising  cinematographers. This film, which commented on the Spanish film industry, Hollywood’s influence on the industry and the voyeurism of the horror genre, was nominated for eight Goya awards, of which it won seven including Best Film. In 1997, Amenábar released the science-fiction based, psychological thriller, “Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes)”, which starred Penelope Cruz and Eduardo Noriega. The rights to this movie were later acquired by actor Tom Cruise who directed and starred in the American remake entitled “Vanilla Sky”, with Penelope Cruz playing the same role of the original film.

Alejandro Amenábar followed his success with an English language movie in 2001, entitled “The Others”, a psychological, gothic horror film. Written and directed by Amenábar, the supernatural film relied on tension built during disturbing scenes for its horror rather than the use of special effects. “The Others”, with its film score by Amenábar, was a box-office success and won seven Goya Awards, including Best Film and Best Director. It also won three Saturn Awards for Best Horror Film, Best Actress for Nicole Kidman, and Best Supporting Actress for Fionnula Flanagan, who played the housekeeper Bertha Mills.

In 2004, Amenábar had another success with his “Mar Adentro (The Sea Inside)”, based on the true life story of Ramón Sampedro. Paralyzed from the neck down, Sampedro fought a thirty-year campaign to win the right to end his life with dignity.The film won fourteen Goya Awards, including Best Film and Best Director, and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

In 2008, Amenábar released the historical drama “Agora”. Written by Mateo Gil and Amenábar, the biopic told the life story of Hypatia, the fourth-century female mathematician and astronomer who investigated the flaws of the geocentric Ptolemaic system of the solar system and the heliocentric model that challenged it. Winning seven Goya Awards, the film had limited release in the United States but was Spain’s highest grossing film of 2009.

After a seven year hiatus, Alejandro Amenábar released his psychological horror mystery film “Regression” in 2015. The film premiered at the 2015 San Sebastián International Film Festival. In 2019, he released the Spanish-Argentine historical drama “While at War”, the plot of which tracks the plight of writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno in 1936 Salamanca, a city controlled during the Spanish Civil War by the Rebel faction. 

In addition to composing the scores of his own films, he laid the sound tracks for Josè Luis Cuerda’s 1999 coming-of-age film“Butterfly’s Tongue” and Mateo Gil’s 1999 mystery film “Nobody Known Anybody”, among others. 

Top Insert Image: Mateo Gil, “Alejandro Amenábar, Himenóptero”, 1992

Third Insert Image: Javier Aguirresarobe, “Alakina Mann, The Others”, 1992, Written and Directed by Alejandro Amenábar, Warner Brothers

Justin Chin: “What Measures Eternity?”

Photographers Unknown, What Measures Eternity?

 Oh blameless innocent victim 
What measures a lifetime? 

I used to have this theory about how 
much life a human body could hold. 
It all had to do with the number 
of heartbeats. Each human is assigned a number 
determined by an unknown power cascading 
over the dark waters of an unformed Earth. 

     For some, it was a magnificently high number 
seen only in Ritchie Rich comics, and for others, 
it was frightfully low, like twenty-six. 
            No bargaining, no coupons, 
no White Flower Day sale, no specials. Once 
you hit your number, you croak. 
                  I imagined the angels in heaven 
and the demons in hell gathering to watch 
the counters turn, like how I enjoyed watching 
the speedometer line up to a row of similar 
numbers, and especially when the row of 
nines turned into 
                  the row of zeros. 

Oh Blameless innocent victim 
What measures eternity? 

Justin Chin, Excerpt from the Poem “Grave”, Harmless Medicine, 2001

Born in September of 1969, Justin Chin was a Malaysian-American  poet, essayist, and performance artist. In his works, he dealt with identity categories that influenced his life: Asian-American, Gay Writer and Queer. Chin’s work sought to give a voice to marginalized groups of racial, national, and sexual minorities, Acknowledging that everyone one has an individual self-identity, he also questioned the usefulness of categories that dominate the language of today.

Justin Chin was educated in Singapore’s British colonial system where he developed his love for poetry and prose in English literature. In 1991 after graduating,  he left home to  attend Honolulu’s  University of Hawaii at Mānoa where he studied creative writing. Chin trained under poet and visual artist Faye Kicknosway, who encouraged his writing and introduced him to poet and playwright R. Zamora Linmark and  visual artist and poet  Lisa Asagi. These two artists remained important supporters of Chin’s work throughout his life.

In 1990 in San Francisco, Chin attended the first annual Outwrite Conference, which played a pivotal role in encouraging and shaping the LBGTQ literary culture in the United States. Relocating to San Francisco in 1991, he transferred to the journalistic program at San Francisco State University. Feeling restrained by the journalistic format, Chin began to write essays, poems, fiction, and performance pieces to express his views. In 1995 and 1996, Chin was a member of San Francisco’s team for the National Poetry Slam, an annual performance poetry competition.

Justin Chin published his first collection of poetry, the 1997 “Bite Hard”, which received nominations for both the Lambda Literary Award and the Firecracker Alternative Book Award. This mix of poems and short performance pieces, done in unflinching, harsh honesty and biting humor, dealt with AIDS, sexual tourism, racial stereotypes, Asian identity and bathroom sex. The prvading sense of loneliness in this volume culminates in its last poem, “Refuging”, where Chin discloses the pain of losing one’s cultural identity and examines the loss of lovers and its subsequent effect on one’s self.

In 1999, Chin published a collection of opinion and biographical essays from 1994 to 1997 in a volume entitled “Mongrel: Essays, Diatribes and Pranks”, which received positive reviews. A second collection of poetry, “Harmless Medicine” followed in 2001 and received nominations for the Lambda Literary Award and the Firecracker Alternative Book Award. This second collection is different than the first in tone; it is more serious and poignant in its discussion of homophobia, mortality, the American culture and AIDS. Its long and complex poems explore the meanings and effects of illness as well as the hatred of a xenophobic society hiding behind and seeking justification in religion.

Justin Chin published a collection of more personal and revealing essays in 2002 entitled “Burden of Ashes”. The first twelve essays dealt with his childhood family life, the abuse by an aunt, and growing up in a repressive society; the second part of the collection focused on his coming to terms with his sexuality and his mostly unfulfilling  love life. Chin’s third volume of poetry, “Gutted” was published in 2006; it became a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and won the Thom Gunn Award, that honors gay male poetry. 

Other prose works by Chin include the 2005 “Attack of the Man-Eating Lotus Blossoms”, a collection of documents and scripts from his performance work, and “98 Wounds” published in 2011. In addition to his published work, Chin created eight full-length solo performance works and several shorter works that he performed throughout the United States. An anthology of writings from Chin’s seven published books, entitled “Justin Chin: Selected Works”, was published in 2016.

In his career, Justin Chin enlivened the poetry scenes of both San Francisco’s  Paradise Lounge and its spoken word and performance art collective Sister Spit , as well as open microphones at various clubs. He was a respected presence at the Outwrite Conferences and at Litquake, San Francisco’s Bay Area literary festival. Justin Chin’s life ended tragically, at the age of forty-six, with a stroke related to complications from AIDS on December 24th of 2015.

Donald Britton: “These Things Have No Beginning”

Photographers Unknown, These Things Have No Beginning

The start of a new era
Of desperation is starting over.

Meanwhile you and your bronze friend
Run naked through the yellowed broom sage,
Suspended vaporously above life
Like high pressure systems. A redolent
Cascade of voices from the lawn
As the next new hope something will happen
Ascends the orangerie steps, an endless
Unpunctuated sentence that seems at the time
To illuminate everything, as if a giant
Had stepped between you and the sun,
Sucking the light and punching a hole
In space, revealing infinite vistas
Of anticipation and delay.

These things have no beginning, or rather
Were set in motion long before we became
Their facsimile, thinking ourselves privileged
To secret information, not sensible
Of how the world contrives with enormous
Duplication of labor to rid itself of us
And perform its little routines
Solo in the galactic swimming pool
That is at last a total stage. It is
The amusing notion life might someday
Not be confusing that coordinates
Our award-winning sentiments these last days
Of summer, preparatory to the paint-by-number
Rush of autumn, the colors balking
Within their lines, which as a kid
Was the hardest part and apparently still is.
You must do something, though, not caring
What it is, so long as when the day ends,
You’re able to claim that this thing
has been accomplished, brought nearer
The perfection toward which it ludicrously
Aspires, then put aside to be resumed
At a point just over the next rise yonder
Where suddenly pertinent trees now loom.

Donald Britton, Here and Now, In the Empire of the Air, 2016

Born in San Angelo, Texas in 1951, Donald Eugene Britton earned his Bachelor of Arts and his Master of Arts in American Literature at the Austin campus of the University of Texas in 1976. He earned his Doctorate in Literary Studies in 1979 from the American University in Washington DC; his dissertation was on modernist poet Hart Crane’s poetics of praise. 

Britton lived in New York City and became part of a circle of avant-garde artists and poets, later known as the third-generation of New York poets, which included Dennis Cooper, Joe Brainard, Tim Dlugos, Brad Gooch, and Bernard Weh, among others. After several years in the city, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked for the advertising firm of Brierly and Partners.

Donald Britton was not a prolific poet; as a self-depreciating perfectionist, he spent a great length of time and effort on each of his poems. In his poems there is the lack of a defined self; the poems are not personalized in the traditional sense of confessional poetry but are more abstracted and generalized. Britton’s poems are not subject-centered nor do they have topics in the conventional sense. He writes more about the states of mind, in which he follows the wandering of a particular consciousness as it encounters bodily experiences.

Britton’s work was published in the gay-oriented New York magazine “Christopher Street”, Cornell University’s EPOCH magazine, and the literary journal “The Paris Review”, among others. They also appeared in several anthologies including “The Sons of the Male Muse”, “Coming Attractions: An Anthology of American Poets in Their Twenties”, and “Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Poems”.

Donald Britton essentially stopped writing poetry in the late 1980s. The only collection of his work published during his lifetime was the 1981 “Italy” which featured short introductions by novelist Edmund White and poet John Ashbery. Britton was to publish a second collection of his work, entitled “In the Empire of the Air”; however, due to financial difficulties, it was never published in his lifetime. The collection was edited by poet Reginald Shepherd and author Philip Clark, and finally published in 2016 by NightBoat Books .

Britton wrote a two-part essay, entitled “The Dark Side of Disneyland”, on the death imagery of some of its rides, in which he argues that Disneyland is a monumental artwork memorializing dead children. This essay appeared in the art magazine “Issue”, now online, and later in his friend Bernard Welt’s 1996 essay book, “Mythomania”. Four of Britton’s poems were included in the 2010 “Persistent Voices”, a compilation of poetry by writers lost to AIDS.

Donald Eugene Britton died, at the age of forty-three, of complications from AIDS in 1994. He was survived by his partner, David Cobb Craig, whom Britton met in 1983.

Bottom Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Donald Britton (Third from the Left) at New York City’s Ear Inn”, Early 1980s, Gelatin Silver Print

Notes:   A short memoir written by David Cobb Craig entitled “Life and Times with Poet Donald Britton”, which includes their first meeting in 1983, can be found at the Gay & Lesbian Review site located at: https://glreview.org/article/life-and-times-with-poet-donald-britton/ 

Donald Britton’s doctorate dissertation on Hart Crane’s poetics of praise can be read at the American Library’s Digital Research Archive located at:  https://auislandora-stage.wrlc.org/islandora/object/thesesdissertations%3A791

I wish to acknowledge poet and author Reginald Shepherd as the source for most of the information in this article on Donald Britton’s life and work. The author of many essays on gay poets and writers, Shepherd passed away in the fall of 2008. His blog site with its wealth of material is still available online at: http://reginaldshepherd.blogspot.com

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

Photographers Unknown, The Scorpions of the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carl Phillips: “To Sing a Song of Water”

 

Photographers Unknown, To Sing a Song of Water

Archery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carl Phillips, Archery, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Blanco: “Burning in the Rain”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gaston-Marie Martin

Photography and Sculptural Work by Gaston-Marie Martin

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

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

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

https://ofleadandlight.tumblr.com

http://gastonmariemartin.blogspot.com

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

Photographers Unknown,  Deep As The Void Above Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilbur Underwood, The Cattle of His Hand, Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographers Unknown, An Assemblage of Hands

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

Joseph Hansen, Death Claims, 1973

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Bill Mohr

James Schuyler: “I Remember Very Well the Morning”

Photographers Unknown, I Remember Very Well the Morning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographers Unknown, Doubles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gerrit Lansing: “Your Kiss Is My Justice”

Photographers Unknown, Your Kiss Is My Justice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melvin Dixon: “We Live Bravely in the Light”

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

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

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

Thousands. Many thousands.
Many thousands gone.

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

Thousands. Many thousands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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