Film History: James Whale

Photographers Unknown, I Am Rather the Fallen Angel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Blanco: “Burning in the Rain”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Harris: “I Too Found the Inner Chamber”

Photographers Unknown, I Too Found the Inner Chamber

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

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

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

When your ears are opened
you hear the secret music.

And soon you are singing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographers Unknown, Our Kisses Are Petals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographers Unknown,  Deep As The Void Above Us

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilbur Underwood, The Cattle of His Hand, Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Samuel Greenberg: “And This Great Human Rebellion”

Photographers Unknown

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

end.

Samuel Greenberg, And This Great Human Rebellion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographers Unknown, The Faces of man: Photo Set Twelve

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

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

George Sylvester Viereck, The Wanderers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographers Unknown, Twelve Men Seated

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

Carl Phillips, Blow It Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christoper Soden: “Dionysus”

Photographers Unknown, Dionysus

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

Christopher Soden, Dionysus

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

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

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

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

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

– Christopher Soden

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

Photographers Unknown, We’re Mostly Made of Water

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

Sjohnna McCray, I Do, 1972

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manuel Puig: “The Most Beautiful Thing”

 

Photographers Unknown, The Most Beautiful Thing

“—What is being a man for you? —It’s many things, but for me… well, the most beautiful thing about a man is that, being pretty, strong, but without making a fuss of strength, and that he is advancing safely. That he walks safely, like my waiter, that he speaks without fear, that he knows what he wants, where he is going, without fear of anything. “It’s an idealization, a guy like that doesn’t exist.” “Yes, he exists, he is like that.” —Well, it will give that impression, but inside, in this society, without power, no one can advance safely, as you say.—Being a man is much more than that, it means not putting anyone down, with an order, with a tip. Moreover, it is… not allowing anyone next to you to feel less, that no one next to you feel bad.”

Manuel Puig, The Kiss of the Spider Woman

Born in December of 1932 in General Villegas, Argentina, Manuel Puig was a novelist and a screenwriter. As there was no secondary school in his hometown, his parents sent him to Buenos Aires in 1946 where he attended College Ward, an educational institute with intercultural bilingual education at all levels. During his time at College Ward, Puig began to systematically read books. Starting with the Nobel Prize winners, he read works by such writers as André Gide, Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Mann, and Jean-Paul Sartre.

After seeing Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1947 police drama film, “Quai des Orfèvres”, Puig decided on a film career as a director. For this profession, he learned three languages: Italian, French, and German. In 1950, Puig enrolled at the University of Buenos Aires Faculty of Architecture; but, in 1951, he switched to its School of Philosophy. He was already working, upon graduation, as a film archivist and editor in Buenos Aires; and later, after  winning a scholarship from the Italian Institute of Buenos Aires, he continued that employment in Italy.

Returning to Argentina, Manuel Puig started his obligatory military service in 1953 where he served as a translator in the Aeronautics section. Living in Buenos Aires in the 1968, Puig wrote his first major novel, “La Traición de Rita Hayworth (Betrayed by Rita Hayworth)”, a novel told in multiple voices to create a portrayal of ordinary Argentinian lives in the1930s and 1940s. In 1969, he wrote his second novel “Boquitas Pintadas (Heartbreak Tango)”, a story about the contrast between mediocre reality and fantastical dreams; the novel also raised questions about machismo and the damage it causes. The narrative is told through confessions, letters, diaries, newspaper clippings, eyewitness accounts, and rememberances of life.

Holding leftist political tendencies and seeing the instability of the Argentinian government, Puig relocated to Mexico in 1973, a place where he would live in exile throughout rest of his life. He wrote his third novel “The Buenos Aires Affair” in 1973, and three years later, wote possibly his best known work, the 1976 “El Beso de la Mujer Araña (The Kiss of the Spider Woman)”. Unusual in that it has no traditional narrative voice, the novel is told in large part through dialogue, without any indication of who is speaking, except the insertion of a dash to show change of speaker. 

“Kiss of the Spider Woman” depicts the daily conversations between two Argentinian prison cellmates, one a political prisoner who was part of a group attempting the overthrow of the government and the other a transgender woman in jail for corruption of a minor. The two characters, seemingly opposites, form an intimate bond in their cell and become lovers, albeit briefly, and they are both changed by that relationship.   

Manuel Puig’s novel was initially published only in Spain; however, upon its publication, it was included on a list of novels banned to the population of Buenos Aires. Despite having been entered into the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany, it remained banned in Argentina until Raúl Alfonsin’s government took control in 1976. Puig adapted “Kiss of the Spider Woman” into a stage play in 1983. The novel was later adapted in 1985 into an Academy Award-winning film of the same name, starring William Hurt and Raul Julia. Hurt’s winning the 1986 Oscar for Best Actor marked the first time an Academy Award went to an actor in an openly gay role. 

In 1989, Puig moved from Mexico City to Cuernavaca, Mexico. Following doctor’s orders to stop smoking, he took daily walks, but the high altitude of the area labored his breathing. He had access to higher quality medical care than most and received care at a clinic near his home. Experiencing pain for several days, he was admitted to the Las Palmas Surgical Center on July 21, 1990, for risk of peritonitis. 

An emergency operation removed Manuel Puig’s inflamed gall bladder; however, his lungs filled with fluid and he became delirious. He died from an acute heart attack, on July 22, 1990.  After funeral rites, attended by only six people including his mother, Manuel Puig’s body was sent to Argentina and placed in the Puig family tomb in the La Plata Cemetery.

Maurice Sendak: “Where the Wild Things Are”

Photographers Unknown,  Where the Wild Things Are

Max stepped into his private boat
and waved goodbye
and sailed back over a year
and in and out of weeks
and through a day
and into the night of his very own room
where he found his supper waiting for him
and it was still hot”

—Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are

Born to Polish Jewish immigrant parents in Brooklyn, New York, in June of 1928, Maurice Bernard Sendak was an American writer and illustrator of children’s books. He was affected in his childhood by the deaths of many of his extended family who perished in the Holocaust. An early reader of books, Sendak decided at the age of twelve to become an illustrator after seeing Walt Disney’s film “Fantasia”.

Sendak started his professional career with the creation of window displays, one of which was in the toy store FAO Schwarz located on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. His first published illustrations, a series of figures explaining the atom and its energy, were in the 1947 textbook “Atomics for the Millions” written by Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff. In the 1950s, Sendak illustrated children’s books written by other authors, including two books written by his older brother, author Jack Sendak, and the “Little Bear” series of books written by Danish-American author Else Holmelund Minarik.

In 1956 Maurice Sendak published his first authored book, “Kenny’s Window”. and soon started working on second effort, for which he was inspired to use the Yiddish expression ‘vilde chaya”, or wild animals, to indicate overexcited children. Sendak’s authored and illustrated 1963 children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” received international acclaim. Initially banned for two years by libraries and critiqued negatively, the book won the annual Caldecott Medal in 1964 for recognition as the most distinguished American illustrated book for children. Since its publication, it has sold over nineteen million copies worldwide.

Sendak illustrated Isaac Bashevis Singer’s first children’s book “Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories, which was published in 1966 and received the Newbery Honor for children’s literature. He authored and illustrated the 1970 “In the Night Kitchen”, a young boy’s dream journey through a surreal baker’s kitchen, one of a trilogy of books which contains “Where the Wild Things Are” and the 1981 “Outside Over There”. Illustrated in a different style from his previous works, the book is mainly pictorial with few captions. “In the Night Kitchen”, with its depiction of the young protagonist’s nudity, was controversial upon its release and is still ranked as one of the most frequently challenged books. 

Maurice Sendak’s works included many in the fields of television and stage. He was active in the development of the “Sesame Street” series, and wrote and designed four stories for the series, including an adaption of his book “Bumble Ardy” into an animated film. Sendak adapted his “Where the Wild Things Are’ into a stage production in 1979, and also designed sets for many operas and ballets, including Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker:, Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”,  and Prokofiev’s “The Love for Three Oranges”.

In 1957, Maurice Sendak met his partner, psychoanalyst Eugene Glynn, with whom he remained for fifty years until Glynn’s death in May of 2007. After his partner’s death, he donated one million dollars to the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in memory of Glynn, who had treated children and young adults there. While his sexuality was known among his friends, Sendak kept his sexuality from public view for almost his entire life. When the social climate regarding homosexuality began to change, he  came out, at the age of eighty years old, during a 2008 interview with the New York Times.

Considered one of the most important children’s book artists of the twentieth century, Maurice Sendak died on May 8th of 2012 at the Danbury Hospital in Conneticutt from stroke complications. His body was cremated and his ashes scattered at an unconfirmed location. Under an agreement with, and supported by a grant from, the Maurice Sendak Foundation, his original artwork, sketches, books, and other materials, totaling close to ten thousand items, are housed at the University of Conneticutt’s Archives and Special Collections in the Thomas J Dodd Research Center.

Francisco Brines: “The Cause of Love”

Photographers Unknown, The Cause of Love

When they have asked me the cause of my love
I have never answered: You already know its great bearuty.
(And there are still more beautiful faces.)
Nor have I described the certain qualities of his spirit
that he always showed me in his customs,
or in readiness for silence or smile
as required by my secret.
They were things of the soul, and I said nothing about her.
(And I should still add that I have met higher souls.)
The fruit of my love now I know:
man’s imperfections overcome his presence,
it is atrocious to think
that bodies do not correspond to souls in us,
and so the grace of the spirit blinds bodies,
its clarity, the aching flower of experience,
goodness itself.
important events that we never discovered,
or we find out late.
The bodies lie, other times, an airy heat,
moved light, honda freshness;
and the damage reveals its dry falsehood to us.
Know the truth of my love now:
matter and breath joined in his life
like the light that falls on the mirror
(it was a small light, a tiny mirror);
It was a perfect random creation.
A being in order grew next to me,
and my disorder was serene.
I loved its limited perfection.

–Francisco Brines, Cause of Love

Born in Oliva, Valencia, in January of 1932, Francisco Brines Bañó was a Spanish poet and essayist. He was a prominent member of the Generation of “50, a Spanish literary movement whose new literary language incorporated metaphysical and philosophical techniques to undermine the strict censorship of the Franco government.

After studying at the Jesuits of Valencia, Francisco Brines attended the University of Madrid, where he studied Philosophy and Letters, and also the Universities of Valencia, Deusto and Salamanca, where he earned a degree in Law. He became a reader of Spanish literature at the University of Cambridge and a Professor of Spanish at the University of Oxford.

Described as a metaphysical poet, Brines was highly influenced by the work of Luis Cernuda, an openly gay poet of the Generation of ’27; inspired by these works, many of Brines’s poems also convey the theme of homosexual love. His poetry is characterized by the intimate tone of his verses, the constant reflection on the passage of time and decay of the living, and observations on the condition of a human being subjected to his own limitations. Memory also plays a fundamental role in Brines’s writing; although, his poems reveal the belief that neither poetry nor memory can endure the passage of time or save the moments of the past.

Francisco Brines’s first collection of poems, entitled “Las Brasas (Embers)”, was published in 1959 and won the 1960 Adonais Poetry Prize. In 1966, Francisco Brines published “Words in the Dark”, which earned him the National Critics Award in 1967. In the same year, he also won the Valencian Literature Award. “The Autumn of Roses’, a collection of sixty poems written over a ten year period, was published in 1986 and won the National Prize for Literature. This book, in which elegies of lamentation and exaltation merge, was his most critically acclaimed work.

Entering the world of theater, Brines revised and adapted playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s 1636 drama“El Alcalde de Zalamea (The Mayor of Zalamea)”. Directed by José Luis Alonso, the play was performed by the Classical Theater Company in 1988. Told in three acts, it explored the power of a self-made man against political authority in seventeenth-century Spain,

Brines was recognized for his work by the Royal Spanish Academy in 1998 with the Fastenrath Prize and, later, received the 1999 National Prize for Spanish Letters for his poetic oeuvre. Elected a member of the Royal Spanish Academy of the Language in April of 2000, Brines gave his institutional speech on the poetry of Luis Cernuda, one of the poets who influenced his work. In 2020, he won the Premio Cervantes, the most important literary award of the Spanish language world.

Francisco Brines Bañó was taken to Gandía Hospital shortly after King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia presented him with the 2020 Cervantes Prize at his family estate in Oliva, Valencia, as he was unable to attend the official ceremony due to his delicate state of health. He died on the 20th of May in 2021, at the age of eighty-one, at Gandía Hospital, after a hernia operation.

Note: An interesting article on the homoeroticism of Francisco Brines’s poetry, long regarded as an open secret but rarely acknowledged in critical studies, entitled “Francisco Brines and the Humanist Closet” by Jonathan Mathew of the University of Kansas, can be found at: https://kuscholarworks.ku.edu/bitstream/handle/1808/7478/Mayhew_Francisco%20Brines.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

Virgilio Pinera: “The Waves of Music We Made”

Photographers Unknown, The Waves of Music We Made

Can it be they are going to kill?
Will they pierce the heart with a huge knife?
And with the sharpest scalpel empty the eyes?
And with the steeliest chisel break the skull?
And with the most hammer of hammers crush the bones?

Can it be that on the exotic table
–table of sex, table of love–
my love, you and I,
being startled one night
your heart spoke
when you were under my blood?
Can it be the same as it was
when it was an oath, and even more so,
your work, your word bled,
soaked by the soft perfume of kisses,
so as not to deny, to be one indivisible?
And can it be so blindly believed,
so blindly, that all the suns go dark forever
while the soul travels in darkness?
Can it be there never was a soul despite the waves of music
we made?
Soul that never was though you might be for an instant?

Renenber that instant when you were a soul and adored
me,
and then your own monster came suddenly
to take you to the place where being you were?

Can it be that after you are no longer,
when not being is merely a mound of dried out kisses,
you wil be by not being, instead of being love?

Virgilio Pinera, Poem to be Said in the Midst of a Great Silence, The Weight of the Island, 1967

Born in Cárdenas, Matanzas, Cuba in 1912, Virgilio Piñera was an author, playwright, poet, and essayist known for his avant-garde work, caustic wit, acid tongue, and bohemian lifestyle. He lived under the dual repression of the Catholic church and reactionary government leaders such as Argentina’s Juan Perón and Cuba’s Fulgencio Batista. Piñera’s homosexuality and non-conformism led to his marginalization during a well-documented period of Cuban history when homophobia and petty bureaucracy stifled creative freedom

An avid reader from an early age, which included works by Marcel Proust and Herman Melville, Piñera drew his inspiration from different genres, a foundation which became fundamental to his distinctive work with its combination of Cuban vernacular and more refined language.At the age of thirteen, Piñera’s family moved to Camagüey, a municipality located in central Cuba, where he earned his high school diploma. After settling in Havana in 1938,  he received his Doctoral Degree in philosophy from the University of Havana in 1949. 

Piñera published in his poems in Havana’s literary magazine “Espuela de Plata” and, in 1941. wrote his first poetry collection, “Las Furias (The Furies)” and  his most famous play “Electra Garrigó”, which featured the choral structure of a Greek tragedy alongside distinctive Cuban elements. Staged both before and after the revolution of Castro and Guevara, this play later became a powerful symbol of the Revolution and was consciously performed before foreign and  notable public figures as  being emblematic of the transformed nation.

Following his founding of the magazine “Poeta” in 1942, Piñera wrote his collection of poems entitled “La Isla en Peso (The Weight of the Island)”. Drawing upon episodes in his personal life as well as the social interactions occurring inside Cuba, he explored the nebulous regions between sadness and beauty, and disillusion and reality. Published posthumously after Piñera’ death in 1979, “The Weight of the Island” was initially scorned by some poets and critics; however, the collection is now regarded as one of the classics of Cuban literature.

In 1944, Virgilio Piñera, along with writer José Lezama Lima and editor and critic José Rodríguez Feo, founded the prestigious literary and arts review “Origenes”, which provided a focal point for promising poets and critics in Cuba during the 1940s and 1950s. The journal published short stories, poetry, and critical essays on art, literature, music and philosophy. Among Piñera’s contributions were several poems, an essay on Argentinian literature, and an 1945 essay entitled “El Secreto de Kafka”, a work in which Piñera developed his theory on the creation of images into a literary surprise. 

Piñera lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a twelve year period from 1946 to 1958; it was  during this stay that he developed his voice as a writer. He worked as a translator and proofreader at the Cuban Embassy and became friends with writers Jorge Luis Borges and essayist José Bianco, who would write the forward to Piñera’s collection of short stories “El que Vina a Salvarme (The One Who Came to Save Me)”. Along with other writers, Piñera worked on the translation of Polish author Witold Gombrowicz’s 1937 controversial novel “Ferdydurke” into Spanish. 

Virgilio Piñera wrote two plays in Buenos Aires,  “Jesús” and “Falsa Alarma”, a fast paced, absurdist play of humor and anguish, to which he lengthened with dialogue for a later 1957 staging. His first novel, entitled “La Carne de René (René’s Flesh)”, was published in 1952 and told the dark story of a twenty-year old protagonist forced into a merciless life. After the closure of his literary review “Origenes” and the founding of his final magazine “Ciclón (Cyclone)”, Piñera left Argentina in 1958 to settle permanently in Cuba, where he arrived shortly before the Revolution. His work appeared in the newspaper “Revolución” and other numerous journals. In 1962, with the Cuban revolution in full motion, Piñera’s  most autobiographical play, “Airo Frio (Cold Air)”, a very personal celebratory work supporting the ouster of dictator Batista’s police and army, opened in Havana. 

Shortly after the opening of “Airo Frio”, Fidel Castro’s government made the decision that there was no room for any views other than those completely sympathetic to the Revolution. Intellectuals and other luminaries, as well as the religious and those youths not conforming to the revolution, were to face persecution. Virgilio Piñera, although never public about his homosexuality, was arrested under the revolutionary government’s clampdown on the prostitutes, pimps and homosexuals. By 1971, he was ostracized by the Cuban government and the literary establishment. As his career declined into obscurity. Piñera continued to write at n increased rate; however, his plays were no longer performed. 

In 1968, Piñera received Latin America’s most prestigious literary prize, the Premio Casa de las Américas, for his play “Dos Viejos Pánicos (Two Old Panics)”. Despite the award and acclaim, the play would not have its first performance in Cuba until the 1990s.  Leaving behind more than twenty plays, three novels, volumes of short stories and a vast number of poems, Virgilio Piñera, who lived the last years of his life in poverty, died of a cardiac arrest on the 18th of August in 1979, without any official recognition of his death. He is buried in his native town of Cárdenas.

As a way to redress some of the wrongs committed against Piñera in the past, Cuba declared the year 2012 as “El Añ0 Virgiliano”. In the month of June, a group of thirty researchers from countries, such as the United Kingdom, Mexico, Spain and the United States, came together in Havana to discuss the life, work and legacy of Virgilio Pañera, one of Latin America’s prominent writers. His two best known plays, “Airo Frio” and “Dos Viejos Pánicos”, were performed and a new ballet by choreographer Iván Tenorio, entitled “Virgiliando”, had its premiere. 

Note: The University of Miami Libraries contains the digital Cuban Heritage Collection which includes material on Virgilio Piñera. Included in the material are correspondence exchanged between Piñera and Adolfo de Obieta during the 1940s and 1950s, as well as a typescript of Piñera’s play “Una Caja de Zapatos Vacía” that he sent to his friend Luis F. González-Cruz, who published it in Miami in 1986. This material can be found at: https://merrick.library.miami.edu/cdm/search?collection=chc5278

Paul Monette: “Everything Extraneous Has Burned Away”

Photographers Unknown, Everything Extraneous Has Burned Away

everything extraneous has burned away
this is how burning feels in the fall
of the final year not like leaves in a blue
October but as if the skies were a paper lantern
full of trapped moths beating their fired wings
and yet I can lie on this hill just above you
a foot beside where I will lie myself
soon soon and for all the wrack and blubber
feel still how we were warriors when the
merest morning sun in the garden was a
kingdom after Room 1010 war in not all
death it turns out war is what little
thing you hold onto refugees and far from home
oh sweetie will you please forgive me this
that every time I opened a box of anything
Glad Bags One-A-Days KINGSIZE was
the worst I’d think will you still be here
when the bus is empty Rog Rog who will
play boy with me now that I bucket with tears
through it all when I’d cling beside you sobbing
you’d shrug it off with the quietest I’m still
here
I have your watch in the top drawer
which I don’t dare wear yet help me please
the boxes grocery home day after day
the junk that keeps men spotless but it doesn’t
matter now how long they last or I
the day has taken you with it and all
there is now is burning dark the only green
is up by the grave and this little thing
of telling the hill I’m here oh I’m here

Paul Monette, Here, Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog 

Born in October of 1945 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, Paul Monette was n poet, author, and gay rights activist, best known for his essays about gay relationships. He graduated from the Phillips Academy, a university-preparatory school, in 1963 and earned his Bachelor of Arts at Yale University in 1967.  

Monette’s formative years in the rigid social boundaries and strict religious atmosphere of his middle-class upbringing prompted him to not disclose his gay orientation. Questioning his sexual identity, he moved to Boston, where he taught writing and literature at Milton Academy and Pine Manor College. In 1974 in Boston, Monette met his longtime partner, lawyer Roger Horwitz, a graduate of Harvard Law School, with a Ph.D in comparative literature from Harvard University.

In November of 1977, Paul Monette and Roger Horwitz moved to Los Angeles, where they became strongly associated with the gay rights movement in the city. Monette wrote and published several novels during this period; his first novel, “Taking Care of Mrs Carroll”, featuring two male lovers and a legendary movie goddess, was published in 1978. In the period from 1977 to 1982, he wrote several more works of poetry, fiction and memoirs, including the 1979 “The Gold Diggers” and the 1981 murder mystery “The Long Shot”.

Monette’s more serious work began with the onslaught of the AIDS crisis, when his work focused on its occurring loss and heartbreak. In 1985, his partner, Roger Horwitz, was diagnosed with the AIDS virus and, after a long nineteen month fight against the virus, passed away in October of 1986. After Horwitz’s death, Monette continued his writing and remained active with many public speaking appearances.

In 1988, Paul Monette published his “Love Alone: Eighteen Elegies for Rog”, a collection of poems in remembrance of Horwitz. Using different fonts and no punctuation, the lines are interpreted by the reader’s determination when to begin and end a sentence. Through the poetry Monette described the events that occurred during Roger’s decline in health and his own transition through the various  emotions he experienced, which included denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. His description of his loss is particularly evident in the poem “The Very Same”, written on the day of Horwitz’a funeral.

Monette published his “Afterlife” in 1990 and “Halfway Home” in 1991, both which were centered around people with AIDS and their families’ experiences. His most acclaimed book, the 1988 “Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir”, chronicles his partner Roger Horwitz’s long fight, and eventual death, from the AIDS virus. Describing the devastating loneliness felt by AIDS patients and their loved ones, the memoir received both the PEN Center West and Lambda literary awards. Monette’s 1992 memoir “Becoming a Man: Half a Life Story”, an autobiography of his early closeted life, culminating with his meeting Roger, was written as a classical coming of age story and won the National Book Award in 1992. 

Monette’s life story, including the final years before his own death from AIDS in February of 1995, is documented in Monte Bramer and Lesli Klainberg’s 1996 film “Paul Monette” The Brink of Summer’s End”. Premiered at the 1996 Los Angeles Outfest, the film went on to win four awards for best documentary, including the GLAAD Media Award and the Sun Dance Film Festival. 

Paul Monette died in Los Angeles where he lived with his partner of five years, author and psychotherapist Winston Wilde. He is buried alongside Roger Horwitz at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills Los Angeles. Shortly before his death, Paul Monette established the Monette-Horwitz Trust to support future LBGT activism and scholarship.Trust Awards are given annually to individuals and organizations for their contribution to eradicating homophobia through literary, scholarly, archival, or activist work. 

David Levithan: “Every You, Every Me”

Photographers Unknown, The Faces of Man: Photo Set Eleven

“I thought about the word ‘profile’ and what a weird double meaning it had. We say we’re looking at a person’s profile online, or say a newspaper is writing a profile on someone, and we assume it’s the whole them we’re seeing. But when a photographer takes a picture of a profile, you’re only seeing half the face… It’s never the way you would remember seeing them. You never remember someone ‘in profile.’ You remember them looking you in the eye, or talking to you. You remember an image that the subject could never see in a mirror, because you are the mirror. A profile, photographically, is perpendicular to the person you know.” 

― David Levithan, Every You, Every Me

Born in Short Hills, New Jersey in 1972, David Levithan is an American fiction author, who has written works which feature strong male gay characters. After graduating from Millburn High School in 1990, he received an internship at Scholastic Corporation, a multinational publishing and media company, where he was edited the young-adult novel series “The Baby-Sitters Club”. Levithan is still an editorial director at Scholastic and is also the founding editor of PUSH, an imprint of Scholastic focused on new authors. 

Levithan acknowledged his style of writing, both humorous and affecting, was influenced by the works of author Judith Viorst, known for her humorous observational poetry and children’s literature. The majority of Levithan’s work is in the young-adult category, of which several have been adapted for film. He collaborated with writer Rachel Cohn on the 2006 novel “Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist’, which was adapted into the 2008 feature film directed by Peter Sollett. David Levithan’s 2012 novel “Every Day” was adapted into a romantic fantasy drama, of the same name, and was released in 2018. A second collaboration between him and Cohen produced the 2007 novel “Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List”, a best-friends relationship story of two apartment neighbors, one gay male and one heterosexual female. This novel was adapted into a film directed by Kristin Hanggi, best known for her 2009 Broadway musical “Rock of Ages”, and released in 2015 at the Outfest Film Festival. 

David Levithan/s first novel specifically for adults was the 2011 “The Lover’s Dictionary”. The novel was inspired by the alphabetical order of entry of words in the book “Words You Need to Know” shich was sitting on his desk. The “Dictionary” is told entirely through alphabetically arranged dictionary entries, both brief and concise and  without chronological order, that reveal the two characters joyful but struggling relationship. 

Levithan has edited, along with Billy Merrell, the 2006 anthology “The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Other Identities”. He was also a collaborative author with Ned Vizzini for the 2021  graphic novel “Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel”, illustrated by Nick Betozzi, known for his Alternative Comics series “Rubber Necker”..

Albert Russo: “Dramatis Personae”

Photographers Unknown, The Parts and Pieces Making a Whole: Set Twelve

They call me Gianni
They call me Jim
But also Dominic
In both genders
In every guise

Whether it be Gianni, Jim or Dominic
In the present tense as in the past
First or third person
We’re talking of the same person
With the difference that each one
Speaks in another tongue
Confounding strangers
Claims the spiteful gossip

At time Gianni and Jim will be one and the same
At times they will oppose each other
Sometimes they might act as total strangers
And so it goes for both Dominics

The distance between them may be paper thin
Or else wide as the ocean
That which separates two languages
Or lies, mute, within the blood cells

Albert Russo, Dramatis Personae, The Crowded World of Solitude, Vol. 2

Born in February, 1943, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Albert Russo is a poet, short story writer, novelist and photographer. The son of a British mother and an Italian Sephardic father, he attended the high school in Bujumbura, a coastal city in Burundi, where he mastered four languages: French, English, Dutch, German, and vernacular Swahili. Russo earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration at New York University in 1964  He traveled to Heidelberg in 1965, where he earned a degree in German culture and literature at the Collegium Palatinum. 

Russo first began writing poems in English in 1964 during his years at New York University. In 1965, he settled in Milan, Italy, where he  worked at the family firm and continued his writing. His first novel entitled “La Pointe du Diable”, written in French, was published in 1973 in Brussels. For this work, Russo won the Prix Colette in Cannes and the Prix de la Liberté in Paris. 

In 1975, Albert Russo returned to New York for three years. During this period, he taught language classes and published several poems and short stories in a variety of international magazines, including The Literary Review, Culture Française, La Libre Belgique, and Revue Zaire. Russo also worked with UNICEF translating scripts for children’s documentary films. He returned to Europe in 1978  and settled in Paris. 

Albert Russo has written more than twenty-five works, translated into twelve languages. His main themes are the defense of individual and collective rights, including ethnic, gender and religious, and the fight against racism. Many of his works are centered around life in Africa; two of which are“Mixed Blood” and “Eclipse over Lake Tanganyika”, both published in 2000. Russo wrote a large two-volume series entitled “The Crowded World of Solitude”, the first volume which includes short stories, essays, and fables: the second volume contains forty year collection of poems. 

During the 1980s, through their common Congolese experience and love for Africa, Russo met and befriended Italian artist and philosopher Joseph Pace. Later in the 2999s, he became friends with poet and photographer Adam Donaldson Powell. Together they authored the 2009 “Gaytude”, a volume of poetry, with photographs by Russo, which dealt with the gay experience of life on five continents.

As a professional photographer, Albert Russo has earned several prizes, including winning a National Indie-Excellence award and a silver medal from a Gallery Photografica competition. His photographic work has been shown at Switzerland’s Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne. In 2019, Russo won a UNICEF Award for his poetry oeuvre and, in 2020, an Artavita Certificate for his photography.

Jonathan Williams: “Glittering Frostily”

Photographers Unknown, Glittering Frostily

There are more things to love
than we would dare to hope for.
–Richard of St. Victor

where the car hit him, fireweed sprang with
blossoms of fennel

and umbels
of dill fell
through the spokes of a wheel

on Whistun holiday to the sun, Denton
Welch spun a web in his crushed cycle,

sat in the seat, spine curled up like a spider–

and spied: “saw
the very drops of sweat glittering frostily
between the shouder blades”

of a lad

…on and on he spied and bled from the blades of his cycle
small as a spider,
hiding in the fireweed, getting
wet from the skins of many human suns aground
at the Kentish river near
Tunbridge Wells,

where the dill
lulls,

and all boys
spoil…

Jonathan Williams, The Wreck on the A-222 in Ravensbourne Valley, Jubilant Thicket: New & Selected Poems, 2995

Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Jonathan Williams was a poet, photographer and graphic artist. He attended St. Albans School in Washington DC, and then Princeton University. After leaving Princeton to pursue the arts, Williams studied painting with Karl Knaths at the Phillips Gallery, and graphic arts and engraving under Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17 in New York City. He later studied photography at Black Mountain College with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind.

In 1951, Williams, along with David Ruff, founded the book publishing company, The Jargon Society, with the goal of publishing obscure writers. This press, long associated with the Black Mountain Poets, an  post-modern group in North Carolina, launched a number of artists, both literary and visually artistic, who pioneered the 1980s avant-garde movement in United States. 

Jonathan Williams was a link between the experimental poets of the second generation of Modernists and the upcoming vernacular artists of Appalachia. Akin to a cultural anthropologist, he based his work on “found’ language, acquired through listening to others reminisce about their lives and experiences. Williams loved to reveal the poetic within the pedestrian, whether from commercial signs, such as “O’Nan’s Auto Service”, to amorous lavatory wall scribblings, such as “The Current Sexist Machismo in a Loo Along the River Kent”. He often infused light verse forms such as limericks, clerihews, and acrostics with his own ribald wit.Williams also invented a form of his own called the Meta-Four, which specified no length, only that every line contain four words. 

Jonathan Williams and his life-long partner, the poet Thomas Meyer, typically divided their year between Skywinding Farm, the property he owned in the Blue Ridge Mountains, outside Highlands, North Carolina, and a seventeenth-century stone cottage in  Cumbria, England. A longtime contributing editor of the photography journal Aperture, Jonathan Williams died from pneumonia on March 16, 2008 in his Blue Ridge Mountain home.

Insert Image: Guy Mendes, “Jonathan Williams and Thomas Meyer at Corn Close”, 1081, Silver Gelatin Print

The Liberty of a Frozen Morning

Photographer Unknown, The Liberty of a Frozen Morning

“The approach of a man’s life out of the past is history, and the approach of time out of the future is mystery. Their meeting is the present, and it is consciousness, the only time life is alive. The endless wonder of this meeting is what causes the mind, in its inward liberty of a frozen morning, to turn back and question and remember. The world is full of places. Why is it that I am here?”

—Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House