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I have two upcoming readings I wanted to let folks know about.  Both are during AWP (a national conference for writers). Both are group readings but both are filled with talented poets. I’m really excited. If you’re looking to see some exciting readings, I hope you’ll drop by!

#1  THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 2013

I’m reading in a block of several writers at 7-8 pm. I’m really honored to be reading with the following poets:
1. Stephen Tapscott
2. Amy King
3. James Allen Hall
4. Blas Falconer
5. Lee Ann Rouripaugh
6. Christopher Hennessy
7. Kazim Ali

(There are a whole host of talented poets also reading before that block, beginning at 4 pm.)

#2 Brooklyn Arts Press Reading at LIR
Friday, March 8, 4:30pm until 5:45pm
903 Boylston St, Boston, Massachusetts 02115

Hemphill shout out

Lambda interview with Don Weise

Lambda recently interviewed critic Daniel Mendelsohn and he stated, “ [a] book that is only meaningful to the gay reader cannot be a great book. It is precisely the gay book’s ability to be interesting to a straight reader that makes it a great book. [….] What makes literature literature is precisely its ability to go beyond borders, beyond identities.” Any thoughts on Mendelshon’s views concerning literature? 

I think debates over what makes a book great are largely among writers and people who teach literature. The rest of us I don’t think really care. I’d say we’re more interested in whether we connect with a book, meaning whether it excites us, compels us, shows us the world in a new way, makes us laugh, arouses us, makes us want to read more by the same author. I happen to love the writing of the African American gay poet Essex Hemphill—so much so that I reissued one of his books, Ceremonies. But do straight people read him? Do gay people even read him? Does the answer to either question reflect on the merits of his writing? Does it matter ultimately? More important to me is the fact that his poem to his mother, “In the Life,” still makes me cry after 15 years. That closing line about her never noticing “the absence of rice and bridesmaids” will forever choke me up, and how much greater can literature get than that?

Richard Blanco, gay, Cuban-American, poet—and inaugural choice!

So obviously it was such wonderful news yesterday about Richard Blanco being named the inaugural poet! I’ve been watching the news come out and have come across four pieces I think worth sharing about this, below. The news has been picked up by everyone of course, but I focused on pieces that were in some way more than just a reporting of the news.

LA TIMES: snippet: “Growing up gay and Cuban American was an even bigger challenge. In the poem “Queer Theory, According to My Grandmother,” Blanco writes of the many admonitions he received growing up.

“For God’s sake, never pee sitting down…./I’ve seen you,” his grandmother says. “Don’t stare at The Six-Million-Dollar Man./I’ve seen you.” And finally: “Never dance alone in your room.”

Blanco never did stop dancing.

“At a poetry reading a woman once asked me to share something about myself that no one would know directly from reading my bio or my work,” he says on his website. “Somewhat embarrassed, I told the audience about my poetry dance — a little Michael Jackson-inspired shtick I do around the house in my pajamas when I am high from a good-poem day.”

2) Peter Covino at Lambda Literary Foundation:
“Clearly, Richard understands and is skilled at harnessing the real radical power of poetry (radix in Latin) as in the root of poetic language, and its importance for larger American culture. Richard Blanco’s work is extraordinary in its ability to tell a clear and compelling story filled with vivid imagery culled from various cultures, and in the subtle and inimitable way he suggests that no language has primacy over another.

He seems to be telling us we need to be inclusive and compassionate, not dismissive because someone’s accent is different from our own.  What an important message for children and people of all backgrounds to hear during the inauguration.”

3)  Don Share in the WashPo said that Blanco’s poems “sound like so many people in this country. He works in Spanish and English, a mixture that is our native language, and he makes it sounds like real poetry. This is poetry that speaks for and from a great number of Americans. He gives a voice to the kinds of experience that people undergo every single day. Even people who don’t want to read it themselves can understand the value of a moment in which we say that this country is made of poetry.”

4) And Achy Obejas’s nice recollection:


The one where I wrangle with Romney voters

I was a panel show on HuffPost Live yesterday. It was quite an experience. I can’t bring myself to watch the archived version of the show, but if you want to see me argue what I wrote about in my HuffPost article (on a panel with a Tea Partier, a Gay Republican and the awesome editor of HuffPost’s Gay Voices blog), then by all means.. have at it!  AND VOTE TODAY!

Here’s the link:

The Big Lie: ‘I Love My Gay Friends, but I’m Voting for Romney Anyway:

The Big Lie: ‘I Love My Gay Friends, but I’m Voting for Romney Anyway: How Facebook, Famous People, Gay Marriage and 9-Year-Olds Can Help Us Talk Our Friends and Family Out of Voting for Mitt Romney

I wrote this over at the HuffPost Gay Voices site. I shared it on Facebook but also thought I should post it here.

As I said on Facebook, you may not agree with the hard-line tack I take in it, and that’s okay. But my hope was to make folks realize that when we vote for someone who would deny others’ rights, it may have repercussions in how we see our family and friends, a theme that’s been taken up recently in some viral ‘open letters’ and such. In no way am I suggesting we should disown family members. I hope my message, as point-blank as it is, is much nuanced than that!  If you care to, please feel free to share, like, etc.


just something I’m working on and wanted to share as I way to motivate me…



The boy in the car next to us on i-90 isn’t even a cinder, or a broken piece to stab into, or a flinty fossilized fingernail we could use to reconstruct the homo-us that speeds along here, with candor spilled in the cupholder, the steering wheel slick with conversation’s cancer, and deep in the engine a cylinder that twists and pumps–

                                                                  –or else what does it do?… something we imagine we know, something we think we could describe with a fucking metaphor or a goodamm simile (I AM A CRATER OF MEANING WITHOUT YOU)….but when, in a moment, something goes terribly wrong. we will not think part/shaft/fluid...we will think “turbine” or something other shibboleth that keeps the car moving…we will think, in a moment as thin as a (l)ash, that the boy in the car next to us isn’t looking at you or me but his own reflection, the illusion dark and itself a death, a flash, not even a cinder.

Join Aaron Shurin for Poets House talk!

…poet Aaron Shurin considers the question “What is prosody?” in light of the current movement away from meter and traditional forms. Shurin looks at what new elements are at work in contemporary poetry, such as collage and sonic play, referencing both classical and current models, from Homer and Shakespeare to Denise Levertov, Robert Creeley, Michel Palmer and Lisa Jarnot. Shurin explores some of the ways in which poetic craft continues to make meaning in contemporary poetry.


Date and Time: 
October 4, 2012 – 7:00PM
Having interviewed Aaron, I can tell you this is going to be a special event you should attend if you can!

Dear Friends who are considering voting for Romney/Ryan this fall:

I’ve been trying not to write this for weeks now. I couldn’t stop myself any longer.

So….Republican friends….If you ever see a Democrat so intellectually dishonest in his words and message as Paul Ryan was last night, please send me a note and link so I can speak out against it. (I always keep an eye out myself, but it will mean more coming from you).  If I had a son or daughter, I would be ashamed to have them see me vote for someone who used their words to deceive so many about so much at a time when so many important things were at stake. (And yes, I’m well aware that this might keep me from voting from anyone at all, and you can tell me that, but as of now that’s just the usual cynicism that prevents us from imagining change.)  I don’t want to debate. I’m just asking a favor: alert me to deceptions on the my side.

Notice I’m not telling you who to vote for. If my post makes you think about your choice and the kind of person these two men are, that’s on you.  You’re welcome to make me think about the kind of man I’m voting for. I’ve actually thought about it a great deal. I think about often as I:
* happily pay my taxes
* plan my wedding to a *man* I love
*use my healthcare and know that my mom, dad, and family have care
*pursue an advance degree using (an albeit too small) government loan
* have (some small) hope that my niece and nephew just might have a viable environment when they grow up
* feel safer that Osama Bin Laden is longer a threat
* feel pride that my gay brothers and sisters can serve openly in the military (if they choose)
*know that my home state got bailed out and that it worked, etc. etc.

I should add how happy I am (nothing against you, and I’m not aligning you with your party) that at least my side (despite its many flaws) isn’t coming to be defined (even by members of its own party) by
*religious extremism
* dangerous views on women, women’s rights, and women and violence
* several degrees of hate (even toward our armed service members)
* greed
* racism
*a pathological ambivalence toward helping others (“let him die!”) that somehow co-exists with anti-abortion views
* and a virulent distrust of science, education, the arts and the intellect in general.

(I know you do your best to disown members of your party who take part in these views. I do the same when I see it in my party. But to be honest, and I’m not being a dick, I don’t see these things in my party.)

So, yes, I’m especially okay with my party not being the party that seems hell-bent in going in that direction. Go ahead and imagine the Democrat’s direction. I’ll be you at its worst it’s not so noxious, dangerous, anti-American, and destructive as the direction you see above—especially when you consider (because I know you’re saying Obama and the Dem’s will ruin our economy) how obstructionist the Rep’s have been when it comes to plans to improve things. And I know you’re not one of those people who think Obama really is out to ruin America on purpose, because you’re my friend and I don’t have friends who are crazy.

All that being said, I’m also okay if you want to call me naive, tell me the Dem’s are just as bad. I’d rather be thought naive that any ONE of those things I list above.

PS: Looking at that list I think to myself, Romney and Ryan most certainly would see me as ‘taking advantage’ of big government, as part of the problem, and hurting American’s “traditions” and threatening its future. If you feel that way too, well….

“Queer” by Frank Bidart

Wow, just wow.

Thank you, terror!

You learned early that adults' genteel
fantasies about human life

were not, for you, life.  You think sex

is a knife
driven into you to teach you that.

Post-LSD Romantic Aaron Shurin discusses the pleasure of embodied poetics.

Excited to report that my interview with Aaron Shurin is now live on the Poetry Foundation website. Aaron’s insights, poetics, and his all-around eloquence are really worth checking out, as our his experiences with Robert Duncan and a career that began around the time of Gay Liberation. And quite a bit more. Here’s one of my favorite spots.

CH: Reginald Shepherd writes that in your poem “Multiple Heart,” the prose pieces “enact the intercourse of sexuality and textuality that is so central to [your] poetry.” He explains how you deploy “song [as] sex, the poem is a wedding of writer and reader.” What’s your personal sense of your relationship to the reader?

AS: In “Narrativity,” I used erotic terms for describing the writer-reader dynamics of narrative versus lyric [poetry]. I decided that narrative performs an act of seduction, which is to draw the reader into person and place via the transparency of language: Come to me! And then the counterforce, lyric, is display. I imagine a peacock, or one of those crazy birds building its magnificent nest: Look at me! Just look at this! That’s also a mating call, a dazzling act, a spell.