Saturday, May 30, 2009

My Poem on a Stranger's Live Journal?

Thursday nights I have to work from 1pm to 9pm. I won't get into why, because it doesn't make any sense, and basically I have nothing to do for these hours. This past Thursday I was sitting in my cubical trying to entertain myself and remembered I hadn't typed my name into google in awhile. This is a common practice for me and I even wrote a poem about it called "Mistaken Identity" which is getting published in the Summer 09 issue of The Antioch Review

Basically I just search the internet to see if anyone has posted anything about me or to see just how many times my actual name comes up with actual information about the real me (whatever that means). Since I've had a lot of work recently published this number is going up. 

But on Thursday I discovered one of my poems published on this Live Journal. This person has a Live Journal devoted to a poem a day and they have kept it up for like 550 days, which is impressive and they seem to have a pretty big following. Anyway on March 18th of this year they posted my poem "In Defense of Marriage" as the poem of the day. The poem was published in "The Gay and Lesbian Review" about a year and a half ago and I assume that's where they saw it. They didn't steal it or anything like that, not that I really would have cared. That's the thing about poetry. I just want people to see it and share it and I was really excited to see that this person whom I don't know picked my poem for that day. 

I then realized there were 17 comments and all of them were really excited about my poem and loved it and said it was better than the crap the blogger had posted the day before (which was a poem by a fairly famous poet I won't mention here). 

In the end this made my Thursday night, not because I'm full of myself, but because it showed a positive of the internet and how people can connect through poetry (I know, how very sappy and cliche). 

Regardless it filled some time and it's always nice to see people enjoying your work. 

On a completely unrelated sidenote I've been watching the first season of "True Blood" and it is amazing! If you haven't seen it go get it. It's an amazing twist on the vampire and the south. I have a few episodes left and I can't wait to finish them. I'm sure I'll post more about this later. 

-Stephen (should I be signing my posts?)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Prop 8 and the Political Poem

The battle over gay marriage has once again taken an absurd turn. The California Supreme Court has upheld Prop 8 that banned same-sex marriage, but has declared that the 18,000 gay couples who got married between June and November of 2008 (when gay marriage was legal) will remain legally married. This back and forth bit is getting old. Now California has a mixture of gay couples who are married but no other gay people can. Does this make any sense? Of course not. Should I be surprised? No, it's business as usual here in America.  

This issue, like many others, gets me thinking about political poetry. My work has always had a political bend to it, whether I wanted it to or not. This is because we have made anything revolving around homosexuality political. If I mention something about being gay, gay sex, my relationship, etc. many will view this as being political and shoving my political agenda down unwilling throats.

A few years ago this bothered me a bit, because I, like many others, had a strange feeling about "political poetry" and wasn't sure I wanted my poetry to be classified in that way. We are in a culture that doesn't like politics and most don't like to think or know about political issues and if they see someone discussing or writing about these issues that person suddenly looks crazy and militant. I am both of these things, but don't like to be called them on a regular basis. There is also this notion that political poetry is just preaching an agenda and is not well-written poetry. This is of course not true. There are lots of badly written political poems but there are a lot of badly written poems on any topic. It seems people like political poetry of different time periods but are very uncomfortable with political poetry about current times. 

But I've gotten over these fears and in the last two years or so I have fully embraced my role as a writer of political poetry. Poetry can not just sit on the sidelines and keep writing about lighthouses and birds, while the world around us is crumbling. There are many topics worthy of poetry out there that are scary, raw and horrific and we can't ignore these. But I also believe the most effective political poetry has a personal side to it. Bring politics to the personal level. As a gay man I can't just ignore politics because they are determining my rights on a daily basis. Some days they are giving me more rights and the next they are taking those away. I want people to be aware, so I have devoted many poems to issues that I care about: the treatment of gay people in Iran, gay marriage, hate crimes, etc. But I bring these to a personal, everyday level.

Political poetry is not dead. It may not change the world but it might start a conversation. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Drunk Dancing Poetics

Since my first post wasn't a real post, as it was a mission statement of sorts, I thought I should write a real first post on something very important: Drunk Dancing Poetics. 

First of all I need to tell you how annoyed I get by the cliched image of the drunk, smoking writer. There lives this giant myth that drinking, smoking, and any sort of drug use is somehow important to the creative process and that all "great writers" must partake. This is insane. Of course there are lots of famous writers who had drinking or drug problems, but why does that mean that these problems led to good writing? Shouldn't it be more of a miracle that they could write amazing work and still have these problems? I've known people who drink a lot and smoke a lot and most of them are pretty crappy writers. The two don't necessary go together.

Okay, that was a tangent to make sure you didn't think I'm one of those people who promote the image of the drunk poet. This not what this post is about.

Moving on to my actual point: I do drink and I do love to go dancing. I actually spent the last two nights at Parliament House here in Orlando. If you've never been you should get in a plane, car, or bus right now and come check it out. I spend most of my weekends there. It's a gay club, motel, restaurant, theatre, what-have-you. They have amazing drag queens, bartenders, and a really big mix of people. It's not like most gay clubs that have a very narrow crowd. It's not just twinks or bears or sugar daddies or queens. It's truly everyone, which is one reason I absolutely love it. I've gotten many an idea for a poem from spending my nights there having a good time with my partner, Dustin (we've been together for nearly six years, by the way). 

I have this tendency to get a bit drunk and to dance and suddenly think about poetry. Now, maybe this makes me insane, because clearly there are other things to think about when dancing with 100s of sweaty men all around you, but I begin thinking of amazing ideas for poems or just thoughts about poetry and how amazing it is. It's like that cliched idea of muses coming down and speaking through you, expect nothing ever sticks. In fact I don't ever remember a clear idea from these moments, which goes to prove my earlier point about drinking and poetry. I always write sober.

Now don't get me wrong, these nights out often lead to all kinds of poems, but these aren't the poems that I imagine while I'm out there on the dance floor thinking it's pretty cool I'm a poet. I think that might be the feeling more than anything. I'm there with all these other men around me and I know that most of them do common/ordinary things and they see me (a skinny, young looking, red-haired guy) and they think I probably do something boring as well or that I do porn because it is Florida, but then someone asks what I do and I say "I'm a poet." Most of the time they look confused or laugh or tell me it's just a hobby (actually someone did say this over and over and I finally had to tell him to fuck off, but later I wrote a poem about it, so I win). I'm never discouraged by this. In fact it's that moment on that dance floor that keeps me going.

The next morning I will not remember an exact idea or thought, but as I sit sobering up, drinking my coffee, I will open my laptop and begin my work as a poet. Maybe I need to be drunk to take pride in that fact, to allow myself a moment of celebration, because being a poet in the 21st century in America can really suck. When I'm drunk on the dance floor I can be the sexy, smart poet I've always wanted to be and I can pretend everyone around me cares and would just die to be with me or to have me write a poem about them. 

A beginning of sorts

For a long time now I have avoided having a blog. I don't know why exactly, but it rubbed me the wrong way. I often read other blogs and have enjoyed them, but having one of my own has never seemed like a good idea. 

Why the change of heart? 

Well, I'm not sure exactly. Perhaps it's out of boredom. I have a very boring and terrible job that I'm trying to get out of as soon as possible and this might help pass the time. Basically I never liked the idea of an online journal or diary and felt a blog often turned into that. I don't feel the need to tell everyone everything that has happened to me or to try and mold or shape my life into something it isn't. This is why I have avoided blogging for the most part, but now I have come to a new conclusion: a blog with a purpose, a direction. 

This blog will be devoted to my own thoughts, musings, and ideas about poetry. It will not be a place to publish my work but rather a place to talk about my work, my questions or confusions about poetry, and thoughts on poetry I'm reading at the time. This seems like a good step for me, as I have now been out of graduate school for a year and I miss discussing the poetry world.

I will post from time to time (I don't know the frequency), but I'm hoping to keep this up for awhile and see where it takes me. I might surprise myself and post daily, but who really knows? 
I will also use this as a promotional tool for my own creative work. I'll provide links to published poems and announce when new things have been released in print. 

The title for my blog comes from Frank O'Hara's poem "Joe's Jacket." Check it out.