Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Highlights of a Busy Week

I am now officially 27 years of age. I not only survived my birthday weekend, but had an amazing time ringing in 27. 

I woke up on Saturday to wonderful gifts from Dustin, including a new journal, which I'm excited to start using. I'm a big journal fan and buy too many of them, but I haven't had a new one in a bit and this one even has different colored paper. Then Saturday night we headed to the Parliament House with friends to celebrate. The drag shows were fantastic, the dancing was hot, and I got my picture taken and a free shot from my favorite drag queen, Armani. And just when I was feeling a little bit old, I got hit on by many members of the Democratic Committee, which appeared to be a young gay group of democrats from around the country. They were having some meeting in Orlando over the weekend. Most were from out of town and flirty (what could be better?).

Sunday (my actual birthday) was spent at Disney. We had lunch at Tusker House and then rode rides and drank. Again, what could be better? All in all it was one of my best birthdays and it made me feel lucky to have such a caring boyfriend and good friends. 

Since I spent the entirety of the weekend drinking and celebrating, it was difficult to get back in the working groove Monday. I had to teach the first class of my "December term" and realized I must have screamed all weekend because after lecturing for about three hours I had no voice left and five hours of lecturing to go. Of course, I survived. Tuesday I had my year review at my job, which was positive and I found out about some good promotion opportunities that might be happening very soon. 

That brings me to today. I'm cooking Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, so I have been planning for that and shopping for groceries and trying not to feel too depressed by the constant gray sky and rain outside. I did have a big bright spot this morning. I was notified by The Los Angeles Review that they want to publish my poem "A History of Hangers" in their Spring 2010 issue. I'm thrilled. Tonight, I will be heading to the Parliament House for their "Wildest Wednesday of the Year." Should be fun.

That's the news for now. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I'll be alone for most of the day while Dustin is at work, but I'll be cooking him and some friends a fabulous vegetarian Thanksgiving spread. 

-Stephen (27)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thoughts on Turning 27

On Sunday I will be turning 27. I thought I would take this opportunity to think back over the last year and give my thoughts on the future. 

I don't fear growing older, but I do acknowledge that I am entering my early-late twenties. I took a survey yesterday and noticed that 27 was put with  the category 27 to 34. In just two days I am joining that group. In the gay world I am suddenly becoming "that older guy," at least on paper, fortunately I look younger than I am, which will buy me a little time. 

The last year hasn't been easy. As I've stated elsewhere, the last year and a half have been the hardest of my life. Last November, I was just beginning my new job after six months of unemployment. I am still there and still dissatisfied with it, but I can pay my bills. Career-wise I've been frustrated. I just want a job I love. I have a passion for teaching, but need to be somewhere that truly values education and will let me do my job well. The job market is scary right now and I'm not sure when it is going to get better. This has put a shadow over the last year, but when I seriously look over it, there's been just as much positive as negative. 

In the last year, I have grow leaps and bounds with my poetry work. I have gotten more poems accepted for publication than any other year. I started this blog, which has been a great experience for me, so far. I started a Twitter account which led me to networking with other great poets. I have been a finalist for two chapbook contests and I have written a lot of new work. I'm most proud of this, because my greatest fear after grad school was that I would slow down my production of new work, but the exact opposite has happened. 

I also find myself part of a gay community, which I've never had before. I go out every weekend and am surrounded by acceptance and love. Some weeks I live for the weekend. I live for the moment I can go and see a drag queen and forget everything else. I live for the moment I can dance with my wonderful boyfriend and just have fun. I live for the moment of dancing with a stranger and having that moment of connection. I live for the old guy in the bathroom looking at my dick. This has truly been one of the best parts of the last year. I've never felt so comfortable and accepted in my entire life. 

Then I have Dustin. We celebrated our sixth anniversary in September and are closer than ever before. We continue to grow and define ourselves and I wouldn't have made it through the last year without his support and love. 

At nearly 27, I have completed an MFA, have taught college English for over four years, have published or will soon publish 23 poems, have a job that pays my bills, a boyfriend of six years, and a 3-year-old dog. I don't think I can complain too much.

I look forward to what the next year will hold. I hope a new job, maybe a new city, and for sure more poetry and sex.

-Stephen (Saying Goodbye to 26)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guest Blogger at PANK Magazine

Today, I am a guest blogger at PANK Magazine and I think of this as a blog milestone. Perhaps this means I am finally getting the hang of this blogging thing. I started my blog in May, so this month has marked six months of blogging. I'm partly surprised I have kept it up, but I'm thankful I have. I've met some interesting people through it and have hopefully engaged some of you in interesting thought and discussion. 

But today it is not about my blog, but PANK's blog. So check out my blog post entitled "Sometimes Sex Is Just Sex." Feel free to leave a comment!

-Stephen (Blogger on the Rise) 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Review: Apocalyptic Swing by Gabrielle Calvocoressi

Whenever I read a Gabrielle Calvocoressi poem I feel dirty. Not mentally dirty, or sexually dirty, or anything of the kind, but I feel physically covered in dirt. Her poems feel dusty and all-American in a very rustic sort of way. She captures in her newest book, Apocalyptic Swing, various parts of 20th century America. The poems range in location, yet always have a sweaty, dusty feel to them that is unique to this country. 

I first read Calvocoressi a few years ago. Her debut book, entitled The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, blew me away. The title sequence in the book is beautifully constructed and truly captures the voices of a period. It does an amazing job of using a historical figure and event and yet making it about everyone's internal struggle to escape and be more than we are. 

Apocalyptic Swing is her second book and while I don't find it as strong as the first, it still works to capture something true about America and provides the reader with sharp and fascinating characters. Her poems often deal with small town people and values, yet always rise above the cliched or the expected. 

She also deals in interesting and complicated ways with gender. Many times her speakers are not clearly identified as male or female. Other times she clearly addresses lesbian relationships and sex. She has such great lines like these from her poem "A Love Supreme": "I've slicked / my hair back, I've made myself / a boy for you." She looks head-on at the fear, desire, and courage of early 20th century gays and lesbians and then brings us closer to the present with a poem entitled "Fence," which deals with Matthew Shepard's murder. 

The strongest poems in this collection are the ones that are in the voice of a boxer and deal with the idea of pain and violence both inside and outside the ring. These poems are scattered throughout the book and also the focus of the seven poem sequence in the center of the book entitled "Training Camp: Dear Lake, PA." These poems are interesting and startling, and after reading more and more of them, you begin to examine how these poems are getting at something much deeper. 

One of the last poems in the book has this great line: "What I'm trying to say is / a body can take a hell of a lot." In many ways this is the overall theme of the book. Life is hard and amazingly we survive. Many of the characters and speakers in these poems are beat-up, hit with beer bottles, called names, yet like the boy in her poem "Blues for Ruby Goldstien" most crawl back to life and keep going. 

-Stephen (Swinger) 

Sunday, November 8, 2009

New Publication: Redheaded Stepchild

I am pleased to announce the publication of my poem "If you were Jackson Pollock and Jackson Pollock painted nudes" in the Winter 09 issue of Redheaded Stepchild. For those who do not know, Redheaded Stepchild is a great online magazine that only accepts poems that have already been rejected from other magazines. It is a very clever idea with a very clever name. 

My poem has been rejected from a number of places, which is why it is very exciting to finally see it in print. I wrote the poem during my second year of Grad school, which would be nearly three years ago at this point. The poem was inspired partly by my love of Frank O'Hara who loved Jackson Pollock and often wrote poems about him. It is also inspired by my interest in Pollock and his work. I remember the first time I saw a Pollock in person. I was in London in 2003 and was blown away by it. He's a fascinating figure. The sexiness of the poem is in part due to the film Pollock and my slight crush on Ed Harris. 

Regardless, I'm happy to have the poem out there and hope you will enjoy reading it. 

-Stephen (Redheaded)