Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top Ten Poems I've Written in 2009

As the years pass, I sometimes find it difficult to remember when I wrote different poems. I have a ballpark idea (I'm not that old yet), but I often don't know for sure. The point of this blog post is to help me remember my best moments of creation from this past year. 

This post might be slightly less fun for others to read (I am sorry), because I can't post the poems here (or then they won't be eligible to be published elsewhere). I will give a brief description and my favorite line from each. Hopefully that will make you want to read them, publish them, or encourage others to publish them. 

10. "If Homosexuality Offends You, You May Wish to Read Another Poem"

While I would never say that my poems are 100% autobiographical, they are very much inspired by my life and situations I experience twisted with fiction. This poem came from a night out with Dustin and our friend Josh. We decided to do some bar hopping to some sketchy gay bars in Orlando. This poem is inspired by the bar called Hank's. There is a sign on the door that reads: "If homosexuality offends you, you may wish to go to another bar," which obviously inspired the title. We only stayed about 30 minutes, but it was enough to encourage me to write the poem. At the heart of the poem is the generational gap between younger gays who have lived very different lives than generations before us. Hank's caters to an older clientele. I did send it out to a magazine, who rejected it (but published others of mine), because they thought the poem seemed too harsh and judgmental, which I found interesting, because that wasn't my intention. Regardless, I'm happy with the poem and think it captures something true about the gay experience. Best Line: "One stumbles toward me / like Frankenstein's monster first discovering his ability / to walk."

9. "$5,000" and "$10,000"

I have lumped these two poems together because they are part the same series and are also very related. These two poems come from my series (I'm still working on) about a gay porn star who was convicted of attacking an elderly couple who owed some guy money. Basically, he was a hired hit man and is now serving 20 years in prison. He attacked the couple three times, but didn't kill them. He was paid $5,000 for the attacks and, at the time of his arrest, was in discussions to kill the couple for $10,000. This is where the two titles come from and the poems deal with all the things you can do with $5,000 and $10,000. What I like about the poems is that they will work really well in the context of the series, but they don't mention the actual subject matter (if that makes sense). They will add good variety. Best Line: "My partner and I have spent close to $10,000 on drinking and / tipping drag queens in the last year and a half, because when you're in debt and hate your job / and hear every day on the radio that things might get worse, there is nothing better to do / than drink, dance, and stick dollar bills in a sweaty drag queen's hand or down some man's / g-string."

8. "Brown Lace Hanky, Right Pocket (likes uncut)"

This poem is also part of a series I am working on with two other fine poets, Bryan Borland and Dustin Brookshire. The poems are based on the Gay Hanky Code. This is a code that allows gay men to display various preferences by wearing different colored hankies in their pockets (right normally means the passive or bottom role and left means the top role). It isn't used as much any more, but was very much a part of older gay culture when most men were not out. We have divided up the colors and are each writing 8 to 10 poems representing various sexual preferences, fantasies, and fetishes. It's going to be absolutely amazing, so just wait for the final product. This is one of my favorites that I've written. It's about men who enjoy having sex with uncut men. Best Line: "Let them make me feel my missing piece-- / my phantom foreskin, like accident victims / who have lost limbs, but never stop feeling / them"

7. "Seeing a Dead Lizard After Reading Mark Doty's "Turtle, Swan"

One of my favorite poems by Mark Doty is "Turtle, Swan." I was so inspired by it that I wanted to somehow use it, yet twist it into my own. My poem deals with the fear of losing a partner, which is what Doty's poem is about. The difference is that he was writing about AIDS and I'm writing more about the fear of not having rights to see a dying partner or being with them when they pass because you don't have the right paper work. It was a hard poem to write, but I'm proud of the final product. Best Line: "Even my dog won't go near the lizard. / Doesn't want to sniff it, has no / intention of putting it in his mouth, / for his is particular (or is it distrusting?) / of what he close his mouth around. / If only I was as cautious." 

6. "Imagining Your Penis in Blue After Watching Watchmen"

I'm a halfway superhero geek. I don't really read comic books, but I'm fascinated by superheroes and always have been. I'm also fascinated by how many gay people are drawn to superheroes and see them as a symbol of our struggle. As a kid I got up early every Saturday so I could watch Captain Planet. I love superhero movies and am always dragging Dustin to them. I didn't actually see Watchmen until it came out on DVD, but when I did, it blew me away. It was amazing and I immediately wanted to write about it. The poem uses pop culture, but quickly combines it with something else. In this case, I take on hate crimes and the fear they cause you as a gay person and our desire to save people if only we were as brave as our fictional superheroes. Best Line: "but the truth is my penis isn't blue, / I have no tights, no cape, only fear and the knowledge / that no matter what, humanity is set on destroying itself." 

5. "A History of Hangers"

Sometimes even I don't fully understand where my ideas come from. In this case, I was at work and a co-worker said something about how in high school a group of kids broke into the drama teacher's car with a hanger, and suddenly in my head I went "I should a write a poem about all the things you can do with hangers." And that's exactly what I did. The poem begins with my co-worker's story, but moves to mobiles, abortions, Brokeback Mountain, and hangers you can buy on the Home Shopping Network. It's a strange poem, but works. If you want to read it, you don't have to wait long, because it will be published in the next issue of The Los Angeles Review. Best Line: "I think of the old man / who called in, not to order, just to talk, to hear / someone else's voice. How he said, I'm just so lonely, / and you told him it'll be okay, when really it won't. / He knows that, like you know that."

4. "Silver Lame Hanky, Left Pocket (Starfucker)" 

This is another hanky poem. This one is about a man who has sex with celebrities. This was, of course, right up my alley, not because I've had sex with celebrities, but because of my love of using pop culture in poetry. This poem has great references to actors, movies, and TV shows. Best Line: "Then there was my brief affair / with Keanu Reeves. Neo could be my Christ- / like figure any day. I even went / to the theater and paid to see The Watcher, / found him just as sexy as a long-haired / stalker in that room full of flames."

3. "See You Next Tuesday"

This is also known as my "cunt poem." I'm proud of this poem for the bizarre collection of situations, people, and events this poems captures. It was inspired by an actual event that happened to my neighbor in Tallahassee. She was out walking her dogs and some strange man called her "a fucking cunt." I took this story and ran with it. The poem includes references to RENT, Spike Lee, and sexy college boys. This poem will also be appearing in Word Riot (soon I hope!). Best Line: "When the poodle lady told us her story she leaned in, / whispered against the hum of street lights, and I wanted / to say, I can't hear you, wanted to force her / to scream cunt so loud it would bounce off the magnolia / trees, rattle branches, stick in the Spanish moss."

2. "After We Watch The History Boys in Class My Students Fear I Want to Fondle Them"

Teaching has given me some of my best poetry ideas and this poem is a prime example. A few months ago, I showed my class of nearly 100 students (95% male), the film The History Boys. I have never in my life seen a classroom so uncomfortable. The film is based on a play. There is no nudity in the film, hardly any bad language, and most of it takes place in a classroom. But the film deals with a older teacher who likes to give his students rides home on his motorcycle and as they ride he reaches his hand around and touches the boys' dicks. He will only take students who are 18 and the students are aware of what is going to happen, yet many of them willingly go. The film also deals with lots of interesting questions about education. It's fantastic, but my students were not so impressed. This poem captures that moment and deals with the fears and misconceptions that many people have about sex, molestation, and gayness. Best Line: "I can see it now: Gay Teacher Shows The History / Boys In Hopes of Recruiting Young Males Into the Den / of Homosexuality. If only it was that easy. If only I had that much / power, though pimply-faced boys with ADD and Zac Efron / haircuts aren't really my type"
1. "My Attempt at an Epic AIDS Poem That References Harry Potter"

This was the hardest poem I wrote all year, which is why it has earned the top spot on my list. The poem is inspired by another person's actual life threaded together with my life. I'm very thankful to Scott, who answered every question I asked him and give me many personal details about his life and then let me use them in this poem. I would never have been able to write a piece like this without his help. This is also one of the longest poems I've ever written and in many ways is a signature "Stephen poem." It combines real life, questions we don't always want to ask, pop culture, and a twist of humor. Where else are you going to find Harry Potter and AIDS in the same poem? Best Line: "You won't tell me his name, / but refer to him as Voldemort (he-who-shall-not-be-named) / who committed the love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name."

-Stephen (Poetically Pleased)


  1. Quite an interesting assortment. I like the hanky code ones, the first one about club hopping, hell, all the little snippits you shared (no pun intended between snippits and the uncut poem (okay, maybe a minor pun was intended)).

    I'm assuming that this is all ranked in order of greatness, so I'd like to thank the Academy...

    Seriously though, again, glad I could help. Answering your questions helped me delve deeper into myself. Not that I'm sure what any of what I told you means yet but I think I've made some headway into my own overwrought psyche.

  2. Thanks Scott and I'm glad answering my questions had some benefit to you.