Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another PRIDE Month Ends


Today is the last day of June, which means it is the last day of Pride Month. I've had a good one. Gay Days was amazing! Our Pride party went really well and we've seen some of the best drag shows at Parliament House this month. All in all it was successful. 

Obama even threw us some bones. He "officially" proclaimed June Pride Month and yesterday he took the time to shake hands with a few gays and lesbians to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (I know the wording of that sounded bitchy. I do understand the importance of what he did and acknowledging the beginning of the gay rights movement is a big deal). He promised we (the gay community) would not be disappointed by him and I truly hope he's right. I'm getting a little nervous that he will prove to be like most democrats and not follow through on any of his promises to the gay community for fear of a backlash. Too many politicians like to go the route of it's not the right time or there are other issues that need attention first. I argue that the rights of our citizens is a pretty big issue and reflects on everything else we do as a country. Only time will tell what Obama will accomplish and I'm willing to give him a bit more time to prove himself. 

As Pride Month ends I try to remind myself how important it is to feel proud of who you are on a daily basis. It doesn't have to be June. You don't have to be standing in a sea of beautiful men in tiny bathing suits. You don't have to be drunk in a foam party. Or stuffing dollar bills in a drag queen's cleavage. You should be proud everywhere. 

I know I shock a lot of people by my openness and directness about many topics, including my sexuality. I'm out to everyone and anyone. I know people who have questioned how open I am in my poetry, fearing it might hurt my career. This is ridiculous. I write about what I care about, what I find interesting, and I write to make people think. I want to give that gay boy out there a poem that he can relate to that's about his life and his experiences. 

Others have asked me why I need to be out to my students? First of all these are the same people who believe that saying you are gay is talking about sex. Sex is really the least of it. We all have sex and we all have sex in various positions and with various people. I don't tell my students how my boyfriend and I have sex. I just mention in some causal way either my boyfriend or something that clearly indicates I am gay. My favorite way is using a get-to-know-you quiz. On the first day I give my students five questions everyone has to go around and answer. One of them is: who is your celebrity crush? Well I always tell them my celebrity crush is Jude Law (clearly a man). This is a simple, easy, and very effective way of dealing with it. Because I'm open and relaxed about it, so are my students. They also don't spend the semester trying to figure out my personal life. Plus I teach writing. I teach writing about yourself and sharing yourself in a open and honest way. The most positive student critiques I've ever gotten are those that say how I made them feel comfortable and made them feel like they could share and write about topics they never would have in other courses with other instructors. These comments aren't even coming from gay students, but those who don't feel they fit the mold, which believe it or not is most everyone.

Being out and proud of who you are will make some people mad, some uncomfortable, and some will hate you for being what they won't allow themselves to be. Living in silence is deadly, not just for gay people, but for anyone. We must stand up for who we are and what we believe in. There is never an excuse to stay silent. 

As the month closes I vow to ask myself everyday: what I have done to make myself proud? If you don't know that song reference than you suck and if you only know it from that god awful Biggest Loser show you suck even more. 

Just kidding.

Not really.

-Stephen (Full of PRIDE)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson is Dead or Why I Love Celebrity Poems

Incase you live under a rock: Michael Jackson is dead. Mourners have gathered. Flowers have been purchased. Strange photos, stuffed bears, and god knows what else litter the sidewalks at all the important MJ locations, and the media is in a frenzy. I always wonder what happens to all the crap people pile up when really big celebrities die. Do people really think Jackson's family wants a stuffed teddy bear bought at the dollar store? No. It's probably some poor personal assistant's job to clean it all up and give it to some charity, but who knows. 

Regardless I mourn the lost of Michael Jackson, not because I was his biggest fan, or because I will miss out on the music he might have made if he had lived, but because he was an "other" and society needs more "others." Jackson was by most people's standards a freak. The media and popular opinion desperately wanted to cast him as a villain or a monster, but I never bought it. I don't think he did anything to any kid. I think he was a broken person, who wanted to help others, but didn't always know how to communicate that. 

There is little doubt Jackson will go down as a great musician, but I also hope he will be remembered as someone who never found it easy being a celebrity, but devoted his life to his art and passion, even if it cost him his happiness.

With the death of Jackson there will also be a flood of Jackson poems. There's already a few out there and I can't wait to see the results. Celebrities in poems is a great interest of mine. I love lots of these poems, from Frank O'Hara's famous Lana Turner poem to Sharon Olds's Marilyn Monroe poem to Tony Hoagland's newish poem about Brittany Spears. I enjoy it when good writers take up celebrities and do something interesting with them. I've done it in my own work by writing a whole Brad Pitt sequence, oh and a poem about Kevin Bacon's dick.

A celebrity's death often provides an interesting jumping off point for a great poem, but also plenty of chance to write a bad one. I'm sure if I googled "Michael Jackson poems" I'd find plenty of terrible tributes already on the internet. This is sad and will give poetry about celebrities a bad name. What I mean by celebrity poems is poems that take celebrities and do something more with them than just say I love whoever. The best celebrity poems, in my opinion, aren't actually about the celebrity. For example my Brad Pitt poems have very little to do with Brad Pitt. Pitt is important to them and works as this symbol of straight masculinity, but in reality the poems are about a gay couple and the struggle to stay together. Olds poem is another great example. She writes about the men who cared Monroe's body from her house and the imagined effects it had on them and their sex lives. It's an amazing poem and Monroe is vital to it, but not the only focus. The goal is to tell the reader something new and give them a new perspective.  

For me it takes time to process a situation and find my grounding in it. Will Jackson be appearing in an upcoming poem of mine? Possibly, but only time will tell and only if the idea is right and the words find me. You can't pressure yourself with poetry, like I felt pressured to write this post. It will come when it's ready. 

For now I'll sit back and watch the craziness unfold. I'll watch people and media who once vowed to send him to jail mourn him and pretend they loved him. I'll watch Jackson take the spotlight off, dare I say it, more important news stories. I'll be blown away at the idea of Jackson's death nearly breaking the internet by so many people reacting on social networking sites. And I'll wait for what might creep up and suddenly take hold of me.

-Stephen (I'll be There)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Moving Up the Ranks

Last night I was notified that I could now submit to Knockout Literary Magazine anytime I wanted. About a month ago they accepted my poem "Against Our Better Judgement We Plan a Trip to Iran" for their forth issue (which is forthcoming). They've now informed me they'd love to see more of my work anytime I'd like to send it. 

For those of you who don't know a lot of magazines have different reading periods. Normally they will only read unsolicited manuscripts part of the year (this is normally when I have to submit). The other part of the year they only read work by those they've solicited, which now includes me (at least at Knockout).

I've deemed this an honor and a step up in the poetry world. It's the little things you have to hold on to. 

Then this morning I was notified by The New York Quarterly that they have a deal with EBSCO to include their issues in the Literary Reference Center database. This means my poem (The Scientists Don't Know Why the Whales are Beaching Themselves), which is in the latest issue of the NYQ, will be searchable by college students around the world. I had to sign an extra contract to make this happen, which I happily did. 

Now I can picture some college boy stumbling upon my poem and falling in love with it, reading it over and over and imagining the man who wrote it, or more likely rolling his eyes and saying, "Poetry's stupid." Either way it's a reaction.

-Stephen (The Poet of Small Things)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Honey, Where's Our Sex Tape?


Yes, I've done it. 

I've taped myself having sex. In fact I've done it more than once. I've also taken naked pictures of myself and probably more people have copies than I want to admit or imagine, so when I hear of the latest celebrity sex tape I'm less concerned than the rest of the world appears to be. Not because others don't also have sex tapes and nude pictures, but because I have them and I don't care if people see them or know I have them. Isn't that part of the point? 

I realize I'm in the minority here and most people get very uptight and upset about nudity and about who sees them or who sees their partners. I just don't really give a fuck and am always confused when everyone else does, which brings me to my topic: as most gay boys in the world now know Dustin Lance Black has a sex tape. 

Black is the Oscar winning, openly gay, screenwriter of Milk. Most know him for his amazing acceptance speech at this year's awards, which was inspiring to gays across the world. He's been hailed as a role model for young gays and has been all over the gay press/and some mainstream press for months. Oh, and he's hot. At least I think he's hot and now that most gay boys have seen him naked they think he's hot too, but I thought it first, damn it! He's a writer and writers are hot (duh I'm a writer). He not only wrote Milk but was also a writer for Big Love (one my favorite TV shows). Plus he's tall, has perfect hair, is skinny but toned, and openly gay. He pretty much fits my list of what's hot.

When I found out he had a sex tape about a week ago, of course I looked it up and thanks to the internet quickly found screenshots from it. I realized in my research that sadly the actual film has not been leaked (yet) just photos from it. There were just three shots and they were hot. He's a bottom (which is good news for me) and he truly does have a nice body without the sexy tux. All in all, good work. 

Then I realized the story surrounding these photos and the reaction to them. Critics are up in arms calling Black a hypocrite because the photos show him having bareback sex and he has been doing a lot of work on promoting safe sex. People are now questioning his role model status and of course he has given full attention to these critics by apologizing and going after anyone who is posting these photos.  Why does it matter? 

First of all Black is not a hypocrite. The sex tape and photos do show him having unprotected sex but it was with his boyfriend at the time. People seem to be under the impression that gay people should never have unprotected sex. Why? Anal sex is not more dangerous. If you don't know and trust the person you should always have safe sex no matter who it is with (man or woman). If you are in a committed relationship there is no harm, if both partners agree and are clean. He can still promote having safe sex. This is no way changes the argument. I am also confused why the knowledge or proof that someone actually does have sex makes them a bad role model. Did we think he didn't have sex before the photos? No. I can just now more easily imagine what it looks like and I have to say that's not a bad thing. Is it just the act of video-taping that scares people? And if so why? We love watching movies where celebrities pretend to have sex, but the idea of seeing them actually have sex is somehow a scandal. Black's video is truly less of a scandal than many other tapes. He's having sex with a attractive man of his same age. They were a couple. There is nothing freaky happening in the video. No one is underage. We already knew he was gay, so that's not a revelation. What is, in fact, the problem? 

The only question I have for him is how does one misplace their sex tape? It seems to happen a lot to celebrities, which is fine as long as you don't get mad when someone releases it. I know exactly where my sex tapes are. Now the nude pictures, they are little more spread around, but I wouldn't send out some apology if someone found them and published them. It seems absurd to waste the time. In many cases sex tapes help careers. 

I wish Black wasn't taking this so seriously and would just stand up and say Yes, I have sex. Yes, I am attractive. I am not embarrassed by this. Watch it as much as you want. He is still a great role model because he is open, honest, and successful. He just needs to lay off the lawsuits. Release the actual tape (or at least send it to me) and move on. 

I, for one, am thankful we finally have a good gay sex tape out there. I'm tired of watching the terrible ones straight stars make. Collin Farrell's made him about 100 times less attractive, plus I had to ignore the woman. At least Black's seems promising.

-Stephen (Sex Tape Activist)   

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Camp Straight

I've always had a strange interest in the side-shows and freak shows of the early circuses/carnivals. A group of outcasts moving from town to town entertaining the supposed "normal" folks is a concept that greatly intrigues me. We now know and understand the horrific conditions most of these men, women, and children lived in and acknowledge how wrong this was, but at the same time there were very limited options for people who didn't fit the norms of the period and I have to believe in some way they found a community and home in these harsh conditions. People always do. You can't stop bonds from being formed.

Of course this "othering" of people is nothing new. It wasn't new in the early years of the the American circus and and it's not new today. Now we place our "freaks" on TV and laugh at them. 

I'm partly interested in the "other" because of being gay. Gay people fit into the idea of the freak being placed on display for entertainment purposes. Take a look at any make-over or fashion show in TV. We are the funny, bitchy queens who can make your life better and people love it as long as they don't have to think about us as real people who have feelings and desire love and sex. We are the bearded ladies.

This brings me to my greater point and story. Last night I went to the Parliament House for what they call Camp Drag. Now I've been to the P-House countless times but I've never gone for Wednesday nights. What happens is people from the audience volunteer to get into drag (P-House provides the clothes and make-up) and then the person must perform a song in drag. They don't get to pick their song instead they spin a "wheel of drag," which selects a genre of music for them (showtunes, top 40, country, disney, latin, oldies but goodies, etc.). They don't know what song they have until it starts playing and they have to start performing. Sounds hard, right? Well it is. 

Last night five contestants volunteered and all but one of them were straight men. This seems to happen often for contests at P-House. I've gone on Mondays for the strip show and I have even participated myself and there are always a lot of straight men that come and do it. I have no problem with this on the surface. Straight people coming to a very popular and well known gay club is great. It opens eyes and encourages a dialogue between the gay community and the straight community. However, last night while these straight men put on dresses, smeared make-up on their faces, and sort of moved to songs they didn't know I couldn't help but wonder why they were there? Had they come to gawk at the others? To have their night with the freaks? Had they come to make fun of drag queens and gay people and to have their girlfriends snap pictures? 

Yes, I over think everything. This is my lot in life and I know it, but last night at times I felt this strange sort of voyeurism/participation that may or may not have been positive. Of course the drag queen hosting still got the last laugh (they always do) when any of them attempted anything stupid, but I have to wonder was there enough good happening there to overcome the negative? 

I see straight people all the time at the Parliament House and I'm often annoyed by the treatment they get. At shows the drag queens often make them stand up and make the men take off their shirts and I know this is all in good fun (I normally laugh) and I often enjoy looking, but sometimes I fear the message it sends. Are we just being someone's freaky night out? Our we putting our best stereotypes forward just to entertain? At the same time does it matter if we are?

I'm all about voyeurism and most of the time find nothing wrong with it, so I'm really stuck here. Maybe there is a line where it crosses and becomes offensive or damaging. There is always that risk, but maybe it's worth it. Maybe those guys in dresses making fools of themselves last night are just as freaky as us gays and we provide a place to let it all hang out. Maybe they do have stereotypes that start to crumble when they come in and maybe some of mine crumble too. 

Regardless I had fun and screamed as loud as I could for the only gay guy in the competition and he won, because we freaks stick together.  

Monday, June 15, 2009

New Poem Published in Collective Fallout


My poem "'War of the Worlds' as Fact, 1938" is in the new issue of Collective Fallout, which is a newish GLBT sci-fi/fantasy journal. You can buy a download version or a print version at www.collectivefallout.com 

Check it out. 

Forty Years of OUTRAGE


Last night I saw the new documentary by Kirby Dick called Outrage. The film examines how closeted gay politicians are often the leading force of the anti-gay movement in our government and are the biggest threat to gay Americans. Some of you might be saying, yeah right, what kind of liberal bullshit is this? But it isn't bullshit. 

Dick's film is well documented, well put together, and shines a light on the biggest problem facing the gay rights movement. We've all heard the stories of politicians caught in compromising positions with members of the same sex and almost always they are right wing republicans who have a history of voting against gay people and often lead the charge to destroy the lives of gays and lesbians. 

How could this be? Why would a gay person, even a closeted one, do this? That's a good question and the answer lies in the never-ending depths of denial. When you hate yourself so much it is only natural that you will turn that hate onto other people, especially those who are doing what you can't bring yourself to do: live an open and honest life. In some ways it is hard to fathom, but in others it makes perfect sense. We live in a world that hates gay people. There is not a day that goes by that I'm not reminded of that. If you are naturally driven to have sex with other men, but you have this deep conviction that it is wrong or will lead to your destruction what do you do? Well, you go about destroying the lives of other gays to prove how wrong it is, but you can't stop yourself from wanting sex. The desire for sex  leads you to do stupid things like solicit sex from strangers in bathrooms (Larry Craig).

Actually the reason closeted gays hate openly gay gays isn't as confusing as why our mainstream press refuses to cover these stories and seems very willing to look the other way. The film shows how countless other politicians have been found out yet still remain in office and in denial, because no one covers the stories but the gay press or bloggers. 

The film focuses heavily on a blogger who is devoted to outing politicians. Many, inside and outside, the gay community hate the practice of outing. But the film makes an excellent case for outing people. This man is not outing private citizens for the fun of it. He is outing public figures who are forcefully destroying gay lives and then leading a closeted life. This is unacceptable and would be all over the press if it was something to do with hetero-sex. Just think back to the Clinton scandal. I'm not against outing public figures who are lying and hurting the gay community by doing so. 

The governor of Florida, where I now live, is one of the main focal points of the film. There have been rumors of Crist's homosexuality since he ran for office as a single man back in 2006. He has denied it repeatedly (though not very convincingly). However there are various men who have gone on record saying they had relationships with Crist and even a few of his supposed girlfriends who hint at his homosexual activity. Crist strangely denies knowing these men, even though sources say he was good friends with them. Then both men suddenly disappear from Florida before the election, which Crist wins. Currently Crist has set his sights higher and what does he do? Finds some woman to marry him. He proposed six weeks before McCain picked a VP (Crist was said to be in the running). He is also said to be a potential presidential nominee. No major newspaper covered any of these allegations. Crist has also done nothing to help gay people in Florida, when we are one of the states with the harshest anti-gay laws. 

The film saddened me and told me what I already knew, but maybe didn't want to face: self-hatred is our greatest enemy and will continue to prevent the gay rights movement from reaching its goals. One guy interviewed made the comment that if all the gay people would just come out of the closet the gay rights movement would be over and done with and I have to agree. Being out is the number one way to fight intolerance and hatred. You have to put a face in front of hate and force people re-examine themselves. It's much harder to hate someone to their face. It angers me so much that people get away with living in the closet and destroying the lives of those who have the strength to come out and be honest. I am out to every single person I know and meet and I'm proud of that. Yes, I believe it helped keep me unemployed for six months last year. I had various people say negative things about the fact that I was openly gay to my face in my interviews, but that is who I am and I'm willing to sacrifice and it angers me when others aren't.

I meet young gay people often who seem very open and honest and then I find out they aren't out their parents or some other person in their lives. Every single time I hear this I lose some respect for that person. We have to fight for our rights. They aren't just going to be handed to us and the fact that we can hide or "pass" doesn't mean we should. Silence is deadly. 

Too many people don't realize how little has changed for gay people in this country. Larry Kramer, a great gay writer and activist, is interviewed in the film and says as gay Americans we have no rights and people need to stop thinking or saying we do. We have nothing. Not a single gay law has been passed federally and this month marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which began the modern gay rights movement. 40 years and that's not even really the beginning. Lots of groups were fighting slowing and steadily for years prior to 1969. How long do we have to wait? 

If my weekend is any indication I fear a long time. On Saturday Dustin and I had a Gay Pride party at our apartment. Everyone was supposed to come as their favorite GLBT historical or fictional character. I thought it would be a really fun event for Pride month and one of my goals was to promote gay history. We always make glasses for everyone at our parties. We buy cheap glasses at IKEA and use pens meant for glass and write on them and then bake them and they hold up really well and work as a party favor. For this party I put dates on the glasses from gay history and wrote out what happened on that day. I had fun things like Queer as Folk debuting, Ellen's coming out episode, but also serious events like the first recorded "hate crime" against gays to Harvey Milk being elected. We decorated the apartment with rainbow stuff and got a Gay Pride cake from Publix (special ordered by my Dustin). They were a little confused but did a great job and this lesbian checked Dustin out and was really excited. I think we made her day.

Anyway, we invited people over. Everyone who came was gay and this guy who I don't know that well looked at the table, which I had sprinkled with rainbow confetti that was "40s." He was like "why are there 40s on the table?" I said "this June is the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots." I was expecting him to go, "oh cool," but instead he said "what are the Stonewall Riots?" When he said this I think my heart broke just a little. I explained to him what they were and why they are important and told him that's why Pride month is in June. He didn't seem that impressed or excited, but at least he now knows. Another guest at our party didn't know who Harvey Milk was. Again, I was blown away. They just made a freaking movie. If nothing else he should have know from that. Sean Penn won the Oscar! 

The point is people, gay and straight, don't know anything about gay rights and the fight for equality. Gay people don't know their own history and that's the saddest thing to me. Since coming out I've found out as much as I can about gay history and I love learning it. It's part of who I am and why wouldn't I want to know about it? 
 
This film is another example of things I want to expose myself to because I need to know what is going on. This film should anger you and outage you, but sadly no one seems to care. Gay people have become as complacent as everyone else. We accept our flamboyant selves on TV and we buy any piece of shit that seems remotely gay. I often wonder what it's going to take for people to truly rise up and demand rights. Maybe it's more education, maybe it's me putting dates on a glass and forcing people to drink from them, or forcing them to watch movies that make them uncomfortable or read things they don't want to read. 

I'm thankful this film is out there and I hope more will see it, will question this hatred in American politics for gays and lesbians, and will demand more of the media (I know that's a stretch). 

Let's not wait for 40 more years to pass us by. 


Thursday, June 11, 2009

G0ys: Just Say No?

Today I learned a new term related to the gay community. I consider myself pretty well informed but when I saw the word "g0ys" (guys spelled with a zero) on a gay forum I had no idea what it meant. Thanks to google I found various websites devoted to g0ys. So what are they?

G0ys are gay men who believe that anal sex is against nature and do not think that gay sex should be associated with anal sex. Instead they engage in frottage or rubbing their dicks together until they cum. They believe anal sex is degrading and against morality. G0ys  also promote a traditional idea of masculinity and are angered at the wider gay community that embraces gender-bending, drag queens, and transgender men and women. They believe the gay community should have no connection to these other groups. They are strong in their opinion and try to convert others to this way of thinking (think evangelical churches).

This fascinates me on many levels. First of all I love language and how various groups come up with terms  to label themselves. The zero in guy is meant to work as a "no" symbol, like a no-smoking sign. No to anal sex! One site even had this flower-like object inside the zero, which I'm guessing was meant to be an anus. Secondly I'm always intrigued by minorities within minorities and the battle that takes places. This is common to various minority groups and the gays are no different. Thirdly the idea of masculinity and how it changes and morphs over time never ceases to amaze me. 

I am a firm believer that femininity should not be considered the same as gay. The media has a done a great job of convincing the world that all gay men truly want to be women.  This is not true. What people don't get is that gay men love men. They love being men and being with men. Why would they want to be women? Perhaps you could blame this on the fact that we do embrace transgendered people, but that seems like a small price to pay for including and supporting a very misunderstood group of people. On the same notion there is nothing wrong with gay men who are more "feminine," but it should not define the whole community. I am on the more feminine side (not a full out flamer, but I fit some stereotypes), but I'm very attracted to all kinds of men including very stereotypically masculine ones. This is one reason I love going to places like the Parliament House. There is a huge mix of men and I love seeing all the varieties of the gay community in one space. 

This brings me to what greatly upsets me about g0ys. They're about separation and not unity. The thing I love about the gay community is that sense of belonging. That doesn't mean I'm like all the people in the gay community, but we do share the experience of living on the fringe of society, of not being understood, and of needing support. I love drag queens. Do I want to be a drag queen? No. I'm intrigued and am always wanting to learn more about transgendered men and women, but I am not transgendered. I'm turned on by leather daddies. Will I become one? Well...maybe I will, though I don't buy leather (it kills animals), so I'll have to find something else. Regardless  I relate and respect each part of the gay community. 

G0ys seem to be dealing with this very narrow vision of masculinity and are associating the idea of having and enjoying anal sex with something inferior, which isn't new. Men have been doing this for centuries, but it's sad that a group of men who accept being gay think this. Morality also seems to be an issue here. They are saying it is more moral to rub your dick on another guy's dick than to have anal sex. This notion is ridiculous and absurd. Have sex any way you want but please don't use morality to justify your intolerance and uncomfortableness. I don't care if you have anal sex. In fact what you enjoy sexually is completely up to you, but you can't judge someone else for what they enjoy and find pleasure in. I can't understand why part of a minority that is attacked for these same reasons would then turn around and attack another part of the same group. 

Not engaging in anal sex does not make you more of a man. These ideas of what is masculine and feminine are outdated and this is one reason I embrace the gay community. The wider gay community has realized that gender is a construct. It is an illusion. We are human beings, not just men and women. 

I plan to do more thinking and reading about g0ys because I want to understand this perspective and how it is rooted in history. Nothing gets me going more than digging around in gay history. I think a poem might even come of this. Bet you can't wait! 

-Stephen  


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Last Two Poetry Books I've Read

From time to time I want to use this blog as a place to mention what I'm reading and to promote contemporary poetry books. I thought I'd begin by naming the last two poetry books I've read and giving a brief note about each.

Speak Low by Carl Phillips
Carl Phillips is one of my favorite contemporary poets and this is his new book. As always it is beautiful. Many might be surprised how much I like Phillips because he writes very differently from me, but I don't really understand the idea of only liking people who write like you. It seems pointless to only like people who are similar to you. I will never write like Carl, but I will always enjoy his work. He is gay and deals with the gay identity in very compelling ways, but never very straight forward ways. In part this is because his poems are very lyric but they always give you hints of a narrative and situation. This collection is worth checking out and if you don't know his work also read Cortege. It is my favorite. 

Ohio Violence by Alison Stine
This is a debut collection that is well worth reading. I was intrigued by the title. I'm from Indiana and lived right on the Ohio line and I'm always drawn to other midwest poets, especially those that lived in more rural areas, like I did. Stine takes the midwest values and plays with them. There is violence that lurks beneath the surface of the cornfields and football games. The poems seem to interconnect but they don't rely on each other. The narrative here is compelling and beautiful but never forward. You try to make sense of the pieces you are given of a young girl struggling with what might or might not have happened. Overall it's a book I'll read again and probably take away even more from it. I look forward to reading more of Stine's work in the future. 



the art of blogging?

I've been blogging now for a few weeks and I'm still trying to figure it out. What do you write? Do you say mean things about people you know? Do you get all academic? Do you make yourself sound amazing? crazy? a genius? Am I funny enough? Or not serious enough? Is my grammer bad? (yes I misspelled grammar on purpose, funny yet?)

I'm torn on blogging and technology of all kinds, as all of you who know me know. Dustin has to practically force me to buy a new cell phone after years of having one and I still don't have one that does anything special. I see no purpose in many supposed helpful devices. I'm the same with the internet. I remember back in High School when friends had livejournals and I was so confused by them and why anyone would want to tell their private thoughts to the world. I was even more puzzled by those who seemed surprised that people had actually read their journals. They were angry that something they had posted on the internet, which is open to the entire world, was read. What the fuck? Of course now people have become more accepting of this and the anger has ceased. We are open books, or at least very carefully edited open books. 

Various times I've thought or tried to have some form of an online journal/blog, but always backed out quickly. I felt confused by the purpose and was overwhelmed by the pressure. I've also never been a big reader of blogs, forums, or livejournals. But now I'm slowly coming around and have tried to find my own way through this blog. I'm trying to find my blog voice. 

Positives: for starts it keeps me writing, which is always a good thing. I am at work for 40 hours a week and I have about 5 hours worth of work to do a week, so that provides me with tons of downtime. I can't work very well on poetry in this environment. I need more privacy and focus. I wish I could be like Frank O'Hara who often wrote his poems during busy parties, but as much as I would like to be O'Hara I'm not, which has its positives perhaps I won't die on Fire Island at 40, though I'd like to go to Fire Island. This blog, however, is easy for me to write at work. 

I am also interested in the collective online experience and how it is shaping our world and the literary world. Tons of writers now have blogs and twitters and Facebook pages and at first this seemed annoying, but it actually does seem to be connecting writers to writers and writers to readers. I've been twittering a lot recently. I've found that many other writers, journals, and poetry websites tweet too. One gay poetry magazine found me on twitter and encouraged me to submit. This kind of networking does seem to bring us closer together and for this I am thankful. 

But do not fear, I still believe all this technology and supposed social sites will lead to our downfall and I will never support the absurd overuse of these products. At the same time I can't deny the release they give me when I'm sitting in my little cubical about to go insane by the idea that I have become my worst nightmare: a cubical worker. 

In the end I think this blog could help push me to write more prose and to work on some ideas for poems. 

Currently I am trying to write a poem that some how captures the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. I always feel compelled to write poems like this, but then feel too pressured by the specific timing and everything. I'm hoping to find a way into it that won't be cliched, preachy, or just plain bad. 

More later.

Stephen 

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gays Days Recap and Thoughts on the Future

Gay Days 2009 was a blast. Dustin and I made the most of the four days and did some new things (some worked out well, others didn't, but that's how you learn).

We started by going to a wine tasting on Wednesday night, which was amazing. It was a benefit for the Orlando Youth Alliance, which we have started to volunteer with. For 20 bucks you basically got all the wine you could drink. Of course we drank plenty with our friends. Plus they had male "models" you could paint on. I put models in quotations because honestly they weren't that attractive. I guess they had a hard time finding gay boys who wanted to be painted on by strangers. (They should have asked me). Regardless it was a great night. 

Thursday we headed to the Animal Kingdom, which is always fun. I hadn't been there for awhile. That night we tried out a new event at Rix, which is this lounge in a Disney hotel (yes I should have known it would be bad). When I arrived in my low cut shirt with glitter all over my body and had walk through all the gross families in pooh t-shirts I knew things might not go well. The lounge was right next to the food court and had no bathrooms inside, so every time you had to pee you had to go out with all the tourists. Anyway it was 25 bucks a person and claimed it would have lots of entertainment, but what we got was a drag queen on a coffee table for about 2 minutes. Read that again: drag queen, coffee table. This is no exaggeration. Paige King was standing about a foot from me on a coffee table. Then some british chick got up a sang. Had no idea who she was, but she seemed to have a fan club of three very loud straight girls. Afterward they brought out a cake for some guy's birthday. All in all I think my friends and I paid 25 bucks to go to a stranger's birthday party. That night was a bit of a bust, but that's the risk in trying new things. 

Friday we spent at the big gay expo, which was amazing. We got lots of free crap. The best being a small flashlight keychain that projects a picture of the travelocity gnome with a pride flag. This is still amazing me days later. Dustin also won a free ticket to Parliament House, which worked out because we had planned to go Saturday (and did). We also worked the booth for the Orlando Youth Alliance, which sort of sucked because table wasn't very well organized. This drunk lesbian artist was at the booth with us selling some badly painted pride glasses (I don't even know if she was donating the money). I knew I was in trouble when I got there and she shouted "Stephen's in the house" raising her hands. But we survived. 

Saturday was the best day. The Magic Kingdom on Gay Days is always amazing. The sea of red never ceases to amaze. Dustin and I rode most of the rides, got VIP seating for the afternoon parade, and mostly avoiding the rain. We of course rode my favorite rides: Peter Pan and Haunted Mansion. Then saturday night we went to Parliament House, which was my favorite night. I should have known to stick with the always trusted Parliament House. It was packed! Luckily we went early and got good parking. Our favorite bartender even gave Dustin a kiss on the cheek and told us how he had jerked off that day (fun to imagine). The first drag show was crazy. Jade from Rupaul's Drag Race performed and did a great job. She even smiled at me in the hallway, which is fun because she was pretty hot on the show as a man. There were also tons of free porn and venders. We got three free DVDs and I got my picture taken with a porn star. I also got in my first ever foam party. This was insane. I stripped to my underwear and got into foam way over my head to be fondled by strange men. I'm just not grossed out by this. Straight families in pooh t-shirts = gross. Foam with lots of gay men = amazing. It was really fun and I'd do it again for sure. Parliament House never ceases to amaze and entertain. 

Sunday we went to a free disco brunch, which was sort of fun, but badly planned. Luckily Dustin and I went early and actually got free food and drinks. They ran out about 15 minutes into a 3 hour event. The fashion show was hard to see. We could only see the half naked men from the chest up, which isn't the best part. We left early and went home and rested a bit and sort of got back to "normal" life, but headed to Epcot for the evening. 

In the end it was a great Gay Days and start to Pride Month! Next event: our gay pride party this coming Saturday!

Of course it made it hard to come back to work and has made me want to focus on the future and getting a better job and hopefully getting my first book published. I'm happy with all my publications so far this year and am hoping it will continue. Dustin and I have been thinking about checking out different cities and figuring something out that would make us both happy. This job has taught me that I just can't do something I don't care about.
 
Right now I just have to focus on something or I might go insane! Today I did spend some time outside writing on my lunch break. I got some new ideas down for some poems. Only time will tell what will come of them. 

-Stephen 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Yes, All the People in Red are Homos

June marks Gay Pride Month and to celebrate I will be taking off work tomorrow and Friday to attend Gay Days here in Orlando. For those of you who don't know, Gay Days is one of the biggest Gay Pride Events in the country. 150,000 gay people come into Orlando for the celebration. The days include visits to Disney, tons of parties, a big gay expo and plenty more. This will be my forth time participating in Gay Days and I honestly can't wait for it to begin! Tonight I will be kicking it off with a wine tasting that benefits the gay youth alliance here in Orlando. 

For me Gay Days provides a real sense of community and belonging. The main event is Saturday when every goes to the Magic Kingdom wearing red. The park becomes a sea of red (or a sea of gay). It's such a powerful statement and probably one of the best activist moments, because there we are on display but just being ourselves. We aren't yelling or fighting, but having a good time. It also shows all the other people who just happen to have picked that day to come to Disney how diverse the gay community is. We are not the stereotype you see on TV. Honestly I wish every straight person was required to attend this day just once because I think it would change their perspective. How could it not? I mean when you see a balding, 300 lb man in a leather vest with a full beard holding hands with another man, you have to think twice about everything you've ever thought about gay people. We are everywhere. We are anyone. 

I still remember my first time going, just four years ago, and feeling that overwhelming sense of community that I had never felt before. Growing up in Indiana where I basically knew no other gay people gave me very little chance to have this feeling. Often you don't realize how much you want that community until you are presented with it. Living in Orlando I now have this on a regular basis, but for thousands of gays coming here in the next day or so they don't. Gay Days is their escape. It is their vacation to a better world.

This June also marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots (the sort-of official beginning of the modern gay rights movement). This makes me both sad and proud. Proud because of the strength of those who came before me, but sad at how little the country has progressed. Yes, I said how little. I'm tried of people saying we've progressed that much, because we haven't. I can still be fired from my job in most states, I can't get married in most states, in my state I can't adopt children, and if I'm killed for being gay it's not a hate crime. Let's recap: can lose my job, can't get married, can't have kids, and can be murdered. No the police don't attack gay clubs, at least not in Orlando, but that's not too much progress. We still have a big fight ahead.

Regardless Gay Days is a time to celebrate and come together as one community and for that I'm very thankful. I also hope to get some ideas for poems over the next few days, which is bound to happen. I will either see something, hear something or do something worthy of a poem. Can't wait!

-Stephen (the Happiest Gay Poet in All the World)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Publication and Thoughts on True Blood

Yesterday I got a poem accepted in a new GLBT sci-fi/fantasy magazine called Collective Fallout. It's a newish magazine and I'm excited to be a part of it. They are publishing my poem entitled "'War of the World' as Fact, 1938," which is probably my only "sci-fi-ish" poem, but I'm thinking of exploring the idea of sci-fi and fantasy more in poetry. I'll be in the July issue. 

In other news I finished watching True Blood, which is related since it is a fantasy show. It really got me thinking. I've always loved the idea of the vampire and have yet to find a great way to include it in my work. After watching True Blood my eyes have been opened to all the possibilities. The world the show creates is fresh and interesting. The show is very much playing off the gay rights movement happening right now in our country but using vampires as the discriminated group. It works really well and gets at all the layers of that struggle for equality.

But one of the things that struck me the most about the show is the portrayal of the young black woman named Tara. She is angry yet doesn't know where to place her anger because she's in a world that no longer seems to care about the color of her skin. This got me thinking about a society that has moved beyond race as a discriminator (which probably won't ever happen, but it's great to consider). In the context of the show Tara has created her identity around the idea of being a black person in the prejudice south, but now vampires have taken over the major concerns of the town and race no longer seems important. Tara often makes comments based on race but no one around her actually seems to be doing anything of the kind. This is extremely interesting and something we haven't seen on TV before. What do you do when everything flips around? What would I do if suddenly gay people weren't the demons of society? It would be hard to redefine yourself and accept this new found acceptance. 

The show is so layered and complicated, yet so fun to watch. I can't wait to see season two and what develops with all of these characters. I'm also hoping to use the show as inspiration for my own work. I plan to challenge myself to play with fantasy and vampire in my poetry. We will see what happens.

-Stephen