Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nerve: A Beginning

Last night was the first meeting of a new poetry workshop I started here in Orlando called Nerve (which comes from a Frank O'Hara quote). This is something I've been wanting to do for quite some time. In many ways, I miss the academic community and I miss being around other writers talking writing. Many of my friends do write and are big readers, but we spend most of our hanging out time doing things like getting drunk, tipping drag queens, dancing with the gays of Orlando, or stuffing our faces at 3 o'clock in the morning at a local diner. That's not to say we aren't smart and don't have smart conversations, but I wanted something more focused: A time set aside for the discussion of writing and literature.

I was even more pushed to do this after reading the book Unending Dialogue: Voices from an AIDS Poetry Workshop edited by Rachel Hadas. The introductory essay got me thinking about the positives of a workshop. She often only had two or three men come to meetings and many died during the two years she conducted them, but wonderful work was produced. It also got me thinking about workshops outside of the school setting. All of the workshops I have been to have been part of academia and part of getting a grade. I wanted something community based and open to everyone. There is a lot that can come out of a mixed group with differing interests and backgrounds.

This led me to starting Nerve, which I have called a workshop for GLBT people and their allies. You clearly don't have to be gay to come, but I wanted the workshop to be an open space for GLBT work. I had no idea what to expect from organizing the group. I figured maybe a friend or two would show up that would be it. I created a page on Facebook and encouraged people to spread the word. Many of my friends did just that. My goal was to get at least one person I didn't already know to come. Thankfully, my goal was met. Six people came to the first meeting and one of those six I met for the first time last night.

My goal for each meeting is to introduce the group to two poems by GLBT writers (mostly contemporary). For the first meeting, I had us read Richard Tayson's "My Mother Asks If Men Make Love Face to Face" and Kara Candito's "He Was Only Half as Beautiful." I love both of these poems and talked about them in the context of discussing the importance of having a great title. I was impressed by the group's comments on each. They seemed to really enjoy and get a lot out of both. For this first week, I also planned a writing exercise around taking titles from other poems as a jumping off point for a new poem. We closed the meeting by looking at a couple poems that one of the members brought, which will be the goal of the meetings in the future.

I'm thankful to everyone who came, and I know many others were interested but couldn't make it last night. The meeting helped fulfill a desire in me to talk more about writing and poetry, but also to teach more. I currently only teach online, and I miss the interactions of a classroom. While my living room isn't a classroom, it did provide an open learning space.

The goal of this post was to give an overview of the group and the first meeting and let everyone know that you are more than welcome to join the Facebook group. Our second meeting will be on Monday, November 29th at 8 PM.

-Stephen (Pleased)


  1. It was a great meeting! I'm so glad I could be a part of it!

  2. I'm so glad I went and met you lovely folk!! Thanks so much :)

  3. Thanks for pointing me to Richard Tayson, who is new to me. I've just been reading some of his poetry, including the one cited above, and watched his reading of "First Anniversary" on YouTube.

    Your workshop sounds like a great thing. I live a thousand miles away (almost literally) but I appreciate the updates. BTW, I love your reading of your Brad Pitt poems!

  4. Philip: Thanks for the nice comments. I'm so glad you've been checking out more of Richard Tayson. He's great. I've already recorded the next two Brad Pitt poems. I'll post the podcast on Sunday. Glad you liked the reading!