Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Call for Books to Review

I was late to the blogging world. Okay, I was really, really late. I started my blog two years ago when pretty much everything you read about blogs was that they were dying. The in-crowd has, I guess, moved on to other things. Regardless, I have found success here with my blog and it has kept me writing and thinking critically about poetry, social issues, pop culture, and my own life.

At the beginning of 2011, I had the goal to broaden the scope of my blog and to include more voices. I want my site to be a place that not only explores my ideas and promotes my work, but explores and promotes others' ideas and work. I've done this through my monthly interview series, which has been extremely rewarding and enjoyable. I've also done this by reviewing books I've read that truly strike me.

Today, I'm wanting to take my reviewing a step further, so I am putting out a call for books to review. I am willing to review any poetry book someone wants to send me. Before, I have pretty much only reviewed books I picked myself and truly enjoyed in some way, so this will be a new challenge. I will be honest in my reviews, but my goal is not to trash anyone's book.

If you are a poet out there looking for more reviews of your book, please send me an email at I look forward to reading and reviewing your work.

-Stephen (Calling)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Podcast 37: My Attempt at an Epic AIDS Poem That References Harry Potter

In honor of all the Harry Potter craziness happening around me, I thought I would do a podcast of the only poem I've ever written that actually mentions Harry Potter. I'm not a big fan myself. I haven't read any of the books and I've only seen about half of the movies, but I know many people who are. I have nothing against Harry Potter. It just isn't really my thing, but it's done great things to get kids excited about reading and it is a well done and written series from everything I've seen about it.

My podcast is a recording of my poem "My Attempt at an Epic AIDS Poem That References Harry Potter." It is a poem I wrote a little over two years ago and it is based off an interview and back and forth email conversation with someone who is HIV positive. It is very much tied to what I've mentioned many times on my blog about "documentary poetry." It is a longer poem (three full pages), so you have to listen carefully.

I hope you enjoy it.

-Stephen (Harry)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Next Step: Big News

The other day I was in my office and my coworkers were discussing their various childhood dreams and the things they wanted to be when they grew up. It's typical for a young kid to want to be an astronaut, a police officer, a pilot, a doctor, or some famous actor or musician. I listened as they named all of the various occupations they once imagined for themselves and then they turned to me. I had remained rather quiet during the conversation because I didn't have much to add. I then said, actually, I've only ever wanted to be one thing and that is a writer.

It's true. From the very beginning, I imagined myself a published author. I had this imagine of myself almost before I could even write. I remember in 4th or 5th grade, we read a book about the underground railroad that was based on the actual history of it around the area I grew up. The author of the book came to our class to talk about it. Afterward, he autographed little pieces of white paper for anyone who was interested. Of course, I was. I hung his signature up in a cabinet I had in my bedroom. Every time I opened the door, I saw his name and thought I want to be a writer just like him and give out my autograph.

Some might think it is sad that my dream hasn't changed. Others might see me as stubborn or crazy, which I probably am. To be a writer in the 21st century is not easy or probably very smart. This is especially true when I realized I actually wanted to be a poet, which complicates things further.

Over the last three years, I've had a lot of writing success. I've had lots of poems published and my work has gotten some nice recognition from many people I admire, but today I'm writing this post to tell you all that my work is taking yet another step.

I just signed my very first book contract. Sibling Rivalry Press is going to publish my first book titled He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices. It will be published on March 15, 2012.

As many of you know, the last three years haven't been easy for me, but they have produced some of my very best work. This book manuscript is almost entirely made out of poems I wrote here in Orlando over the last three years. The book deals with violence and sexuality in various ways and I'm very proud of each of the poems. I'm thankful to all of my friends and to my partner, Dustin, for supporting me, inspiring me, and encouraging me.

I'm extremely excited to be a part of Sibling Rivalry Press. They have been publishing some great books in the last year and they are devoted to presenting poets' work in the very best way possible. I'm joining an amazing family of poets.

This is another step in my journey and I'm thrilled to share it with all of you. I will obviously be blogging about this more and more in the months to come, but right now I'm happy to announce you can all buy a copy of my first book next March and you better do it.

-Stephen (Grateful)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Gay Boy Walks Into a Gym

When you grow up as a skinny, red-haired, gay boy, like I did, sports and gym classes are not your favorite things. In fact, you grow to despise them, worry about them, and even fear them. I hated the idea of group sports from the time I can remember. This wasn't necessarily because I was bad at them, but because I never felt comfortable doing them. This probably had a lot to do with my own internal knowledge that I was not like other boys, and that somehow, even doing typical boy things, they would all find out what that something was, even if I couldn't yet name it.

This fear, in turn, never gave me the chance to be good at a sport. I worried too much. I didn't volunteer to play. I often took the route of acknowledging my own inabilities before someone could point them out. In fact, I recall spending many recesses sitting by the lunch lady who supervised us, which isn't a great way to make yourself fit in, but I did learn how to make middle-aged women like me, which is a skill that has come in handy from time to time.

While I did hate group sports and all gym classes, I wasn't an inactive kid. I spent my summers running around outside, climbing trees, and swimming. By the time I got to high school, it seemed like I had missed my chance to be good at sports or to enjoy gym classes. So what did I do? I put off my gym classes as much as possible. Well, that's not completely true.

I took my first one in the summer after my freshmen year and it was horrible. A particular kid made fun of me the whole summer because of my voice. The only part that didn't suck was the swimming part of the class, which was only a week or two. In those weeks, I shined. I was always put into the top swimming group, but this didn't seem to win me any points with the athletic boys (some of which weren't great swimmers). After this experience, I put off my other required gym courses until much later. This meant I was a senior still taking gym.

The last gym class I took was actually a weightlifting class with the football coach. It was the only one to fit in my schedule, and without it I couldn't graduate. There I was, in my final semester of high school, taking a weightlifting class with a bunch of jocks. In many ways, it was my greatest nightmare, but I was determined and was filled with a little bit more courage because I was about to leave not only high school, but my hometown. College was coming!

The weightlifting class wasn't as bad as I imagined. I actually realized it was better than the classes that required lots of group activities. I needed a partner and that was it. On the first day, I found the dorkiest kid I could and made him my partner. We barely spoke all semester long, but we also never made fun of each other. That's not to say others didn't. One kid repeatedly made fun of me every time we took roll and I said "here." He later called me a fag, which I think was the first time I'd ever been called that to my face. Looking back, I think he was probably a gay boy as well, but was taking the "gay hating" route to acceptance. He's probably running for office somewhere as a Republican right now.

I survived the class and graduated. After high school, I had other run-ins with physical activity. I went to a small liberal arts college that required gym classes to graduate, but they were more flexible and broad. I took folk dancing, tai chi, and life-guarding. Over the years, I stepped into gyms from time to time and worked out, but never consistently. The second I would step inside a gym, I would suddenly turn into that little kid again feeling awkward on the basketball court, the baseball field, or in the weightlifting room. I'd look around and see these macho guys with their muscles and their deep voices, and I would give in to my own fear and insecurities.

I've managed to survive without going to the gym on a regular basis. I stay active. I eat well. I've maintained my skinny gay boy body that, in my adulthood, I've realized people like. But at the same time, I've hated that my past has dictated my feelings about going to the gym and being accepted there. Gyms are a big part of gay culture for many people, but not for me. I've never felt like that kind of gay guy.

In May, I decided to try to change all of that. Through my work, I get a pretty good deal on a gym membership to the YMCA (insert gay joke here). I signed my partner and myself up and I've been going 1-3 times a week since. These are small steps, but I'm doing it. I've discovered I enjoy spinning classes, which has been a plus. It's not easy, because I've never made formal exercise part of my everyday life and, like many people, I kind of hate it. I also know that I'm approaching my 30s and I should start exercising more and keeping myself in shape. I also have an unhealthy fear of gaining weight, but that's another blog post.

I've upped my challenge by signing up for The Smart Ride, which is a 165 mile bike ride from Miami to Key West. It happens every November and raises money for people living with HIV/AIDS. This is a cause that my partner and I have been devoted to and we both decided to push ourselves and do this ride. This will help me with the gym, because I'll have a good goal to work toward. It will be a big challenge, but one I'm excited about. The ride ends in Key West just a day or two before my birthday, so we are planning to stay a few days and celebrate my 29th birthday in Key West, which sounds like a pretty great time (that is if I can still walk after the 165 mile bike ride). I will post again about the ride, but if anyone is interested in supporting me now, you can donate money here.

I know many people look at me as someone with a lot of confidence and courage, and I have some of both, but that doesn't mean I don't have insecurities and my own challenges. I've spent most of my life thinking I can't be good at sports or exercising without ever really having the proof. Here's my chance to prove myself wrong.

-Stephen (Spinning)