Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: The Year That Changed Everything

If I wanted to cover 2012 with one word, it would be change. I'm at a completely different place than I was twelve months ago. Most of that change was amazing.

2012 will be a year that I'll always remember. My first book came out in March and it's been an unbelievable experience. I was truly humbled by the reaction to the book and all the support it received. Being a part of Sibling Rivalry Press has been a true honor. I'm amazed by all the talent that Bryan Borland is bringing to light. It was a nice surprise to be the top selling book of year for the press. It was also a complete shock when my book made the contemporary poetry best sellers list in August. To be on a list with so many poets I admire was one of the highlights of my year. I hope 2013 will bring more sales and surprises for the book.

It was fitting that I officially launched my book in NYC at the Rainbow Book Fair, because in October I moved to New York. This was a move that took a lot of planning and effort, but has been well worth it. Living here is so different than anywhere else I've lived. I feel like I'm in the right place to keep pushing myself and my work as a poet and teacher. It's been just a little over two months and I'm completely in love.

This year also marked my 30th birthday, which was celebrated here in NYC with my loving partner. I'm actually excited to be 30 and moving into a new decade of my life. It will be a full of new adventures and experiences.

Besides my book, my work has also appeared in numerous magazines, journals, and anthologies throughout the year. My poem "This Side Up" was nominated for a Pushcart for appearing in Among the Leaves: Queer Male Poets on the Midwestern Experience. I'm also nearing completion of a second poetry manuscript called A History of the Unmarried. I'm also currently serving as Poetry Editor for a new literary magazine called Animal. Outside of poetry, my essay "A Tale of Two Closets" about being a gay atheist was accepted for a forthcoming book by Columbia University Press.

In my personal life, I celebrated nine years with my partner, who helped make our move to NYC happen. As I said, most of my year has been good. A lot of work, but good. My mother, however, was diagnosed with a form of leukemia this year, which has been my low point. She's doing well, but it's been challenging for my family.

In the end, 2012 truly changed my life. Completely. I don't know what 2013 will hold, but I'm ready to find out. I'm here in a city I've always longed to be in for New Year's Eve. I won't be in Times Square, but I'll be celebrating not only the prospect of a new year, but all that I've accomplished in the last one.

Happy New Year!

Stephen (Glass in Hand)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What I Read in 2012

I've spent the last few years tracking what I read throughout the year. I do this simply by keeping a Word document where I enter each read book. I've enjoyed doing this for a few reasons. It can be interesting to keep track of when you've read particular pieces. We often view a book based on our current state. I like to know that in 2010 I read this book and in 2011 that one. It has also helped motive me to read more. I get a little rush when I add one more book to the list.

2012 was a busy year. It started off with the launch of my own book, He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices, and ended with my move to New York City. Working full time, promoting a new book, planning a big move, and working on a new poetry manuscript took up a lot of my time, but I tried my best to make time for reading.

This year I read 35 books. I'm sure for some of you this is not very many, but overall I'm pleased with the number. It's a bit less than last year, but that's understandable. I hope to read more next year and I think I will.

Here's the books I spent the year reading:

1.     A Radiance Like Wind or Water by Richard Ronan
2.     We the Animals by Justin Torres
3.     God Bless by H. L. Hix
4.     1984 by George Orwell
5.     The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath
6.     Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes
7.     Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and about Mayakovsky edited by Michael Almereyda
8.     Love-in-Idleness by Christopher Hennessy
9.     Then, We Were Still Living by Michael Klein
10.  Burnings by Ocean Vuong
11.  Self-evident by Scott Hightower
12.  Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
13.  The Buoyancy of it All by Robert Walker
14.  Skin Shift by Matthew Hittinger
15.  Home by Toni Morrison
16.  Tiresias: The Collected Poems of Leland Hickman edited by Stephen Motika
17.  Slow Lightning by Eduardo C. Corral
18.  The Submission by Amy Waldman
19.  Lord of the Flies by William Golding
20.  Selected Poems: 1957-1994 by Ted Hughes
21.  Aim for the Head: An Anthology of Zombie Poetry edited by Rob Sturma
22.  Among the Leaves: Queer Males Poets on the Midwestern Experience edited by Raymond Lucak
23.  When We Become Weavers: Queer Female Poets on the Midwestern Experience edited by Kate Lynn Hubbard
24.  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
25.  Mayakovsky’s Revolver by Matthew Dickman
26.  The Secret History by Donna Tartt
27.  Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey
28.  Assumption by Percival Everett
29.  Other Flowers: Uncollected Poems by James Schuyler
30.  After Dayton by C.S. Carrier
31.  State of the Union: 50 Political Poems edited by Joshua Beckman & Matthew Zapruder
32.  Blood Dazzler by Patricia Smith
33.  Vandals by Alan Michael Parker
34.  The School Among the Ruins by Adrienne Rich
35.  The Waves by Virginia Woolf

-Stephen (Reader)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Becoming a New Yorker

I've been living in New York City for just two months. Most of the time it feels longer. The one thing that always surprises me with the moves I've made in my life is how quickly I adapt. Humans actually have a great ability to adapt to their surroundings. In the course of just eight weeks, pretty much everything in my day to day life has changed, yet it's starting to feel normal. Like home.

I do still live in a constant state of wonder and there are many times that I can't believe I'm here and that I did this. At the same time, I'm starting to feel like a part of the city. I love listening and watching people, so New York is perfect. You're surrounded by people almost every second of the day, and someone is always doing something interesting or absurd or crazy. It is, however, hard to find a spot where you can be alone or just have personal space. Instead, you learn to create your own world, which can get you in trouble. I've gotten on the train going the wrong way twice not because I was confused, but because I was zoned out.

With time, I've gotten better at reading on the subway. I've actually read a lot of books in the last two months, but sometimes I just sit and take in my surroundings. I use the A express train the most because it stops very close to my apartment and really saves a lot of travel time to lower Manhattan. Since the A has long stretches without stops, it becomes a great train for performances. These typically happen between 125th Street and 59th Street. I've witness various songs and dance routines from people of all ages. I haven't been too impressed yet, but I'm waiting. I'm actually amazed by how much money people give and how low their standards seem to be. I want to see something really good before I pull out a dollar. Where are the drag queens?

My partner and I have also spent a lot of time exploring our area. It's interesting to be in this upper part of Harlem and to see things changing so much. The area is actually becoming more and more diverse and new businesses seem to be moving in on a fairly regular basis. We've tried many restaurants and found a good local coffee shop (where I'm writing this). We feel pretty lucky to have ended up where we did and we love our apartment.

On the job front things are moving along. My partner, Dustin, is enjoying his position with the non-profit organization Harlem United. I've been adjuncting at a school in lower Manhattan that offers degrees in nursing and various other medical things. I teach 8-week English Composition courses. It's something for now as I continue to apply for other positions.

Part of me wishes I would have made the move to New York much earlier in my life, but, after being here, I've realized that my other experiences have made me appreciate the city on a very different level. When I talk with native New Yorkers, they seem to not really grasp what it's like to live in the rest of the country, which is understandable. Life here is so different and the access you have to pretty much anything you want is amazing. I'm actually spending less a month living here than I was in Orlando. Yes, I have a smaller apartment and I don't have a car, but monthly, my bills are a little lower. It's all about what you want to pay for. I'd rather not pay for a car and spend more on rent and live in a city like this. I understand others might want different things.

I'm thankful that I've had diverse experiences. I've lived in the Midwest, in the South, and in Central Florida. Each place was different and unique. Those experiences have made it clear that New York is the place I want to be and that sometimes things happen in an order that becomes clear later.

I'm excited to see what New York will bring in 2013. I have a few things in the works that I'll be sharing soon and I'm looking for new opportunities every day. I'm fairly settled in, so if you live in NYC, hit me up and let's do something.

-Stephen (New Yorking)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Next Big Thing: Interview Series

I was invited by Alexander J. Allison to participate in the "Next Big Thing" writing web. Basically, each person answers ten questions about his or her book and then passes the torch to ten writers they admire.

1) What is the title of your latest book?

He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The book came about after I realized how many of my poems dealt with the lines between violence and sex. Suddenly, I started to see interesting connections between poems I'd written at different times and a manuscript began to take shape. A big driving force of the book was always the central section, which is a long poem about the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. 

3) What genre does your book fall under?

The book is poetry. Within poetry, I write mostly narrative work.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Since my book is poetry, it might be rather difficult to adapt to film, but I'll play along. I'd love to see these actors performing my work: Jon Hamm, Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brad Pitt, and Maggie Smith.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I'm pretty fond of this sentence from Jeremy Halinen's blurb: "If you're someone who's ever gone home with a stranger, after reading this book, you'll feel lucky to be alive: unraped, unmurdered, uneaten." 

6) Who published your book?

Sibling Rivalry Press (March, 2012)

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

This is a hard question because I didn't sit down to write this exact manuscript. It came in pieces and then I spent time putting it together. I would say the experience took a bit over a year (though a few of the poems were written before that). 

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Here are four poetry books that handle similar themes or write about real-life tragic events:

I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl by Karyna McGlynn
Ohio Violence by Alison Stine
Ka-Ching! by Denise Duhamel
The First Risk by Charles Jensen

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My inspiration comes from so many places. Each poem in the book was inspired by something different. I'm very open to ideas and I believe the best poems come from rather unusual places. I'm also greatly inspired by other writers. This book pays tribute to T.S. Eliot and Reginald Shepherd in very direct ways.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

My book attempts to play to multiple crowds. If you are a big literary person, you will see a lot of connections to other works and references to pieces that have inspired me. If you are not a big reader of poetry, you will probably enjoy the book for different reasons. One thing I can say for sure, the book isn't boring. 

-Stephen (Answering)