I’ve only met three gay poets in my entire life.
They seemed like nice people.
One of them was in grad school. He was good-looking, black jet hair, and muscular. He was (and is) the editor of a significant poetry journal. Everyone liked him. Everyone should have liked him. As far as I could tell, there was nothing much wrong with him.
Once he said to me, “Give me some poems.”
I gave him my worst poems. I wanted to save my best. Send those to the good journals. Where I had little to no chance of getting published. He would publish anything I wrote, I figured. We were both queer.
He told me all poems had to be approved by committee. It might take some time.
But not to worry, he said. He had power. A lot of power. I wasn’t worried.
I didn’t get into the magazine. At least not at that moment. He apologized. We moved on. Or so I thought.
It was predictable. Some people in the program started to receive acceptances. And then they all did. They traveled for a New York reading. Someone told me that he had said during a meal, “It feels like Steve should be here.”
Where is here? Where should we all be as gay poets? And do we all necessarily want to be there? What are the dangers for us all occupying in the same space?
Once someone said to me, “We all like each other. That is, until a straight male poet comes along. And then we’re all on our knees. Begging.”
Another poet said to me recently, “We’re all living for the praise of Cavafy.”
I’ve got news. Cavafy is dead.
I love Cavafy for one reason: he relaxed in cafes ogling attractive men. His poems justify my obsessive dreams of getting laid by someone beautiful. Because I am a poet. Because you can seduce someone with your words. Or so I want to believe.
So is that where here is? Is it lurking within a ghost? Who might afford us some fame since he doesn’t need it any longer?
There are two poets I think of as gods. Frank Bidart and Thylias Moss. I’ve only met the former.
The experience was an embarrassment. My graduate school treated him with no respect. Whoever organized the reading series thought it was a good idea to ask Bidart to do something for the community. The idiot thought he should share his poetry at the local shelter for queer runaways. Which he did. Me, another student, and my favorite faculty member attended the reading. I gave a brilliant introduction. More time was spent on that than any I put into a dumb poem. Bidart said he loved it.
Of course, the gay and lesbian youth, all under the age of sixteen, could have cared less. About ten of them were there; they periodically sauntered out to smoke. After the reading, one young lesbian showed him her notebook full of rhyming poems.
We all went to dinner. Whenever I’m around a visiting writer, I am sure never to talk about poetry. I told Bidart my experiences on Gay.com. How I send fake photos of myself to lure men over to my apartment. Photos of a man with a tight, lean body. My hope: if they took the time to travel to my place, maybe they’d do me just for the hell of it. Bidart laughed.
He gave me his address to send him my introduction. I never did.
This is what I felt: pride that I entertained Frank Bidart. I made him laugh, maybe even twice. I found a gay poetry community. For two hours.
"Midnight in a Perfect World" coming Nov. 15
6 days ago