Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Q&A About Pansy Poetics and a Coming Attraction

Tomorrow’s post will be entitled “The Myth of the Gay Poetry Community (Part One).” It will be posted sometime before midnight on Monday. My partner is sick. Everything takes me twice as long as the normal person. I'm a shitty caretaker.

Now he is sleeping. I’m bored. So I’m going to answer five questions that were backchanneled to my SUNY Brockport email.

Question: Why are you so angry? Do you think it’s because you’re not that attractive?

Answer: Probably.

Question: Charles Jensen and C. Dale Young don’t rip apart other gay poets on their blog. Why do you think you do? Don't you think people will stop reading your blog? Or be afraid to offer comments on your posts out of fear they may be associated with you?

Answer: I’ll do anything to get attention. According to my site meter, I get three or four hits day. I'm satisfied. As in response to your last question, I think it's homophobic. Gay men are stronger than that, I hope. I like queers who fight with me. It's more fun.

Question: What do you have against Jericho Brown and Mark Doty?

Answer: I admit I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time on his poetry. At the same time, I’m obsessed with my ambivalence toward such a highly acclaimed poetry. I’m much more interested in exploring my internal conflicts with poetry which has already received unanimous praise. Also Jericho Brown has not accepted my friend request on Facebook.

Question: You’re not inclusive. You never talk about lesbians.

Answer: Inclusiveness is relative. I plan to maintain this blog for one complete year. I will write about the dead and the living, narrative/lyric and the experimental, and try to explode the notion that gay men are all white, middle-class, and plain spoken. Aesthetic diversity is as important as cultural diversity.

Question: Why do you claim to hate domestic narratives when that’s all what you seem to write?

Answer: One of the selfish reasons I started this blog was to figure out why I have stopped writing poems. Why I no longer to feel a desire to send my second book out into The World. Although it is more or less completed and placed as a finalist in a few contests.

After my first book of poems came out, I went through a serious depression, one akin and worse than what C. Dale Young encouraged to spot sometime back in his blog. It was an important post. Go look it up.

This fact is not to encourage pity. But to simply further explain why I started the blog. I don’t need anyone else to feel bad for me. Self-pity is my favorite pastime.

Needless to say, I needed to change my life: meditation, music therapy, positive mental thinking, creating routine, trying to make more friends.

For the Poetry Foundation of America, Rigoberto Gonzalez wrote a post highlighting the need for more reviewers. At the time, this bugged me. I didn’t like the idea of thinking I had, perhaps, a responsibility to do anything for anyone other than myself.

Only through psychic pain, I realized I needed to do just that. My reviewing, writing about the gay poetry community, began somewhat as a complete selfish need.

I also would like to transform these microessays into a book about queer poetics.


  1. I don't know what you've got against Mark either. He's a lovely man and his poetry is gorgeous. I've rarely commented here because I think many of the posts are counterproductive. Perhaps C. Dale and Charles don't rip apart other poets on their blogs for that reason. There are a number of fantastic poets out there -- gay and straight -- who are total assholes and their work has been elevated far beyond its merits. That's not strictly a "gay poet" problem, but systemic in poetry. When there's a lot of bitterness out there, such as the kind aimed at the Dickman brothers, it starts to become unseemly and just plain old whining.

  2. Collin,

    I don't like bitterness, either.

    There are a lot of poets who I don't like. And I think they are amazing poets. There's a lot of poets who I do like. And I think are weak poets. For me, to base a critical analysis on a poet's personality is unfair.

    I've only met three gay poets in my life. So it's impossible for me to judge based on charisma or the lack of it.

    I fear, and I'm reluctant in saying this, out of an anticipation it will make you reel, but I do wonder if there is a bit of an anti-intellectualism operating in your comment.

    That's at least how I see it. And I fear that some other gay poets suffer from it as well. Don't worry: your affliction is shared by many. :)

    A good review is an engagement. Not necesssaily an attack.

    For me, criticism is an act of love. I have to care about your poems to say something. Rather than just letting them go.

    It takes a lot of time to write these posts. That's why I'm going to fire myself from this blog after one full year from when I began.

  3. Collin,
    So the only way to forward to gay poet "cause" is to all band together in mutual love fest/circle jerk?

  4. Steve, I think what I'm tired of is that there's a whole heap of criticism -- and not constructive -- and not enough writing going on. Anyone can take to a blog and deconstruct another poet's work, when sometimes they should be concentrating on their own. Your posts of late seem to come from somewhere left of "critique." While I suppose you're trying to be self-effacing, many of the posts come across as envious and even a, I hate to say it, hint of desperation. If you want to call that anti-intellectual, by all means.

    Nicole, what are you talking about? I never said anything about a circle jerk/love fest, but I think there are ways to critique and review that speak to the work and don't tread into the personal. There has been much on the Internet lately that has veered away from critique into personal attack and a whiff (and sometimes all out reek) of jealousy.

  5. Collin,

    Thanks for your characteristically passionate response.

    Envious? Of course! Of course I'm envious of a lot of the poets on here. They have drive and energy. I'm lost. And I don't mean that sarcastically. I hope that I made that clear in this post.

    Desperate? I admitted that I don't know why I want to continue writing poems. Is this blog a desperate act to regain my own drive and energy? Of course. I admit that, too.

    Do I believe that my critiques are artful and thoughtful? You bet.

    I know you are much busier than me. And I mean that in all seriousness. But if another post incites you, I'd love for you to cut and past the particularity in a comment. Textual examples always help me.

    But again I know that is asking a lot from a stranger. I did, as I know you'll attest to, beg you to put a link to my tiny blog. And you did. That is more than enough for anyone to give me.

    I'm also shocked I get any hits. I'm happy to get the three or four I do a day. I'm not like you. I'm small potatoes.

  6. Criticism is an act of love".
    But what kind of act of love?
    Some acts of love are distinctly unloving and some criticism can show the wrong kind of love.
    Given the idea that the gay poetic community is a "myth", literally a "mouthing", I think Nik has the wrong sexual metaphor. Living in the UK, I have an advantage, or is it a disadvantage, in that I read poems and have no real contact with personalities. I don't--and this is both related and off at a tangent--make the distinction between a poet and their work. Perhaps, I have been lucky, but the gay poets I have communicated with show both honesty in their writing and their words beyond the poem. I remember Collin posting a comment (elsewhere) to the effect of "Give me good writing first". I hope I quote him right. If so, his sentiments are the same as mine. I think Collin is right about something else too. It is easy "To break a butterfly upon a wheel." Those critics who want to waste their time on bashing poor poems/poets (as with the Dickman brothers, unfortunate name, Pope could have had so much fun with that) are wasting their time, shame on them. Personally, I was brought up in the UK education system--all niceness and quietude, if you believe another well-known poet/personality--oh, how wrong! I respect hard criticisms and ruthless judgements: that comes from operating in Pound circles. The worst thing that could happen to the gay poetic community is a "circle jerk/love fest." Let us all love another because we belong to a minority and therefore stick together to protect our minority status. (Forget poets making pansy chains and sappy anthologies). That's not what I hear, though, as I read gay poets/poets who are gay. I hear tenacity and passion. I have been thinking about "Orpheus in the Bronx." Yes, there are ideas I'd question, challenge, and disown. But the tone of that volume is Reginald Shepherd's real is the tone of a man who understood the spirit of's an essay on man and what a man dared to compose it. To return full circle. Criticism is an act of love. Love needs to be interrogated more. AMOR-ROMA. Critical sensibilities depend upon love and culture needs sane criticism, now more than ever.

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  8. I needed a martini in hand to read all the comments on this post. Of course, it doesn't take much for me to put a martini in my hand.