Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Gay Domestic Narrative Poem, Memoir, and the Sentence (Part One of a Series)

Except for Siskel & Ebert, my favorite TV show growing up was Love Connection. I loved the idea of a man and a woman going out on a date and then coming back to the TV studio, discussing what occurred. Now you have video cameras trailing the couple. Back then, all we received was their own reflections—the pure uninterrupted dish coming from their own mouths. We never saw them actually on the date. It felt so personal. Like they were directly talking to me. They needed to know if they deserved love.

Perhaps this is what caused me to begin writing about the domestic. I was fat and lonely, as some of these people were. It was a time when a contestant didn’t need to be as beautiful as the host to appear on the show.

I wanted someone to see my poems worthy of love. Or pity. I still don’t know the difference.


As a queer writer who writes almost only domestic narratives, I resent others who do the same. You’re stealing my material.

One gay poet told me he was planning to write about his alcoholic father.

“That’s interesting,” I said.

Pause. “My dad was homeless,” I said.

He looked sad, as if he knew I had won something. And I had.

A completely different moment in my life. This one occurred between me and a gay man I wanted to love me.

He, too, was planning to write about his alcoholic father.

“That’s interesting,” I said. “Your story is one that needs to be told. So many of us need to know there's others like us.”


This is undeniable: every gay male (including, of course, myself) writing poems about the domestic questions their own work . They suspect their work is the result of obsession, attention to the self, not craft. If they weren’t medicated (or alcoholics or both), they may write prose. Or keep the stories in their journals. These poets know they should keep their stories private. They won't acknowledge a true creative person would enter another world, another language other than their own.


Self-pity does not need to be monotone. It can have many different tones, pitches, frequencies, and even, uses.


There’s only one reason people cheer the domestic: they know they could write the same thing. If they tried. All they need is a computer and disposable memories.

Tomorrow's post will be for James Allen Hall, a poet I respect a lot. He wrote an intriguing comment on the blog Outside the Lines, one of the most useful resources for me on the internet.

Here's the link to Hall's comment:



  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I find that writing anything about my family in my poetry instantly seems to limit it, narrow its intent. It made me feel self-absorbed--I see other who can effect this but I'm not one of them.