Recently a gay poet said to me that no matter how silly it may be, he wanted to create poems that would last forever. Ever since he started writing poems, he decided to edit out any words, any references that may "date" it. There was something admirably self-aggrandizing about such a statement. For the record, I think gay men need to be less modest. I want more self-serving bragging in the poetry world. Gay male poets need to brag in every single venue (on Facebook and blogs and conversations with friends and enemies) about every single accomplishment they receive: grants, reviews, publications, book contracts, the slightest mention in any magazine or newspaper, no matter how ostensibly insignificant). For a gay poet to be called self-aggrandizing is a sign that he may be worth exploring. I love Richard Siken’s poems that refuse to be aligned with the left-hand margin; their obnoxiousness in sprawling out all over the page. With all the hatred created in mandates like Proposition 8 (and New York’s recent denial of gay marriage), it’s important that queer poets take up as much space as possible. Lethe Press’ decision to make Charles Jensen’s book “First Risk” oversized is an act of love, a crucial political decision. It doesn’t fit conveniently in the stack of books on my bedroom floor. Its cover protrudes from the others. It doesn’t allow for neat piles. What wonderful self-aggrandizement!
Any gay male poet who desire to create timeless poems may automatically be, to a certain extend, a fraud. There seems to be something at least questionable, if not corrupt, in a gay male poet even considering the idea of achieving immortality through his words. It seems hypocritical to expect something like Proposition 8 to be banished due to its dangerous word choices; and at the same time, believing that any gay male poet’s words should become a permanent monument, inevitably anthologized. Perhaps gay male poetry should load itself with even more references to popular culture, proper names that make the poem a mere in-joke, meaningless factual accuracies (and inaccuracies), self-conscious references to friends in and out of the poetry world that already makes the poems dated. We should want our readers to feel like they missed something. This literary choice of making our own art obsolete may be one of the few potentially successful acts of resistance to a canon which excludes us and the laws that hate us.
Footnote: It seems that one of the most important queer presses has become Lethe Press. Which this year alone has produced two amazing gay male poetry titles: Ragan Fox’s “Exile in Gayville” and Charles Jensen’s “First Risk.” They seem to be producing wonderful books in every genre. With the death of so many gay bookstores, I hope that the queer male community supports its own presses. I know what my partner will be purchasing me for Christmas: books from Lethe Press. Here is the link to the press:
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