Monday, March 22, 2010

The One Year Anniversary of My Blog, or, Thank you Denise Duhamel, Melanie Rae Thon, Le Roy and Lesly Chappell, and One Gay Man in Particular

Today is the one year anniversary of my blog. I promised myself that I would blog for one year and then reconsider my game-plan. This is what I decided: I will blog definitely once a week for the next six months, and then make another self-assessment. I am itching to work on more private projects--and owe myself that.

My big regret is that I haven't talked about enough books on this blog. That's in part why I started it. But it's exhausting, and I like to spend as much time with someone's poems as I can until I commit myself to writing about their work. I've been hanging out with the poems in Chip Livingston's "Museum of False Starts." I look forward to writing about it sometime in the next month.

For this post, I also want to thank people. Before I started this blog, I was becoming cynical about PoBiz (which I'm still unsure as to what that name means exactly, since everything in the community seems so decentralized). But fortunately for me things happened as a result of this blog, and my faith has been restored. Or maybe it's always been there. My dumb cynicism makes things very murky from time to time.

I first want to say thank you to Denise Duhamel. She's one of my favorite poets, and a role model. I don't know how many poets are as generous and as talented as she is. Most brilliant poets have one or the other. She's got both. If she didn't choose my book as a judge in a contest, I wouldn't be here on the blog today. And even more importantly: if she didn't write poems that wowed me and I happened across when I was an undergraduate, I wouldn't be writing today. Period. Some poems in my book are happy unabashed rip-offs of her work. I can't think of too many better poets to become a shameless derivative of.

My first creative writing teacher who supported me was the fiction writer Melanie Rae Thon. I started in fiction at Syracuse University when I was first a graduate student. I went straight from undergrad to graduate school. I wrote the worst stories. I always tell my undergrads this. One story was about a woman with two different colored eyes who had her face ripped off by a pitbull. Another one featured a fifteen year old female who goes to an AA meeting where she's almost raped by a creep named Joe (the name of my ex-boyfriend) and, in the end, saved by an African-American woman named Peaches. Enough said.

I was smart enough to know how bad the stories were. I went to Melanie's office and told her I knew I sucked. She did the most amazing thing. I started to cry and then she shut off the lights in her office and held me as I sobbed in her arms. I wasn't ready for grad school, but she took mercy on me. She saved me. She kept me from dropping out. Like Duhamel, she is one of my angels.

I can still remember when my ex-best friend and I heard that her new book was coming out: "First, Body." I had relocated to the University of Alabama (long story). We called up the bookstore days in advance to see when exactly it would arrive. The morning of the release we drove up to Birmingham, Alabama and waited for the store to open. We needed it right away. The bookstore opened, and we marched in. We were afraid that all the copies were going to be gone. They weren't. We drove home ecstatic that we had made what we knew would be our favorite purchase of the year. And it was.

I also want to thank Le Roy and Lesly Chappell for publishing my memoir. I hate when people talk about their publishers as family. I never believed you could be that close to someone who played those roles in your life. I was wrong. You can be. I love them.

There's a lot of other people who have helped me with this blog. There's one in particular who gave me the confidence to continue. When this gay man noticed it, and affirmed me, I was so, so happy. I had read his poems and scholarly articles for a pretty long time, and looked up to him. I had never met him, but when I saw his note on Facebook that he liked my blog (let alone even bothered to read it), I continued enthusiastically with confidence and less doubt. And then I did something wrong --only after several months, did I realize it was my fault. Which sucked and hurt. I never listen to the obvious. Don't bite the hand that feeds you. We don't talk anymore. No more fun emails.

One of my biggest fears in life is that people are acting nice to me out of obligation. So I thoughtlessly, self-righteously, lash out. If they then stay around, then I know the relationship is genuine.

I know that is a dumb thing to think. But I'll be gay and blame that on my mother. "Sometimes you've got to throw your friends up against a wall and see who sticks," she'd always say. Fortunately, on most days, I'm fairly reasonable.

I won't write about him indirectly or directly on this blog--or any other blog, as I stupidly did in the past. I just wanted to say I'm sorry. I was an idiot. And that I will always be looking forward to reading your work. You are an inspiration.


  1. I'm pretty sure your mom was talking about spaghetti not friendship. Good post though. I appreciate your honesty. (BTW, I don't stick either, there were a lot of us taught- don't let anyone throw you up against a wall twice. We tend not to hang around after the first toss. your friend may have had mom like mine.)
    all best and happy year blogoversary!

  2. congrats! Ankush from :