September 22, 2011

Coming Out

Below is a video of a gay man coming out to his dad over the phone:

I wish everyone who came out could have an experience like this one. Mine wasn't. It was Thanksgiving, 2008. I told my dad I was dating someone and that his name was Ryan. My dad moved to the other side of the couch and turned the television's volume up. Later that afternoon, when my baby cousin spit up over her mom, my dad nudged me and told me that I never did that because I was a swallower. I nudged him back and told him I still was.

Jokes aside, it was a solid two years before my relationship with my parents returned anywhere near a stable place. Since then, coming out has become easier, and is something I do all the time. Whenever I meet someone new, I feel the need to drop the word "boyfriend," to make a joke about being as queer as pink peanut butter, or to act more flamboyantly than what I'm predisposed to, just to signify to that new person who I am. 

In poetry, I find the need to come out constantly, too. Like the Beatles who claimed every song they wrote was a political song, I feel every poem I wrote is a queer poem. For a reader who didn't know me to assume that my work wasn't queer (as our culture teaches us to do) would be to bypass the reason that poem exists. A queer perspective is the center of every poem I write, whether or not that poem confronts love and sex. If I write about a house, it's queer because the domestic sphere is different in a queer poem. If I write about death, it's queer because community and religious rites associated with death are different.

I think poets face coming out often, and not just the queer ones. Most poets stay in the closet (when asked what they do, they answer, "I teach"). We squirrel away in our little communities, and for the most part are ignored by the rest of the world. It was awhile before I could adopt the word "poet" as an identity. Even now it sounds a bit pretentious, a bit turtle-necked and forty-year-old Merlot to me, but coming out as a poet is another thing I'm getting used to. 

September 15, 2011

Crush, Hack, Calendar, Frost

Another semester, and my ducklings seem particularly lovely and smart. I'm having them read Richard Siken's Crush this week as their first adventure into the long poem (which my class is themed around). As I teach them about the long poem, I find my own poems are growing smaller and sparser and quieter. I've been reading a lot of Octavio Paz and now I can't seem to stop writing about abandoned houses.


Hacked the manuscript up one more time. I'm making October 1st a hard deadline for sending it out. I have a list of ten or so open reading periods and competitions for this year, and I'm starting to have second thoughts. The more I read other first books (mainly, the more I reread Crush), the more I think maybe it's not ready yet.


Since everyone keeps on asking for my opinion on the MFA rankings (read sarcasm here), here it is: I found Seth Abramson's rankings on his blog to be invaluable when I began to think about MFA programs. Not the rankings or the vote system themselves per se (I didn't even apply to the Iowa workshop, which is the top ranked school), but just how much information (stipend, teaching load, size, etc) was compiled into one place made a huge impact on my decision. Calling the methodology into question isn't an unhealthy practice, but the attacks directed toward Seth and the staff of Poets & Writers I find to be troublesome and childish. Laura Eve Engel writes more elegantly and in-depth on this topic here, and I find her post to be one of the best I've read on the matter.


Some friends and I got to discussing who we'd want to be included in a poet bathing suit calendar. I'm making my wishlist.


The weather has dropped, and now's the season for many late night walks. There are herbs (dill, rosemary, thyme) drying over our windows, and pickles pickling in a crock. The forecast mentions frost and an alleviation of migraines. Everything, it seems, is preparing for winter.