Ode To The Crossfader: Forget the looks and the money, what culture did you get handed down from your mother or father?
Practicing Fade Aways: Think of a small group of your friends when you were young. Ones where you have lost touch with most or all of them. Where have they gone? What are they doing? (Facebook or Google-stalking is encouraged for this poem. It's not creepy. It's research.)
The Corner: Meeting the devil at the crossroads isn't as popular as it was in the early twentieth century. Should the Trump Residency bring it back en vogue, imagine the crowds built up at the crossroads. What are they wishing for? What do they talk about while they wait?
Hustle: What habit or activity have you been using all your life in attempts to better your circumstances? Has it occasionally worked? If not, why haven't you given up on it?
At The Metro: Two line poem that encompasses the surface of someone's living situation.
Santayana, The Muralist: Find a mural you particularly like. Imagine a conversation between the artist and the patron who commissioned it. Did either of them achieve the message they'd hoped for?
Sheman Ave, Love Poem: Imagine a situation you believe you could justify killing yourself in. Talk yourself out of it.
Enter The Dragon: Write about your favorite movie where you identify with someone who isn't the main protagonist.
1989: Pick your favorite year that you lived through. Look up what the most popular song was. Rewrite it.
Renegades Of Funk: Write an ode to a person or thing you encountered when you were young that you think about more than you imagined you would.
Up Jump The Boogie: Ghost line: "Try to scrape the cool from the womb of you."
The Poet Laureate: Write about the poet laureate of a place you traveled to and didn't like.
Monster Boy: What myths (urban or otherwise) did you believe in as a kid that you've never seen disproven?
Variations On A Theme By Eazy-E: Choose one of your favorite songs from when you were a teenager. Write about a time that you heard it, and use the themes of the song as much as possible.
November 26, 1980: Write about a time when you had to caretake for a friend, relative, or stranger. Do not talk about your own heroics or hint at how great you are for doing it. Just focus on what put the person you are caretaking for in that position.
Dream Fragment With A Shot Clock And Whistles In It: Ghost line: Blacktop Sisyphus in sweat socks.
How To Split A Cold One: Was there a time you fought against a part of your inherited culture that you now celebrate? What caused you to change your position?
Sin Vergüenza: Ghost line: Shame is a luxury lost on the wretched.
Trouble Man: Remember a time you were leaving a place you desperately wanted to stay. Write about the limbo place between the environment you were leaving and the one you were headed towards. Allow your reactions to the physical parts of this limbo tell your feelings.
Flowers For Etheridge: Apologize to a ghost as thoroughly as possible.
Miralo: Someone once tried to tell you a story that broadened your mind. You focused on how it related to the person telling the story, rather than the story itself. Revisit that story or lesson as if it were told to you by someone you never need to care about.
The Prisoner's Wife: Where do you first touch someone you love that you haven't seen in long enough to have felt their absence?
Stolen Starlight Lounge Sutra: What act does someone want you to apologize for that you can't imagine ever wanting to apologize for?
Soon I'll Be Loving You Again: Think about your favorite artist in any medium. What drives them?
Round Midnight: What does your muse do while you're busy not imagining things?
For The Good Times: In a world without wedding rings, what would mark a person as being in a relationship?
The Juju: Ghost line: Something whispered years ago in another city.
Second Line: Write a praise poem for a traditionally mournful event.
Song: Objectify a place instead of a person.
Once I'd finished buying a majority of the books people recommended either for this project or just, in general, to read, I looked for obvious holes on my bookshelf. Was I lacking in Queer Writers? Writers from a particular continent? Translations? Form poets?
I discovered there weren't enough poets of Asian descent, so I googled until I came across this Lithub article that was published shortly after a white poet, whose name doesn't deserve to be linked to or read, was published under an Asian pen name that he adopted. I ordered as many of the books as I could afford from online, and wandered the local bookstores, hoping to find some of their work there.
My favorite-so-far recommendations from the article, is the combination of Don Mee Choi's The Morning News Is Exciting, and Don Mee Choi's translation of Kim Hyesoon's Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream, selected by Christine Shan Shan Hou.
I enjoy how she breaks out of traditional narrative with phrases or images that repeat for a while but not long enough to be mantric.
My Mother Thinks I Don't Listen, My Father Thinks I Can't
The doctor points at the little race car
carousel horsing up and down as the dot
matrix paper spools itself from a table
stack to results on the floor
I press a button like a contestant on the world's
most boring game show
Can Adam Hear? Beep
Press the button Beep a little
higher Press the button Beep higher
still Press the
Wonder if i should be
pressing the button
The car drifts up? Left?
I am a car
Beep I drift like melody
Waver and beep and Watch the road
ahead The snowy white future of unplowed
sound Then blank canvass of
excuses Beep I am possible hearing
braces Beep Press
the button Is any part of me
working properly? The car
drifts My mother
winces My father is talking on
the other side of the glass Beep
Press the button Stuffed garfield
prone next to the stack of Beep
Press the button Smiling
technician Beep Drifting What does this
mean? This long silence between beeping
My garfield wears a sweatband
My so 80s garfield like a stuffed cat
in an olivia newton-john video Stuffed
cat from the newspaper
famous for fat and lasagne This version
marketed thin with aerobic
outfits Probably likes mondays
I am too fat Beep Press
the button I can't silence
right Can't smile pleasantly
Press the button Maybe
there was a beep there I'm no good at video games This stupid
car ups and downs and
Beep I think
Technician grimaces I should
stop looking Shut my Beep
Press the button Maybe
i hear better in the dark
Aimee Nezhukumatathil's collection, Miracle Fruit (recommended by Eliel Lucero) is definitely a collection I'll be pulling a bunch of props from. Imagine Tony Hoagland's straight-forward narratives and easily accessible, often humorous images, without the clunky middle-aged-white-guy-trying-so-hard-to-be-inoffensive-that-he-sometimes-becomes-offensive angle.
I'm going to have to read this collection a few more times, not because I don't understand it but because I want to be as familiar with these poems as I am with early Mark Doty poetry.
I especially enjoyed Nezhukumatathil's poetry about her relationship with her parents, how she expresses her relationships without either praising or victimizing anyone. As if family history could be described with anecdotes that were funny without shame or schmaltz.
The poem, "Swear Words", in particular, reminded me of a conversation with my mother that resulted in the poem below.
Coming Out To Biff Tannen
My mother's face was so
relieved when i told her it wasn't
cigarettes i was smoking but
cock The stupid boy who didn't even
look up when from the playstation
when they sort of met
My mother whose own hair
fogged with tobacco from her own
new man Made some playboy style
joke about smoking and flaming Something
that would have been twelve
pages after the centerfold Only the true
bathroom aficionados would know to
laugh at it I did not
Well she said that went
over like a pregnant pole vaulter My mother
once told me not to break
up with my girlfriend because a bird in the hand is
worth two in the bath
My mother who would argue
the trivialities of my backtalk by
announcing It's six of one and half of
another pushed into proper
idioms as though all it ever took for her to be
witty was a gay son or
an honest son
Frustrated with the employee recommendations in a local bookstore, I looked for unfamiliar names that weren't faced out. I picked up Cedar Sigo's Language Arts. I enjoyed the way he wrote about himself and his life as a Queer Indigenous American man without making it feel like Other. I'm appreciative of all the poets and writers who have championed Othership, and it's important but, at my most optimistic, I'd like to think all our lives contain moments that shouldn't be othered. Moments where our identities strongly exist but aren't the focal point of the narrative.
See how my queer thoughts, in this instance are strikingly similar to your non-queer thoughts? See how I am not white but I have struggles that even the most clueless dead white dude from the nineteenth century had? These are the things I'm enjoying right now. Cedar Sigo does this really well.
For the month of December's interactions, I'm going to try to not write about the specific parts of my life that I feel I keep coming back to. Writing them feels too easy, and, perhaps, for the moment, I've exhausted all I can from certain relationships.
While I'm hoping not to get meta about it, I thought I'd start with a poem declaring the things I'm forbidding myself to write about for a while.
Before we can move on Let us give what is owed to the conversations we are tired of having but which have brought us to where we are today The things we should not explain on any more pages or microphones that might intersect with friends and loved ones who know already christ
Here is the drawer of tangled charging cables to phones that should never be plugged in again
Ryan who has now been dead almost as long as he was alive All dead boyfriends All unfaithful boyfriends All objects of desire who we have written more words about than we have spoken words to No more lovers as planets No more religious imagery for men who worshipped themselves enough to not need any more followers No more staring wistfully into the age gap No more color commentating the slow parade of men whose objectification makes us feel better about current loneliness
No more talking about loneliness to a room full of people No more lines that attempt to impress audiences with how we columbused loneliness No more loneliness in a room full of people
No more speaking for a tribe no one has been elected leader of No more explaining how to live life as if we have any idea what we're doing
We need to turn our heads away from where we came from Not our backs No more using our past to explain our ignorant present No more building gingerbread houses of self-awareness to ensnare gluttonous audiences
No more no more
Rest the i that glides over speedbump and writes experienced mountain climber on its resume Rest the narrator as victim Rest the raspy confessions The way we paint ourselves as monsters we've claimed to have slain Rest the sword in our own backs They are the weapons of illusionists
Let us now consider the future as if it will actually happen to us As if the past happened so long ago there is nothing new to learn from it As though our history was intrinsic Not forgotten Not ignored But common knowledge Let us not assume it is common knowledge let us make it common knowledge before we move forward
Let us move forward like a tide being drawn to a welcoming moon
An ongoing conversation between writers and the text that they're reading.