âThe Banal and the Profaneâ is a monthlyÂ Lambda LiteraryÂ column in which we lift the veil on both the writerly life andÂ the publishing industry. In each installment, we ask a different LGBT writer, or LGBT person of interest in the book industry, to guide us through a week in their lives.
This monthâs âBanal and Profaneâ column comes to usÂ from writer Nik Nicholson
WITCHES X Zami Present:
Featuring Papercut Press
Brooklyn’s indie lit revolution is on its way to DC. Independent publishing house Papercut Press brings you m. craig, Rami Shamir, Jillian McManemin, Chessy Normile and Carly Howard for a night of music, poetry and readings, followed by a talk and q+a on the dawn ofÂ a new type of author–socially responsible, politically invested, and staunchly anti-corporate.
Thursday August 7th
6:30 â 8:30 pm
Busboys and PoetsÂ – 5th and K
(1025 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001)
This event brought to you by Brooklyn based WITCHES – a community collective known for organizing events and Zami – Busboys own gender and sexuality series.
Do you have problems with your love life? Do you hate your job? Is your social life lacking a certain zing? All of these questions and more can be answered through literatureâor maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here atÂ theÂ Lambda Literary ReviewÂ have started our very own advice column called âReader, Meet Author.â Think of the column as a sort of a âDearÂ AbbyâÂ for the LGBTQ literary set.
This monthâs author is La JohnJoseph, a British-born, American-educated performance artist and writer living in Berlin. The original scriptwriter for radical Californian Dada drag revue BoyfriendRobotique, she is also a librettist and the author of the critically acclaimed solo memoir playÂ Boy in a Dress. Her performance work has taken her from the San Francisco MOMA to the Royal Opera House, and across Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, includingÂ The Gay Times Book of Short Stories,Â Bird Song,Â P.S. I Love You,Â Fat Zine, andÂ 21st Century Queer Artists Identify Themselves.Â Everything Must GoÂ , her first novel, debuted this spring.
Are all healthy relationships inherently boring? I should feel blessed. I have dated a succession of great guys who are perfectly nice and stable. But like clockwork, after about twelve months of dating these stable guys, I grow terribly bored and break up with them. It is the crazy guysâthe guys who scream and yell and donât know how to communicate, the guys that never call when they say they will–that inspire the most passion (and the better sex!). Is it just me, or do I have problem with stability? Or is it a universal law that passion/lust and stability do not mix? Must I choose one or the other?
Dear Crazy Passion (and Total Lack of Imagination),
You seem to be suffering from a delusion of reality, which is sadly a very common and unbearably dreary condition. If you’re telling yourself you can only experience fireworks with someone who treats you badly, may I first advise you to quit it with all of those J-Lo movies, or at least skip to the end where she realizes she loves herself for the person she really is? The person you really are is a very disturbed masochist, and I think that’s wonderful. It’s nice that you want someone to put their cigarettes out on your ass, you’re doing the world a favor in these days of eternal ashtray shortages. But did you ever think that maybe, just maybe, there is a pervert just as twisted as you out there, who will hold your hand and call you back, but is also unafraid to gag you with his piss-soaked jock strap after hours? Streamline yourself for a successful lover, and get a nice guy who can be both your life partner and your masterâperhaps a dude with multiple personality disorder, or a Gemini.
X La JJ
I have recently started dating a wonderful woman, who unfortunately has a twelve-year old daughter who is a real brat! The child is rude, does not respect her elders and runs roughshod all over the woman I am dating. I think the child need more discipline and a sterner hand. Itâs getting to the point where I only want to hang out with the woman when she finds a sitter and we can hang out alone. We have only being dating for a couple of weeksâdo you think it would be all right at this point for me to tell the woman that the child needs to be reprimanded for her awful behavior?
Like the Woman, Hate the Child
First of all, I love children. They’re literally the only cool people left on this planet. They have the best outfits and the best candy, they’re always screaming about everything, and they never make you listen to such tedious problems. Basically, I agree with the twelve-year-old. I’m glad she’s smashing everything up and driving you up the wall. You’re probably quite awful yourself. I mean, if you have only been dating her Mother for two weeks, maybe you should inquire what the child was like previously. Perhaps she’s just acting out because she detests you. It’s a possibility; I have that effect on a lot of peopleâwhy do you think the Reformation came about? Seriously. If it does transpire that Little Miss Sunshine is simply trying to get rid of you, then I say, stick aroundâeven move inâand see how out-of-hand things can really get.
It’ll all end in tears, so bulk-buy Kleenex,
X La JJ
Is it okay to date a former intern? I am a mid-level manager at a small nonprofit, and we have a new set of interns every season. Two seasons ago, we had a smart and attractive intern (he is six years younger than me) and we really clicked. We had a great working relationship, and while I was attracted to him when we worked together, I kept it professional. He emailed me recently about a new job that he recently acquired, and he also asked me if I would like to grab a drink to catch up. Â I would love to pursue a friendship and possible more with this former intern. Do you think it is appropriate to date former subordinates? Should I check in with my boss to make sure it is okay? I donât want to seem like the office leech who picks up all the younger (former) guys who have worked in the office. Â Â
Keeping It ProfessionalÂ
I say, date everyone; if you’ve got it, flaunt it, right? Test the waters and have your new boy toy come pick you up from work, preferably in a 1948 Bentley Coupe and a boiler suit unzipped to the navelâsee how your colleagues react. If they seem to be merely surprised, then bring him up to the office and reintroduce him to your work mates. Then fuck him on the receptionist’s desk. I promise you that you will see a twofold return on your investment if you follow my advice. For a start, your coworkers will certainly not think of you as âjustâ a leech; they’ll be bewitched by your brazen attitude, and furthermore, the number of applicants for next season’s internships will soar. Moreover, you may well get fired, which will conveniently free you up to fuck whoever you like whenever you like without worrying what Marge from finance might say about it.
Thank me later,
X La JJ
“Before there was the Internet, there was Frank OâHara. Weâre just as a culture finally catching up to his manic speed and endlessly divisible attention span”
Since his death in 1966, the poet Frank OâHara has taken on an iconic stature among admirers of poetry. To honor the work of the beloved poet, The Fire Island Pines Fine Arts Project is presenting the Frank OâHara Fire Island Pines Poetry Festival, on Saturday, July 12th, at 4 PM. The event will include such noted writers as Eileen Myles, Edmund White, Ariana Reines, Dorothea Lasky, and Saeed Jones. (more…)
This month,Â Sibling Rivalry PressÂ releasedÂ Prime: Poetry & Conversation, a lively collection of verse and dialogue between poets Darrel Alejandro Holnes,Â Saeed Jones,Â Rickey Laurentiis,Â Phillip B. Williams, and L. Lamar Wilson.
Prime: Poetry & Conversation is a first-of-its-kind document of poetry and ongoing conversation in the black, queer literary community. Sparked into existence by a Best American Poetry blog from Jericho Brown in which he singled out some of the most exciting young, black, and gay men writing today, Prime features poems by and dialogue between poets Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Saeed Jones, Rickey Laurentiis, Phillip B. Williams, and L. Lamar Wilson. Jericho Brown provides the introduction for this collection, which is proudly published by Sibling Rivalry Press.
In the book’s introductory essay, poet Jericho Brown offers a beautifully rendered paean to the young voices presented in this collection.
The first time I saw Nikki Giovanni give a public reading of her work, I was an undergrad at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana. I remember a lot of what she said, but I sometimes wish I would forget her answer to a question someone in the audience asked just after the reading:
Q:Â What advice would you give to a young writer?
A:Â Never say no.
Giovanniâs answer is the right answer, the truth. But Iâll be damned if it ainât the hardest part of what we do when we make poems or when we contribute to any poetry community (whether itâs by way of writing reviews or hosting readings or encouraging young poets who may or may not have a fingernail of talent).
The poetâs life is not an easy life, for to live it well one must be prepared to follow the strangest and slightest notions, to take self-effacing risks, to jump off cliffs that are nowhere but in the mind. People look at you crazy because you feel all the bruises that come at the end of a plummet, but they donât see a single blemish. Donât believe me? Ask Adrienne Rich. In âWhen We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision,â she says:
For a poem to coalesce, for a character or an action to take shape, there has to be an imaginative transformation of reality which is in no way passive. And a certain freedom of the mind is needed, freedom to press on, to enter the currents of your thought like a glider pilot, knowing that your motion can be sustained, that the buoyancy of your attention will not be suddenly snatched away.Â Moreover, if the imagination is to transcend and transform experience, it has to question, to challenge, to conceive of alternatives, perhaps to the very life you are living at that moment. You have to be free to play around with the notion that day might be night, love might be hate; nothing can be too sacred for the imagination to turn into its opposite or to call experimentally by another name. For writing is renaming.
In mid-December of 2011, The Best American Poetry Blog asked me to post something substantive every day for a week. And at the moment they asked, I was so mad at Nikki Giovanni that I didnât know what to do. In spite of the common desire to do nothing during the holidays but be drunk, I couldnât say no because it was an opportunity for me to take advantage of the BAP platform and ask some questions I thought the larger world should be asking. It was a chance for me to show others some work I had seen and loved and that I thought wasnât getting enough recognition. It was an opportunity for me to tell my man I love him and let the world know how much I try to make gratitude the center of my life.
As I write this, I am most grateful for the work of Darrel Alejandro Holnes,Â Saeed Jones, Rickey Laurentiis, Phillip B. Williams, and L. Lamar Wilson, the young, black, and gay men I referred to that week as The Phantastique 5.
When a group of black bodies stands
out from the rest and needs to be remembered
because they all resemble each other, some
use highlighters to brighten the black bodies . . .
These lines from Phillip B. Williamsâ âManifestoâ seem to me the best from which to begin a description of Prime. Over and again the work in this small anthology presents lawmaking lines of direct statement that ask the reader to re-envision the very act of reading and what that act means for subjective perception. What is text to those so often left out of literature? What is literature to those unwritten or written wrongly?
Throughout these poems, our eyes are turned toward so many objects we thought we knew, thought had seen properly. Now we face even the furniture that sits about us as if it is slanted and painted new colors until we have no choice but to re-see ourselves, or as Darrel Holnes would say, âOnly the living have a reflection and you see yourself.â
These poets are living indeed, and forging with each of their words the stuff of life, whether through complaint: âIâll tell you my problem/Iâm a man who would love/another man, whether/as a son, whether as aââ (Laurentiis) or ironic praise: âYou cannot tell a soul/Must lie stillÂ Â Â Â be quiet/Just take it like the man/You always wanted insideâ (Wilson).
I am most taken, though, by how much these poems mean to participate in life to the point of being redeemed by that participation. These poets, in spite of being perfect candidates for that which is only academic and/or only conceptual, write as if poetry can speak directly to the soul, as if poetry is quite possibly the last hope they have to reach beyond themselves and touch anyone who perceives them:
. . . Like a son rushing
to his motherâs stumble, the poet catches her
as if his arms are the prayerâs answer
& when her knees meet the earth
so do his . . .
(from âThe Poetâs Revolver Opens Its Mouthâ by Saeed Jones).
Prime is a lovely (and loving) book by five men bound to change the way we read poetry because this is a book of poetry by poets committed to allowing the poems they write to change them. None of these poets ever say no.
Do you have problems with your love life? Hate your job? Your social life lacking that certain zing? All questions can be answered through literatureâor maybe at least by the people who create it. With that in mind, we here atÂ TheÂ Lambda Literary ReviewÂ have started our very own advice column called âReader Meet Author.â Think of the column as sort of a âDearÂ AbbyâÂ for the LGBTQ literary set. You can send âReader Meet Authorâ questions for publication toÂ ReaderMeetAuthor@lambdaliterary.org. (more…)
Last month, RedBone Press released celebrated author Alexis De Veaux’s prose/poetry hybridÂ Yabo. The book lyrically maps the spiritual and physical borders between love, passion, sexuality and gender.Â As writer Jewelle Gomez wrote in her blurb,
Alexis De Veaux laces together the past and the present with poetic elegance in an intricate and delicate pattern of call and response. …Echoing the work of Jean Toomer and Toni Morrison,Â YaboÂ speaks in a powerful and insistent cadence about things we may have forgotten: death, desire, magic and the drum beat of resilience.
In the following excerpt, a couple grapple with issues of gender and identity with regard to their newborn child.
A BOTH AND I:
There was no pink or blue in that room.
There was no pink and blue. It was called the little room and its occupant was referred to by a new pronoun, the child. âIs the child hungry?â âIs the child wet?â âThe child is beautiful, isnât the child?â The parents did not say her or him, hers or his.
For they understood these had to do with twos and opposites and none was the whole that was living with them. Theirs. This.
Letâs call the child Jules, Ruby said one day.
Thatâs a boyâs name, Ramses said.
J-u-l-e-s, Ruby said. Itâs a both name. The child is a both.
Yes, Ramses said. Both. One inside the other.
When Jules was three Ramses discovered that children masturbate.
And he became uncomfortable when it was his turn to give the child a bath, or change a diaper, or with anything that required him to be intimate with the childâs body.
One day, after spying on the child for some time, he went to the doctor secretly.
He said: Fix me so I donât make no more babies.
The doctor said: How come?
Ramses said: Canât afford them, thatâs all.
He did not say,
He did not tell his wife about the operation.
When Jules was five, they asked, when it was time to get dressed, what would you like to wear today? Who would you like to be?
Then Jules, standing naked, would study the small collection of dresses and pants and shirts and skirts and bowties displayed on the bed each morning.
I want to be that, Jules would announce finally, pointing a baby finger at a dress sometimes, pants or coveralls at other times, a dress and pants and a bowtie from time to time.
Ruby and Ramses accepted this daily ritual as a sign of Julesâs imagination, an attraction to colors, patterns, and shapes; since they never ever said this is a dress and only girls wear dresses or only boys wear bowties and pants.
They had no idea if what they were doing, how they were raising Jules, was good for Jules. But, and although they did not attend the Baptist or Methodist or Catholic or Pentecostal church in Shadow, Ruby, more than Ramses, believed in God, in a synthesis of what she had grown up believing God to beâa permanent imprint in the human mind, for which there was no need of proof of existence, even to a child.
Just as Jules expressed imagination, so did God through Jules.
Whenever Jules asked, am I a girl or boy, Ruby said, both and thatâs normal for you; figuring that the simplest answer was the best, and being consistent was loving.
But both was only half true, for the child was also neither of the two acceptable sexes; and as time went on, first Ruby and then Ramses slowly began to refer to Jules with a new pronoun:
which, whenever Jules was around they shortened to bn.
To the childâs ears, the Southern accent of the parents made the new pronoun sound like âbe in.â
One evening, Ramses came home from work. Ruby was in the kitchen cooking.
Ruby said, if we send Jules to school which bathroom Jules supposed to use?
Both, Ramses said. Sat down in a kitchen chair.
Nobodyâs gonna understand that, Ruby said.
Alright, Ramses said. He took off his blood-stained work boots. We could home-school the child.
That means I could home-school Jules, Ruby said. Iâll be the one to stay home.
Well what you want me to do woman? Ramses said.
Jules a year past time to go to school, Ruby said.
Ramses rubbed his feet together, sighed. Heâd been called black chink boy all through elementary school. He knew that children could be cruel to other children.
And that some adults needed categories, a social order, to think of Godâs imagination as truth rather than poetry. But he knew she was right.
Okay, he finally said, okay. When dinner going to be ready?
What we going to say if the teacher ask is the child a girl or a boy? Ruby said. She tossed some okra into the hot skillet.
Ramses thought a moment, then said, canât say either, that would just confuse the child.
Yes, Ruby said. She turned up the heat so that her okra in green tomatoes sizzled and fried.
One night, I was sitting on the couch playing with my Rubikâs Cube, smelling my motherâs fried green tomatoes cooking, listening to her move around in the kitchen, when my father came home from work.
Hi Daddy, I said.
Hi, he said.
You want to play?
Not tonight. Daddy is tired. He sniffed the room and went into the kitchen. After a while I heard them arguing.
Jules is big enough to go to school, Ram.
Get shit on the job all day, come home to more shit.
Daddyâs boots dropped to the floor, hard.
I want to go back to work. Iâm not used to sitting round the house all day.
You know I canât afford no babysitter.
We donât need a babysitter. Jules need to start school now.
I stood at the kitchen door. I want to go to school, I said.
Daddy looked at me. He was irritated. If we send Jules to school, he hollered at Momma, which goddamn bathroom, which goddamn bathroom Jules supposed to use?
The girlsâ bathroom, I said.
What? Daddy said.
I like girls, I said.
Where you learn that from, baby? Momma said.
JesusfuckingChrist, Daddy said. He looked scared.
Excerpt from Yabo by Alexis De Veaux, Â© 2014 by Alexis De Veaux. Published by RedBone Press. Used with permission of publisher.
There are phone apps for finding love, scoring quick sexual hook-ups, and for recognizing the music and media playing around you. But what about an app to inject some much needed lyricism into your life? Poetry fans rejoice! There is now aÂ mobile/tabletÂ app to momentarily sate your appetiteÂ for some wonderfully turned-out poetry. (more…)