by Collin Kelley
In the summer of 2010, I had the amazing opportunity to guest lecture at Worcester College at Oxford University in the United Kingdom as part Georgia Tech’s Study Abroad Program. On my off day, I went with fellow teachers Karen Head and Colin Potts to see the Sally Mann exhibition at The Photographers’ Gallery in London.
It was a retrospective of Mann’s most famous work: the controversial photographs of her children, the haunted Civil War battlefields and the corpses deteriorating at the “body farm” at the University of Tennessee’s Forensic Anthropology Center in Knoxville. Although I had seen many of the photographs before, something about seeing them in such large scale in the hushed rooms of that gallery revealed something about my own art. It was, literally, like a flashbulb going off in my mind.
Like Mann, I am a Southerner. The people and landscapes of her photography are mine, too. Standing in that gallery 4,000 miles from my home in Atlanta, I realized that the poems I had been writing for the past decade shared startling similarities to these photographs. When I returned to the states and began sifting through the work, I realized that each poem was a photograph – snapshots of my past growing up in the South. There were visits to battlefields, candy cigarettes, a trip to Knoxville, adultery, sex, death and a forgotten name check of Sally Mann on a fateful trip to Helen Keller’s childhood home in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
The poems in Render had been in search of an arc, a sequence, a framework to hang upon for years and they finally found it in an unlikely place. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that two Southerners happened to be in London at the same time, but I don’t believe in coincidences. While I was putting this manuscript together, I learned something else about Mann that most people don’t know – she’s also a poet. For me, that’s synchronicity.
The construction of Render is an homage to Mann – from the cover image taken by Colin Potts (another great bit of synchronicity) to the title poem dedicated to her indelible images. But a love of Mann or photography is not required to gain entry into these poems. If you grew up in the ‘70s, ‘80s or ‘90s, there are references to great movies, music and events that shaped us growing up. Familial discord, sexual experimentation, love lost and found – that’s all here, too.
As Daniel Nathan Terry says in his wonderful blurb for Render: These poems are the photographs we never intend to take but somehow always find, years later, tucked into the shoebox of memory, fully developed in the darkness we so carefully keep.
My hope, as with all my work, is that you will see a bit of yourself in these poems. Go on. Open the box.
White Horse of Conquest (1999-2002)
Papa in middle-age crisis—
we stare down this damn
Y2K, waiting for the
world 2 revel & glitch 0-0-0,
out here on this quiet estate
that’s guarded by the fence we spent
a summer posting and railing,
and now in this deep winter at
the end of the innocent world
the clock moans over with jubilee
and false comfort
because in this millennial hour
a time has been born
and soon the sky will burn blue into our memories
and you will crash into the breast of your mistress
while I’m left holding my
mother at the bottom of the staircase
and they are still pulling bodies parts from
the apple pit.
Red Horse of War (2003)
Uncut soldier boy
under the floorboards of
your parents roachy Kentucky house,
who knew the fates
would take you from this war
to the oil war in the sandland of Saddam.
Lover who took in my semen like water,
when I was seventeen I said
half of my generation will die from war
and the other half from AIDS.
I was no false prophet,
but goddamn, sweetheart,
you fated both.
Black Horse of Famine (2007-2008)
Anorexia at twenty-seven.
One hundred is a doomed number
when you hangs it on your homosexual bones:
double the headshakes.
All the beautiful men in the world
can’t save you
when pushing you
onto your back grunting
“damn, you have a fuckin’ big dick, baby”
and they’ll leave you come late morning,
where you wake,
on borrowed time,
hung-over, deflated, and starving.
Pale Horse of Death (2008—2010)
All of them went down gracefully,
these paternal old folks
in beds of peace
and in their last dream;
then on a sweet summer morning at thirty
death came for me.
In a spin I was down,
lover screaming on his knees,
and as the world fades to black
I cease to breathe.
© Montgomery Maxton
From Stephen S. Mills:
I write in silence. No music. No television. No other people in my apartment. I can’t take the distraction and my mind is often going so fast that it takes all my concentration to keep my fingers typing out the words or writing out the words. That’s not to say music doesn’t influence my work.
When I was asked to write a soundtrack to my first book of poems, He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices, I was excited, but I also felt a lot of pressure. I’ve always loved music, but I’ve never felt confident in my musical tastes. I’m not someone who knows all the hip indie stuff or the person that listens to music that is really “artistic,” but sounds like shit. Let’s just say, I never really argue with people too much about music (unless it’s about my deep loathing of Katy Perry). I leave the great musical debates to others. I do, however, argue with great intensity over my amazing taste in movies, television shows, and books.
The songs I selected range a bit in style and sound, but all capture something about my book. My book deals a lot with sex and violence, but also how love fits into both of these. The people in my poems are brave, yet fearful of the dangers of our modern world. Who is the next victim? Who or what is the killer? Will we survive?
Some songs were easy to pick. For example, Scissor Sisters has a song called “Sex and Violence” and they are one of my favorite bands. Ben Folds was another easy pick. He’s greatly influenced me from the time I was a young teenager sitting alone in my room listening to him over and over again. His song “Best Imitation of Myself” was written when he felt he had finally stopped imitating others and found his own style, which is what my first book is showcasing. These are my poems and no one else’s.
The theme song to True Blood, “Bad Things,” also quickly made the list. It really is a good representation of the book (except there are no vampires in my book). I really should find a way to work Eric and Alcide into a poem or into my bed (which would then lead to a poem).
Others songs represent the sex and even the fun in the book. During the three years I wrote these poems, I spent a lot of time in gay clubs dancing to Rihanna, Ke$ha, and Lady Gaga (all of which appear on this soundtrack). Rihanna’s “S&M” very much fits the content of the book, but I also put it on here because my friend Mark has deemed it my theme song (plus it is my initials). Ke$sha’s “Cannibal” mentions Jeffrey Dahmer, who is a centerpiece of the book, so of course it made the cut (pun intended).
I closed the soundtrack with Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” This is one of my favorite songs and it felt like a fitting end. My book is full of tragedy, death, horrible accidents, hate crimes, and murders, but there is also a sense of hope and the idea that we must celebrate the time we have.
In the end, this soundtrack gives you a taste of my poems and a glimpse into me as a writer and a listener.
- “Best Imitation of Myself” by Ben Folds Five
- “Bad Things” by Jace Everett
- “Gonna’ Make You Love Me More” by Ryan Adams
- “S&M” by Rihanna
- “American Triangle” by Elton John
- “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse
- “Home” by Jay Brannan
- “Going To A Town” by Rufus Wainwright
- “Cannibal” by Ke$ha
- “Sex and Violence” by Scissor Sisters
- “Gimme a Sign” by Ryan Adams
- “Criminal” by Fiona Apple
- “Government Hooker” by Lady Gaga
- “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone
Recently, we asked Theresa Senato Edwards why she wrote Voices Through Skin:
I’ve had OCD since I was about four years old, maybe younger, but I’m not sure. I didn’t know what I had until I was 26 and watched a 60 minutes episode that really can be credited with introducing the disorder to the world. I was one of many people who realized because of that show that I had OCD. When I wrote the book, I funneled some of my symptoms into the poems, some of the rituals (“Her Rituals”), the worries of absurd things (“Homesick”), the counting (“Back Seat”), the repetitions (“The Touch of the Notch”), and the fears (“Joanie Bach”). Voices Through Skin also shares a child’s confusion with her gender (“Bending” and “Closet”), among other confusions; other disorders as seen in poems like “Lady,” “The Smell of Alcohol,” “Voices in Dad’s Chest,” “On Your Back,” and “His Profile.” With Voices Through Skin, I hope to reach anyone who has OCD or any similar disorder in which they constantly question their thoughts or actions.
Please read this poem by our friend Daniel Nathan Terry – and if you know someone in North Carolina, please urge them to vote AGAINST NC AMENDMENT ONE.
It’s shaping up to be a big weekend for Sibling Rivalry Press. It all starts Friday night with ASSARACUS: A CELEBRATION OF GAY POETRY:
Sponsored by the Rainbow Book Fair, Belhue Press,
Sibling Rivalry Press, and CLAGS (Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies)
at The City University of New York Graduate Center
Room C198, Concourse Level
365 Fifth Ave
New York, NY 10016
7:30 - 9:30 PM
On March 23, 2012, the night before the Rainbow Book Fair, CLAGS (The Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies) and Sibling Rivalry Press present Assaracus: A Celebration of Gay Poetry. For the first time, poets from the first six issues of Assaracus: A Journal of Gay Poetry will read together, legend alongside rising, established next to emerging. Assaracus was created in the spirit of community and brotherhood. Assaracus: A Celebration of Gay Poetry will showcase those themes through the collective voices some of gay poetry’s brightest contemporary writers – in one place, at one time.
The night will also feature the launch of Assaracus: Issue 06 (featuring cover art by Seth Ruggles Hiler), and include remarks on gay publishing and poetry from Ian Young, groundbreaking founder of Catalyst Press and editor of The Male Muse, an early, daring, and important anthology of gay poets.
Come kick off Rainbow Book Fair weekend with the Assaracus poets. Free & open to the public.
Confirmed readers: Christopher Hennessy, Matthew Hittinger, Frank J Miles, Stephen Scott Mills, Eric Norris, Philip F. Clark, Collin Kelley, Michael Klein, Evan J. Peterson, Steven Riel, Robert Siek, Bryan Borland, Steven Cordova, Chuck Willman, Philip (No F.) Clark, Joseph Harker, Emanuel Xavier, Isaiah Vianese, David-Glen Smith, Christopher Gaskins, Perry Brass, Guillermo Filice Castro, Nicolas Destino, D. Gilson, Glenn Phillips, Patrick Stevens, and remarks by Ian Young.
THEN, on Saturday, March 24, don’t miss SRP at the Rainbow Book Fair, happening at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, 208 West 13th Street in NYC. We’ll be at Table A3 next to Belhue Press. Collin Kelley will be at our table at 2:00, and Stephen S. Mills will being reading from He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices at 3:00. We’ll have special book fair prices on all our titles, including the not-yet released Assaracus Issue 06, and we’ll give away a couple of subscriptions to Assaracus.
The Rainbow Book Fair is where Sibling Rivalry Press began. It’s the only largest LGBT book fair in the world and every year it gets better and better. You don’t want to miss this, folks.
I always listen to music when I write. I must have listened to each of these pieces at least once while writing Nocturnal Omissions with Gavin Geoffrey Dillard, but not in this order. In a way, I think the proper order of the songs only suggested itself over time, as the book developed and we got to know each other better. You will notice one odd man out here, the centerpiece of the selection, Enigma Variations: Variation IX, Nimrod, by Sir Edward Elgar. Love is an enigma to me, as I hope it is for you. I hope it always remains so–infinitely inventive and endlessly fascinating in all its incarnations.
As for Elgar and Nimrod, I can think of no other piece of music that comes so close to capturing the precise moment when affection for another really takes hold of the heart–that second on the silver screen when the kiss fades to bliss. To black. We wake the next morning in a very familiar but very different world. We look up, we look down, we look all around, and then we look at each other, just like Laurel and Hardy.
Don’t Just Sit There, The Crack, from The Album “In Search of The Crack,” http://youtu.be/y987uNsAp4k
Head On, The Jesus And Mary Chain, http://youtu.be/eGp47YwDZ48
Love Is A Stranger, Eurythmics, http://youtu.be/vyqww0RScMs
What Do I Get?, The Buzzcocks, Live in Boston 1980, http://youtu.be/p_nsp7bCEls
Nimrod, from Sir Edward Elgar’s “Enigma Variations,” Daniel Barenboim conducting, http://youtu.be/sUgoBb8m1eE
The Way You Look Tonight, Fred Astaire and Olivia Newton-John: http://youtu.be/GHIGSegHUHU
Paper Moon, Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra: http://youtu.be/USay5T-Er5k
I Want To Be In Dixie, Laurel and Hardy: http://youtu.be/43DRnH_zoxo
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Bryan Borland, Publisher
PHONE: (870) 723-6008
SIBLING RIVALRY PRESS TITLES HONORED BY THE AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION
The American Library Association has unveiled its 2012 “Over the Rainbow” list of noteworthy LGBT books published between July 1, 2010, and December 31, 2011, and of four poetry titles included, two were published by Sibling Rivalry Press.
From the ALA website:
The committee’s mission is to create a bibliography of books that exhibit commendable literary quality and significant authentic lgbt content and are recommended for adults over age 18. It is not meant to be all inclusive, but is intended as an annual core list for readers and librarians searching for recommendations of a cross-section of the year’s titles.
We proudly congratulate Ocean Vuong, author of Burnings, and Kevin Simmonds, editor of Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality, as well as the over 100 poets featured in Collective Brightness.
Poetry. Asian American Studies. LGBT Studies. The poems of BURNINGS explore refugee culture, be the speaker a literal refugee from a torn homeland, or a refugee from his own skin, burning with the heat of awakening eroticism. As two-time National Slam Champion Roger Bonair-Agard says: “Ocean manages to imbue the desperation of his being alive—with a savage beauty. It is not just that Ocean can render pain as a kind of loveliness, but that his poetic line will not let you forget the hurt or the garish brilliance of your triumph; will not let you look away. These poems shatter us detail by detail because Ocean leaves nothing unturned, because every lived thing in his poems demands to be fed by you; to nourish you in turn. You will not leave these poems dissatisfied. They will fill you utterly.”
Collective Brightness: LGBTIQ Poets on Faith, Religion & Spirituality
Kevin Simmonds, Editor
Available in print
Poetry. LGBT Studies. The first anthology of its kind, with poets representing several countries (the United States, Singapore, Korea, Australia, the United Kingdom, India, Malaysia, Japan and elsewhere), COLLECTIVE BRIGHTNESS gathers over 100 established and emerging contemporary LGBTIQ poets writing from and about various faiths, religions and spiritual traditions. Says Rigoberto González of National Book Critics Circle, “COLLECTIVE BRIGHTNESS sheds a shining light on a journey that no longer takes place in the dark. The glory of holding Kevin Simmonds’s anthology in one’s hands is that it burns as the sacred text of our queer times: heavy with burden, luminous with hope.”
ABOUT THE PRESS:
Located just outside of Little Rock, Arkansas, Sibling Rivalry Press develops, publishes, and promotes outlaw artistic talent. Our aim is to create literary and poetic rock stars. We are also home to Assaracus, the world’s only print journal devoted to contemporary gay poetry. Learn more at www.siblingrivalrypress.com.