One of our six Pushcart nominations, Ocean Vuong’s “Self-Portrait with Exit Wounds,” has won a Pushcart Prize and will be featured in the next Pushcart anthology. The poem first appeared in ASSARACUS ISSUE 08. Congratulations, Ocean!
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