Friday, November 28, 2008

TBLWTB Reading @ Rutgers University

A reading in honor of World AIDS Day.

December 2, 2008, 7-9pm
Rutgers University
Center for Latino Culture and Arts near Au Bon Pan
122 College Avenue
New Brunswick, New Jersey

Join "To Be Left With The Body" contributors Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, Pamela Sneed and Terence Taylor, and co-editors Cheryl Clarke and Steven G. Fullwood, for a special reading and open mike presentation.

TBLWTB is the third in a series of publications created by and for black gay and bisexual men to explore the impact of HIV/AIDS on their lives. Published by AIDS Project Los Angeles, the collection features contributions from 16 writers and poets, and a series of photographs by New York artist Artis Q.

Cheryl Boyce-Taylor is the author of three books of poetry, including her latest, "Convincing the Body." Advanced copies of "KONG & Other Works," by Pamela Sneed, will be available in December 2008. Terence Taylor's first novel, "Bite Marks," will be published by St. Martin's Press in the Fall 2009.

Clarke is the author of four books including "The Days of Good Looks." Fullwood is the founder and publisher of Vintage Entity Press.

Books are free. A book signing will follow the reading and open mike presentation. Light refreshments will be served.

Friday, November 14, 2008

a few moments with “Shug” avery r. young

Steven: first q: your poetry is reminiscent of ntozake shange's chorepoem style, but has its own flavor and texture. why do you write like this? what the pulse behind your modus operandi as a wordsmith and spoken word artist?

Avery: wow ... them smart questions yo. lol

Steven: silly boy

Avery: i struggled a long time to like what i saw from me on page .... for me it was my words but they just wasnt doin anything i felt was interestin .... readin mama sonia (sanchez) n sis. shange's work i was like .. ok thats how i want language to move n then readin patricia smith's work i was like that's how that joint should feel. so i guess the answer to your question would be i write the way i write to keep a language or a "tongue" n/or aesthetic bouncin on page .... as a performer & author i look at the page as a stage & therefore the language has to challenge & excite .. so i clip some g(s) .. lower case the join & italicized a quotes to move n groove it yo

Avery: as fara as my mode of operatin .... i do what moves me ... i perform & right the way in which i respond ... i like sweat n hawk heavy preachin; sis. maywaeather buckin when the tony start that holyghost music on the organ; all that cussin millie jackson, lawanda page n rudy mae moore do to punctuate shit; james brown splittin; nna simone see-line woman blastin 3:38am; tay-tay actin a fool at the blk family reunion; all these things make me laugh or clap pr cry or boogie or turn to my neighbor n say "ooooo weeeeeee! they showin out" ...n thats all i'm doin .. showin out .... thats the method the process or art or craft comes in its all from a real place so what i do is more ritual than "shuckin"

Steven: very nice. what are you working on now?

Avery: what i aint workin on yo ...lol. ahhhh .. lets see i'm workin on curriculum now .. i'm writing a prose-etic hip hop theatrics curriculum

Steven: for what school? independently?

Avery: & then i'm workin on some music with my boy dj itch 13. both bofe them joints just on some workin stuff. the curriculum is for the Chicago Public Schools board

Steven: what grade?

Avery: grades 6th - 9th

Steven: dope.

Avery: thank you.

***
and now, a poem from TBLWTB by avery...

***
mandingo gun
or notes on the sexploitation of coco-dorms

avery r. young

massa coppin mansions off dem liquor store niggaz
fuckin raw-thug-dizzle on cue spittin black holes ready
dem niggaz nigga each other mo dan de ku klux or dis poem
ever will & dey keep cummin dem niggaz
keep cummin thugroomin bluntbrunchin ploppin
dey brown faces drippy with dana samples
& dey keep cummin ouchin creamin soulin sheets
(you’d think niggaz had cycles some of dem
even utter get me pregnant nigga) all while massa countin
washingtons lincolns franklins countin uncle sam countin
(one lil / two lil / three lil nigga-rins) massa countin
dey swollen dicks openin dey swollen man-ginas
turnin ery brown red (yo chekkit) cant no closet/ship fit
all dem niggaz & dey keep cummin & white boys black
boys hot rican boys download upload all side neck-n-backload
spill babies all over our nasty azz selves cause dese niggaz red
boned-ed packin big bangee bananas & dey keep cummin
so much its like dats all god made em to do dey never run outta dick
or hammers to knock each other out with & dey keep cummin
pied piper L7’s to gyms so dey too can achieve a fresh outta county
look & dey keep cummin bare chest two pairs of boxers
(cause shirts causes niggaz to itch & niggaz refuse to pull dey pants
up) & dey keep cummin & will fuck a sista so granny wont
speculate 52 minutes of junebugs azz on sale fo 59.95
& dey keep cummin peddlin AIDS & all her opportunist kin
keep holy rollers screamin i told yall & dey keep cummin
cause niggaz gotta eat (& how else niggaz gonna eat
unless we show our azzes) & dey keep cummin wont stop cummin
cause we niggaz aint right by each other but love entertainment
we niggaz wont stop playin games to seal relationships
& open communication with one another niggaz wont chill
with de gettin off & get on some lets live fo real & make life
be ery flavaful fantasy we beat to niggaz/nigg-ahs/nig-gods
are we stevie fukkin wonderin how many mo millions massa
gon keep reepin from him poster freaks befo we bust
ourselves endangered (right now on line) you can pay-per-view
some hungry nigga cummin inside another hungry nigga fo roof weed
& all de free wet azz him eyes can gander him aint gonna kiss
dude & him aint gotta commit dude name to memory
all him gotta do is be mandigo gun & shoot (bless him wretched soul)
him make enough change to cop timbs & fendi shades
but dis nigga cant shit piss shower belch unless massa can see it
& dis nigga still fool enough to believe him cum out on top
cause him aint de one gettin juiced in de booty

***

now, back to the interview...

***

Steven: what do you do as clark kent?: meaning 9-5er.

Avery: yeah i'm tryin to upgrade to $50 drawz & not be worried bout gettin dookie stains in them. lmao. did it say that out loud?!!! that is what i do ... keep my drawz clean

naw .. for real ... 9-5 i am a teachin artist / teachin creative writing & performance

Steven: art @ CPS or somewhere else, or independently

Avery: through Project A.I.M. inside CCAP @ Columbia College - Chicago & through Young Chicago Authors

Steven: Very nice. I ask this next question frequently because I think it matters. Why do you write and what do you hope to achieve by writing and sharing your work?

Avery: YCA is the organization that does GIrlSpeak & the swaggerzine joint i was workin on all summer ....

why do i write?

i write because i've always done it. its like laughing to me. i can't remember when i didnt laugh

i cant remember when i didn't write

i've become such a better human or have had such a better human experience because i write

i've been outside this country ... i've met & shared many special moments with folk because i write

its easy to do

Steven: nice. nice.

Avery: its the only thing to do outside of breathin n bein b.l.a.c.k. ... lol

what do i hope to achieve by writing .... more good times with good people ... some books ... n a body of work that speak fo me long after i aint here to do shit my damn self ....i mean do it myself. my bad. that damn millie jackson!

who do i hope to achieve from sharin my work ... paid .. lmao

Steven: last q. tell me what you think of To Be Left with the Body

Avery: well yes .. paid. but more importantly a story is told the way i told it & it was communicated with a person that said .. that fool know he know what he know ...

what doi i think about To Be Left With The Body ...

i think that book is like bad azz cimena saturday ...leem tell it

n i mean it in the good way.

its like watchin ... sweetback's baaad assssss song, the watermelon man & space is the place all in none sittin

i mean one sittin

its this very frank . honest / aberant / yet prgressive collection of language

nothin bout the book is dead

the voices all tangible / textured

grits & cheese

neck bones & collard greens

Steven: we talk about death and life but everything is alive

Avery: but all on a blue rectangle plate with parsley .. lmao. right!

erything in the book is alive n should be

Steven: i agree

Avery: cause we talkin bout an issue that doesnt see the 6 ft of dirt

Steven: cha

Avery: aint gonna see 6 ft of dirt anytime soon

Steven: the magic is here, it's just waiting to be acknowledged.

Avery: its some thick shit yo. 7 the book T

Steven: wait till you see the new stuff.

Avery: or To Be Left With The Body is soe real life / eryday i'm livin with this language / with this cirmcumstance / with this dick in hand / with this hole in my heart / with this missin my mamma

my big mama

the book is powerful yo

i know when i write about the subject i try to not to speak of the death of it

i try to speak to the livin of it

the "now what" the "and" of it

Steven: uhmm hmmm

Avery: n i believe the work Pamela . you & the other folk in this joint recognises that

she donty look like she no more

come on dude

i be ready to room around the room sometimes when i read the book ...

still

dude! fire

Steven: lol

Avery: you know i like To Be Left With the Body like i like mama sonia's Wounded in the House of a Friend

and for the same reasons

Steven: elaborate. tell me why you like TBLWTB and Wounded.

Avery: they raw as my students will say ....
tblwtb .... pushin language & syntax ... its the new speak of an epidemic ... the work is alive ... you hear them accents / the pauses / the sneezes / the pot liquor ....like Wounded i feel myself descending into the pages of this book 7 i am left with an urgency to activate the advocacy ....

like mama sonia folk up in that book are really doin some work

Steven: Pamela and I are working on her next collection KONG. go here: http://www.new.facebook.com/friends/#/note.php?note_id=25849594036

Avery: that looks sick as hell yo

Steven: wait till you read it

Avery: i mean thats what i'm talkin bout

i'm so happy we write yo

as in we i mean black folk

gay folk

straight / white / crooked polka dot folk

i'm so happy folk write

Steven: me too

Avery: cause even when i dig it or not. its documentation that somebody is present

Steven: true

Avery: i mean at the end of the day sharin yo writin is a way to let folk outside lil mama'em know you been here

you was here

you gon be here

you feel me

boy i'm bout to run up in this joint

but thats what i feel yo

Steven: lol

Avery: i love staceyann chin writes

Steven: yeah, she's scary.

Avery: i love jb (baldwin & brown) wrote. you feel me?

o, cc carter told me to tell you you cant have me

Steven: tell i already got you and that i am coming for her. in fact give her my email, if you don't mind.

Avery: i will she the new executive director at YCA. she started last week

Steven: nice. love it.

Avery: i was like i know who can knock this joint outta the water

n although she was makin moves at Center on Halsted .. she can make real moves here

Steven: nice. lovely.

Avery: i'm actually thinkin bout incorporating To Be Left With The Body in my spring semester master class @ YCA. it spose to be a lyric class inspired by the book of stevie wonder innervisions

Steven: cool.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

TBLWTB @ Good Vibrations!

by Kevin Simmonds

Good Vibrations
is a sex shop, a San Francisco Bay-area institution. They sell toys, massage oils, lube, condoms, books and even have a back room. Not the kind you'd expect though. It's a gallery—only in San Francisco(!)—and a great venue for the SF Bay-area premiere reading of To Be Left with the Body.

I arrived first and Marvin K. White showed a little after 6:30pm. As everyone feasted on the cheeses, crackers and fruit (ah, papaya), Jewelle Gomez arrived. A few sips of the bubbly and she was ready. The audience was ready too—and precisely the motley crew of an audience we'd hoped for. Among them friends of poet and artist extraordinaire Truong Tran; a spirited gang from Larkin Street Youth Services; B/GLAM co-founder Cedric Brown; sweet-faced poet and activist Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano; voracious reader and Cal professor Matthew Yau; and, oddly enough, London-based scholar and writer Sophie Mayer. She'd just arrived in San Francisco. I don’t remember how in the world she heard about the event.

Marvin opened the reading by citing the 2005 study which found that over 45% of black men who have sex with men are infected with HIV. This, of course, is why AIDS Project Los Angeles’s publications are essential by informing Black and Latino queer communities, annihilating societal ignorance, and exposing the willful neglect of our government in addressing this crisis.

Jewelle, with her warmth and refreshingly unadorned presence, read "Choirs," a stunning remembrance of her late cousin Allen, a gospel tenor. She closed with a poem based on the after party of the premiere of the film Absolutely Positive where she and Doris, a woman in the film, cut up about the changing same of race and invisibility.

I was up next and remember only how the audience laughed in unexpected places. I suppose I set the tone by reading a new poem inspired by a gchat exchange with my friend Brian McQueen. Let's just say it's about the word "faggot." For more, check out the forthcoming video clip.

Marvin closed the reading with "14", that powerful invocation of remembering and witnessing, followed by manifestos on dicks and ass—in particular, Marvin's ass. The night's glorious amen was "Glossolalia," inspired by the 2008 Cave Canem retreat, homage to black drag queens.

The night was lit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Gomez, Simmonds & White TBLWTB Reading @ Good Vibrations in SF!

Thursday October 23 at 6:30pm
TBLWTB Contributors Jewelle Gomez, Kevin Simmonds and Marvin White will be reading from the anthology at Good Vibrations 1620 Polk Street (at Sacramento Street) San Francisco, CA 94109 (415) 345-0400. For more information contact Camilla Lombard @ clombard@goodvibes.com or at (415) 974-8985 ext.201.

A founding member of GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), Ms. Gomez is the double Lambda Award-winning writer of The Gilda Stories. Mr. Simmonds is a writer and musician whose works, including "Wisteria: Twilight Songs of the Swamp Country," have been performed throughout the US, Japan, the UK and the Caribbean. Mr. White, author of last rights and Nothin' Ugly Fly, is a poet and co-founder of B/GLAM (Black Gay Letters and Arts Movement).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In this Body: Reflections of a Recent Reading of To Be Left With the Body


By Raymond Berry (TWLWTB Contributor)

To Be Left With the Body held its first major reading in New York, at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) on Thursday, August 14, 2008. The reading featured co-editors, Cheryl Clarke and Steven G. Fullwood. I was also one of the presenters. The audience for this reading consisted of a support group for men of color called The Barbershop, a weekly discussion group for Black men who have sex with men. Each week the group focuses on a different topic, pertinent issues confronting participant's lives. The Barbershop’s intent is to provide an atmosphere for thought-provoking conversation with the end goal of skills building and increased community support. It is a program sponsored by GMHC.

I came to New York (for the first time) specifically for this reading. It was important that I share this work and prove that “positive” individuals can transcend “this body” of existence. Co-editors Steven and Cheryl sought to create a work that is universal to show that “we” are still in crisis, and that communities at large are capable of splintering this wall of inhumanity that separates us.

There were about thirty people present. We did not start by introducing ourselves or the work. Instead, we brought this audience into this world, one in which silence, shame, fear, and invisibility serve as clouds that block possibility -- the light within ourselves that we often suppress, somehow trapped under the weight of what we’ve done. No longer people, but monsters inside ourselves, broken by moments.

We read various selections of the work that spoke to us. Some are own, and some by the other contributors. Cheryl read excerpts from Samiya Bashir’s poem “Clitigation,” and Naomi Jackson’s short story “Before and After.” She also provided a unique interpretation of Marvin K. White’s “14.” Her reading of her own poem, “Body Double,” seemed to resonate most with the audience.

I was simply ecstatic to be in the company of this great woman writer.

Steven - what can I say about him? His reading of “Death Poem” was amazing. The way I imagined it. The way I maybe would have read it. But it is “his” way that brings us in the center of it - able to touch it, smell it, crave it, then wish we could forget. “It tickles,” he writes - my favorite line of the poem. So many entendres here. So many memories I relived, and that of those listening or reading these words. I was anticipating his reading of “Here,” but he did not read it. However, he did read “Popeye’s” by Pamela Sneed, and it reminded us of the journey - the one that has been, the one we travel, and the one we fear will swallow us.

I read some of the poems that I am deeply connected with. They include “Sustiva,” “Dirty,” “Truvada,” “Transformation,” “1995,” and “Journal.” Some of these works do not appear in TBLWTB, but they are equally important. I felt most comfortable here, not afraid to experience the moment. The silence of it. Sometimes we read, disconnecting ourselves from the world of the poem. Meaning is lost here. The audience made us feel welcome and free to explore the feelings we experienced when first crafting these poems.

Following the reading, there was a Q & A session, in which we had an opportunity to comment on the work and answer various questions, including what the work does aesthetically and contextually, and our assessment of the work as a whole, and how it’s compared to previous works. I responded by saying that one should not compare works, although it is the work of literary critics. It does a disservice to the work. TBLWTB is a continuation of what has been done, but experience is transcribed differently. The perspective is fresh.

One person said that he appreciated the authenticity of the work, but I got the impression that he assumed that “we” the authors, personally experienced the world of these poems.

This may or may be so, but I felt it necessary to explain that one should not assume the writer of a work and its speaker are the same. It was also brought to my attention that parts of this work can be transformed into film. I would love to see this as a series of monologues, a one-man show, or even a short play, especially the “Journal” suite.

We concluded by signing copies of the work. One audience member planted his lips on my face, and held on, as if he knew we both needed it. It was in that moment, that I felt his connection to my work, and came into the knowledge that when I read these poems, I do not have to be ashamed of them or be afraid to let go.

Friday, August 15, 2008

TBLWTB Interview with Clarke and Fullwood, by Herukhuti @ Black Funk

Black Funk was founded based upon the work of Herukhuti, a sociologist, sexologist and relationship coach, traditional/urban African shaman, educator, cultural animator, social theorist, and community activist. Black Funk draws upon Heru's philosophy and theories of human development, systems, and social transformation. See blackfunk.org for more details.

*************

HERU:
Why this book and why now, both for you and for the world?

STEVEN: TO BE LEFT WITH THE BODY is the third in a series of books created by and for Black gay men produced by AIDS Project Los Angeles as a creative way to address HIV risk.

That said, the book is both nostalgic and magical for me, a grateful return to the first editing job I ever had. My experience with Colin Robinson, formerly the Executive Director of New York State Black Gay Network, and George Ayala, then the outreach educator/coordinator from APLA, taught me how to collaborate with editors and writers, solicit work from artists and to dedicate myself to the process. Working with Colin, George and the writers in Think Again was a critical step toward opening my own press a year later. I thank George and specifically Pato Hebert, who helmed the project for APLA, for allowing me this space to create and refine my thinking about the endless possibilities in doing HIV outreach to Black gay men. Both men were open to new things and continuously strive to do their work in creative, profound ways. It was a joy to work with Pato on this project because his vision and talents are expansive. Not only did he design the book, he also gave Cheryl and I space to imagine this project without limiting us. All we had to do is hit our deadlines. Check out his work on the countless APLA publications online at apla.org.

CHERYL: Thank you, Heru, for doing this interview. Actually, I got introduced to the publications of AIDS Project Los Angeles with Vol.4, Issue 1 of CORPUS, edited by Alex Juhasz in 2006, in which I published an article on Black Gay Writing. That particular issue explored women’s relationships with HIV+ men.

However, working with you, Steven, on TBLWTB, recalled my work on CONDITIONS from 1981 to 1990. If you remember, CONDITIONS was a feminist journal “of writing for women with an emphasis on writing by lesbians,” begun in Brooklyn in 1977. Together with a multi-racial collective of dykes—Dorothy Allison, Jewelle Gomez, Mariana Romo-Carmona, Elly Bulkin, Jan Clausen, among the many over the course of the time I was an editor—we gathered and edited the writing of scores of women writing for women during the most active and activist period of lesbian-feminist publishing in the 20th century--and so far, the 21st century. Barbara Smith’s groundbreaking article, “Towards a Black Feminist Criticism,” appeared in CONDITIONS: TWO in 1977. This article radicalized criticism of Black women’s writing. So many of us, as critics, lesbian and non-lesbian, owe our orientations to Smith’s article, in which, among many other things, she interpreted Morrison’s SULA as a “lesbian novel.” You both may also remember CONDITIONS: FIVE, THE BLACK WOMEN’S ISSUE in 1979, guest-edited by Barbara Smith and Lorraine Bethel, which was the first publication to feature self-identified Black lesbian writers. So, TBLWTB took me back to those halcyon days of lesbian-feminism.

STEVEN: Yes, Cheryl, CONDITIONS, FIVE was quite important for me as a young Black gay man. It sort of showed me a way and opened a way for APLA’s publications and TBLWTB.

CHERYL: Except we could not distribute CONDITIONS for free!

STEVEN: Oh yes! TBLWTB, for the world, specifically the Black queer community, groundbreaking as it is the first co-gender, co-edited journal produced by APLA, and contains both male and female writers and expands the original premise of the book by also considering the impact that HIV/AIDS has on not just Black gay males, but also the Black queer community en masse; those who carry the virus, conjuring those who have passed, aging, and probably most interesting, an acceptance of life and death wrought in creative, thought-provoking ways. More importantly there is a celebration of the body which is something Black -people have always been mindful of as a legacy of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Being told we were nothing but bodies is a confounding feeling. It hurts you where you live, born into pain because of one’s very body. Learning the history and my own complicity in self-denigration has led me on a quest not only to recover and celebrate my body in my life and writing, but to assess how this disembodiment has impacted the Black community, specifically Black queer bodies. Whose body is this, exactly? Fodder for Republicans? Whipping children for “normal” Black people? A voiceless, disembodied sociological experiment, always subject to, or farmed as white fantasies and terrors? The photo on the cover was taken when I was in Ghana, at Cape Coast at the Elmina Slave Castle. The last look at by some of our ancestors before they were shipped off to God knows where to be enslaved or killed. That abuse is in the blood memory and pain-body of the diasporic African. We need to remember this, so we can heal ourselves, the larger picture of how I believe we should address HIV/AIDS risk.

CHERYL: If I could chime in, Steven and Heru, about the body, the Black body, and the Black body’s pain: I’d like to say that I think the body records history, and this is infinitely crucial for and to the Black body—yours and mine and those of the contributors to TO BE LEFT WITH THE BODY who share the body of their work with us. The lesions, the scars, the wounds (which are historical record) remind us subconsciously and consciously and psychically of the last view of the edge of the Guinea coast and the first view of the West Indies and then the final debarkations in Boston or the Georgia Sea Islands or New York.

Wherever. Inside of all of us in the West, no matter whom we pass or pose as, there is a Black body in all of us—rather like that “Black Mother” Lorde says is in all of us. Sorta like Heru’s “Black mama sauce!” [a poem from Conjuring Black Funk: Notes on Culture, Sexuality and Spirituality, Vol. 1, Vintage Entity Press, 2007.)

STEVEN: Yes, “Black mama sauce.” Visual representations of the bodies in the book compliment the stunning array of poems, essays and short stories that affirm “bodyspeak” before, during and after sex; during and after HIV/AIDS; as the body returns to dust; and the undertaking of the body as a text itself in remembrance pieces.

What does it mean to be left with the body in today’s world? Witness war on the television and in the papers. Ask someone who is often reduced in public discourse to nothing but a body to be controlled, abused and discarded. Queer bodies, Black bodies, bodies of color, working-class bodies, poor and disaffected bodies. To be left with a body in revolt, in joy, in pain, pleasure, writhing, wheezing, erupting, moving toward its end. These are the places I think the book goes, with clear eyes, no pity, no regrets. Witness.

To continue reading go to Blackfunk.org.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

francine j. harris – her intention

why write?

Once a week, I go to an open mike here in Detroit. And on the host’s sign-up sheet, there’s that question. Column A: What’s Your Name? Column B: Why do you write poetry?

And every week, I try to come up with something clever and light, particularly since my poems – aren’t always. Like: “What else am I gonna’ do after six o’clock that won’t make me fat?” or “Someone put a gun to my pillow, I sneezed and a poem came out.” or “As a kid, I used to eat my gum.”

But ultimately, every week I have to think about it. Why do I write?

It’s like when your lover asks you: “Why do you love me?” and you have to start the list. Because you’re smart. Because my heart thumps when you walk through the door. Because you’re hot and I can’t live without your dick (you gotta’ work on ego in those moments). But ultimately – everything you say sounds awful in some way. Selfish. Sometimes it borders on cruel. Because you complete me. Because no one else gets me. Because I need you.

I’ve got secret lovers. Things like trains. Places like the ocean. Grandiose ideas like God. There’s something I only share in the presence of these spaces. I tell it to them over and over again and they don’t tell anyone. I feel that way about writing. About the poems. Sometimes I think that’s what demands poetry to exist in its metaphorical environment. There’s an ambiguity in one’s true nature, always conflict, always dual meanings, and often – a cloaking. Something not every one else should see. Poems are very much about lingering in that space for me. I am comfortable there. Every poem has a secret of mine. Since its job is to communicate, it shares, and therefore does its job. But there is a secret in it, if only just in its creation. The poem’s mystery is the way it flirts with the reader and threatens betrothal of the creator. As an artist, I just can’t help myself. I love the dance and I love the mirror.

what inspired your poem "in intention?"

dUMBA (the poem’s dedication) was a queer performing arts collective in Brooklyn. It had a long and varied history. I lived there during its final years, where it had incidentally, become comprised of folks of color. Some days it was a gallery walk. Some days it was host to out of town performing artists. Some days (or nights, to be precise) we hosted play parties.

dUMBA is the most complicated space I have ever lived in. It was highly sexual, terribly intellectual, often intoxicated, always engaged, emotionally effusive, sometimes explosive, and it was very spiritual, haunting, magical.

Coming home from our 9 to 5’s, we got into the habit of retreating into roundtable discussions at night. They generally lasted all night. Mondays were generally sober, but by Thursday, they often involved beer (just being honest here). We talked about all kinds of shit. But from these conversations, there was one in particular – about HIV and AIDS that stood out to me. There was this notion, not a theory entirely, a thought really. One of those things you say out loud just so it exists. But something you also quietly want to believe. The theory was that disease is not physical, at least not just physical. That the culprit is mental, spiritual. And that yes, the science is obvious - you come in contact with something contagious, you can catch it. But that there is something to be said, too, about faith, about intention. That there is some immeasurable quality of disease that has to do with what we believe we are susceptible too, or immune to. And we would talk about it while we were gathering boxes of condoms to pass out. And I believe – there was something to that.

Interestingly, the people I knew there survived a spectrum of treacherous physical and emotional circumstances, not related to sex, but certainly the stuff of what can either make or break you. And I always thought something about the spirit, the intention, pulled us all through.

what issues are you dealing with in your current work?

Well, I am bumping up against myself in some ways. The various elements of my writing are calling for distinction between themselves, which probably demands a historical specificity and context. This is something I really struggle with. I find it very hard to incorporate factual information into my writing. I write from the gut. The gut tells its own truth and doesn't have clunky language. So it’s going to be a challenge. Which of course is a good thing.

In the same vein, I think, I want my writing to be unafraid of its perspective. I’m not trying to write political poetry, but I do want my writing to stand on its own and for itself. I want to allow it to be itself and to have its own politic. I worry, sometimes, what people will say, from either side of the political spectrum. Ultimately, I don’t want to give a fuck. And really, that’s easier said than done.

share some of your reactions to TBLWTB.

Damn, Steven...first of all...and I don't have the book with me, so I think I've got the title right - but Death Poem... oh my God. Was brilliant. Brilliant.

As for the rest of the book - well, the lay out is gorgeous. But I just got into it this weekend, and you know - well, there's a lot of painful stuff in there. Maybe I shouldn't have started with raymond berry, I don't know.

But I had to put it down at some point. I'm gonna' have to pull my way through it. But the writing is great and I'm so happy to be a part of it.

in our last conversation you and I talked about spaces we occupy as artists.

isolated spaces are so strange. we crave them. need them. hate them. fight for them. politic for them. politic against them. we dip around the corner with our friends to get to them. we kiss inside them. we inivte others to kiss with us in opposition to them. they are healing and horrible. terrible things happen inside them. sometimes nothing can be accomplished outside of them.

now i feel like i want to write something just around that whole idea. anyway, i think that way about the spaces we occupy as artists. every time we put pen to page, we create spaces, occupy them. we put up our walls and tear down others. it's really amazing - when you think about it - that anyone has any protest about ANY space at all. as humans, we can't help but occupy them.

physical law determines segregation.

art does too. it also worships at the altar of union. its offerings for the sake of society - these jarring connections we make with our paint.