Thursday, July 31, 2008

Four Poems by Kevin Simmonds

French Quarter

for James Baldwin

Instead of art

I'll have one boy

from dusk.

One boy

who knows the relevance

of his body.

Almost no words

will pass between us

until we rinse the hours

from glad bodies

marooned not long enough

like the paradise we took.


Until the father

Until the father

stops insisting the son fuck

any woman

to cure perversion

the son will crave

every mound

of a Japanese man's body smooth

as baby's teeth,

believing that man's smile

almost the same

as the father's hand warm

on the son's neck

brushing something away.


Something Owed

The man across the street
would undo his trousers
and ask me to squeeze lotion
into his underpants.
He never touched me,
only himself.

Some days it's sudden.
Some days it comes on slow:
the unbuckling the scent of aloe and musk
fingers serenading
beneath herringbone trousers later,
momma telling me how nice it is
him taking to me so.

Among men
how many give a daily recital
such as this
somewhere in memory?


The Bodybuilder


by the pump:

pecs in stilettos

shimmy in the flex;


baroque viols;


middle stones.

Turns out,

gay solider


with tears,


of the speakeasy


secret knock

and nod.

Just another man

gone ape


Kevin Simmonds is a writer and musician from New Orleans. His writing appears in Callaloo, FIELD, Massachusetts Review and Poetry, and in anthologies such as Gathering Ground and The Ringing Ear. He composed the music for “Wisteria: Twilight Songs for the Swamp Country,” a collaboration with writer Kwame Dawes. His poem, “Rent,” appears in TBLWTB.

To find out more about Kevin, check out his fly ass webpage here and at the Red Room.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Upcoming readings of TBLWTB - August 2008

To Be Left with the Body Reading
Thursday August 14th
With Cheryl Clarke and Steven G. Fullwood
The Barbershop
The Tisch Building
119 West 24th Street
New York, New York

Hosted by The Barbershop

Join Cheryl Clarke and Steven G. Fullwood, co-editors of To Be Left with the Body, for a reading of their latest work. 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. Clarke is the author of four books including The Days of Good Looks. Fullwood is the publisher of Vintage Entity Press, and a contributor to Be A Father to Your Child, Real Talk from Black Men on Family, Love, and Fatherhood. Books are free. A book signing will follow the presentation. Light refreshments will be served.

Contact: La Meek Williams, 212.367 1102


Body Talk: To Be Left with the Body and Passing for Black Readings
Featuring Cheryl Clarke, Pamela Sneed, Linda Villarosa
Monday August 18th
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm X Boulevard
New York, New York

Hosted by the Black Gay & Lesbian Archive

Join lesbian writers Cheryl Clarke, Pamela Sneed and Linda Villarosa, for an exciting evening of readings from their latest works, and a preview of upcoming projects. Clarke is co-editor of To Be Left With the Body and the author of The Days of Good Looks. Sneed, whose previous work includes Imagine Being More Afraid of Freedom than Slavery, will read from her upcoming work, KONG. Villarosa will read from her first book of fiction, Passing for Black. A book signing will follow the presentation. Free and open to the public.

Contact: Steven G. Fullwood, 212.491.2226

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cheryl Clarke: "black./womyn.:conversation

Cheryl Clarke, co-editor of TBLWTB, is featured in a new film, "black./womyn.:conversations..." here's an excerpt for your viewing pleasure.


about the film.

"black./womyn.:conversations..." will be a feature length docu-film that will concern lesbians of African descent living in the U.S. It will include over 50 interviews with black lesbians of all ages /classes /nationalities/locations discussing a variety of topics including coming out, sexuality and religion, love and relationships, patriarchy, visibility in media, among others as well as a series of short vignettes representing the topics discussed. I'm hoping to provide a film that can encourage progressive dialogue between people on dealing with the image of the black lesbian and the stereotype that come with who black lesbians are portrayed to be. I hope to encourage conversation between black lesbians dealing with class and age, and the lack of communication between these groups and how that affects the overall unity between black lesbians as a group in society.

Redbone Press and TBLWTB!

For those of you in Philly and near Philly, come out for this wonderful program!


Please join RedBone Press in celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the publication of In the Life: A Black Gay Anthology, edited by Joseph Beam. The event will be 5:30 p.m. Saturday, July 19, 2008 at Giovanni's Room Bookstore, 345 South 12th St., Philadelphia, PA 19107. Best-selling author James Earl Hardy (B-Boy Blues series), who wrote the new introduction to In the Life, and RedBone Press publisher Lisa C. Moore will discuss the impact of this seminal collection of black gay men's writing on black gay literature. Mrs. Dorothy Beam, Joseph Beam's mother, will be in attendance; In the Life contributors will read from their work.

And...with each In the Life sold, readers will also receive a copy of To Be Left With the Body!

Come on out, bring a friend, and support RedBone Press!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Congratulations, Raymond!

TBLWTB contributor Raymond Berry's World Left to Us was selected as one of 16 finalists for the 2008 Autumn House Poetry Contest. This year there were over 700 poetry submissions.
The winner will be announced in September.

Good luck, Raymond!

Monday, July 7, 2008

This Body: Raymond Berry on Writing and Risk

Raymond Berry is a writer, poet, and educator. His poetry is published in Warpland: A Journal of Black Literature and Ideas and the Amandla Literary Journal. He earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Chicago State University. His manuscript, Diagnosis, was selected as a semi-finalist in the Seventh Annual Elixir Press Poetry Awards. Berry, a native of Chicago, is at work on a new poetry collection entitled Fire of My Breath.

Below is an excerpt from an interview I conducted with Berry earlier this month.

Tell me about your writing process.
My writing process changes with each project. I did not map out Diagnosis, like I did with my current manuscript. I didn’t say, “I’ll write a poem about this, then I’ll write a poem about that.” Nor, did I make a list of prompts. I wrote when I was most vulnerable. In the late hours of the night. When memory comes back to haunt, and shadows return to remind us of our choices. I dreamt a lot. And I would wake up and try to record what I saw and heard, if I could recall it. I would hear the ancestors speak. Somehow, I felt what they felt—when they were in that moment, facing death. Realizing that they would be next. And I used that. This passed on fear. This passed on emotion. This passed on knowledge. Our fire. It’s interesting because I used this “emotion” in the writing of this book, yet in the poems, there seems to be a disconnect between the speaker of the poem and the action that occurs. Sometimes there is not enough emotion. Almost as if the speaker wears a mask. So, I had to revisit those places, and fully capture who this dominant speaker is. The poem “journal” was written from a dream. Or should I say in a dream-state. I felt this young kid who was in pain, and I thought I imagined it. Or rather, that is was some manifestation of my own insecurity. I believed him to be real. And I had to tell his story. He would not “let me go” until the poem was written. After producing a publication-ready version of this manuscript, I began to feel alone. Because I could no longer hear the ancestors. It was as if they were done with me, and that I no longer needed them-like I to continue the journey on my own.

Let’s talk structure. I was not sure how I would open the book. If it would begin quietly and end loudly, or vise versa. I always certain the title of the book would be Diagnosis. To me, it represents a transformation—a knowledge other than an HIV diagnosis. There were some who expressed a disinterest in the title. But one goes with what feels right. To me, diagnosis is a process. There are many processes in this work, especially involving the main speaker.

Can a poem stop someone from putting themselves at-risk?
Okay, so here’s the real question. Can art prevent death? Can it save?

It took more than four years, more than 40 encounters, and more than 6,000 pills to finally understand that loving does not mean accepting. So, I will say no. If someone would have told me “this can happen,” or showed me his or her scars, or made reference to the uncontrollable shit, then maybe I would have slowed down-became more cautious of who I allowed In my circle. Pun intended. When one is searching for worth, it takes experiencing the worst to understand. Again, knowledge is a process.

At the end of the day, risk is the life we live. It is there everyday, like the memory of what you’ve done. Like gas. Like a bowel movement. It’s eventual. To ask if art can prevent death is like asking:

1.) Can mammograms prevent cancer?
2.) Do condoms prevent pregnancy?
3.) Does donating food eliminate hunger?

Of course not! Art provides us with another way of seeing. It can change us. Help us tap into our humanity. Ultimately, our actions are up to us. Certainly, it gives us something to consider. I consider it a cure to ignorance. Again, when we are trapped inside ourselves, the rational no longer matters. Knowledge becomes irrelevant. Control becomes invisible. Whether we are infected or not, as long as we come into the knowledge that we can be more, then change can occur-before or after diagnosis. Art helps us to know. It does not matter when, as long as we grow, and become better. And come into the peace we’ve always longed for. I can say that poetry saved my life. Sometimes it saves us before we make choices, and sometimes after the moments. As long as we get there. A poem can only work if we embrace it. If we are open to seeing what it has to show us. If we are not open, then the poem is just lines on a page, soon to be forgotten. Words drowned out by the silence of our lives. Literature only has meaning when we are engaged.


And now, a poem by Berry, which appears in To Be Left With the Body.


as he pounded between my cheeks, i smelled my own shit. went to wipe
for another round. feces covered white cloth. realized i was dirtier.
returned to bedroom. decided to ride. sat on top of him moving toward
someone i never wanted to be. showered in the morning. afraid to take
home the smell.