Friday, October 9, 2015

Belafont Ceases Baying at the Blue Moon


Once you had a secret love: seeing
even his photo, a window is flung open
hight in the airless edifice that is you.

Though everything looks as if it is continuing
just as before, it is not, it is continuing
in a new way (sweet lingo O'Hara and Ashbery

teach). That's now how you naturally speak:
you tell yourself, first, that he is not the air
you need; second, that you loathe air.

As a boy you despised the world for replacing
God with another addiction, love.
Despised yourself. Was there no third thing?

But every blue moon the skeptical, the adamantly
disabused find themselves, like you,
returned to life by a secret: like him, in you.

Now you understand Janacek at
seventy, in love with a much younger
married woman, chastely writing her.

As in Mozart song remains no matter how
ordinary, how flawed the personae. For us poor
mortals: private accommodations. Magpie beauty.

This poem, the last in Frank Bidart's Metaphysical Dog, provoked a lot of discussion at our last meeting. The word “remains” seemed to cause the most trouble. A certain indignation arose over what was felt to be the denigration of the "ordinary … flawed … personae" (e.g. in Figaro), who weren't recognized as integral to the music but rather somehow left behind in its shadow. (Glibly, one might point out that no song remained from the same "personae" after the first performance of Beaumarchais' play.)

Bidart, however, is not concerned with how integral Cherubino, Susanna, et al. were in inspiring Mozart. What remains for them — as it does for the poem's persona, in his "airless edifice," loathing the air he tells himself he doesn't need, despising himself and addictions of any kind, "skeptical, adamantly disabused" — is the possibility of finding themselves "returned to life." A word that nowhere appears in Metaphysical Dog and that Bidart because of its associations would probably never use is "grace." And no matter how flawed or ordinary he or any other persona is, it remains a supervenient possibility, much as Mozart's music remains for his personae.

This last poem is astonishingly bright for a book with such a dark interior. We've come a long way from Belafont, writhing at his image in a mirror. The next time I read Metaphysical Dog (my fifth, I think … I've lost count) I will try to track this trail. Most people at our meeting hadn't read MD more than once. Any good book of poetry—any good poem—requires multiple readings. I hope our discussion and perhaps this post will encourage further readings.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bidart Interview

For those interested in Bidart and his own take on his craft, the following one-hour interview from February 2015 may be worthwhile. Though I found it somewhat enlightening after reading Metaphysical Dog, it didn't increase my appreciation of the poems or the poet. — Giogio

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"I'm Not a Judge of Poetry..."

In anticipation of tomorrow's discussion of Frank Bidart's Metaphysical Dog, I found this "Poetry Prize" sketch from "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" (starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie) apropos.  The single funniest line occurs just after the .45 mark, but the whole sketch is hilarious (IMHO, anyway).

Monday, October 5, 2015

Looking for free/discounted LGBT ebooks?

Though I know electronic books are a godsend to many readers, I only own a Kindle because two dear friends generously gave me one for my birthday a few years back. And like the little old lady from Pasadena who only drives her car to church, pretty much the only time I use mine is when I'm traveling.

However, I am trying to get with the times, especially since more and more of our Bookmen selections are available in electronic formats. Toward that end I recently joined BookBub, a free email service that alerts readers to free and deeply discounted ebooks which are available for a limited time. It offers more than two dozen genres of books, including LGBT, mystery, romance, literary, historical fiction, nonfiction and more, from which readers select genres they want to receive notifications about.

The site doesn't simply collect every free or bargain e-book on the market, but emphasizes those of sufficient quality that you might well consider buying them at full price. In most cases, the deals can be purchased for any e-reading device, including Kindle, iPad, Nook and Android.

Click here for further details, and if any of you patronize similar sites, please post an item about them on this blog!

The polls are open for our next reading list!

Greetings, Colleagues—

All Bookmen members should already have received my e-mail listing the books nominated for our next reading list, which will commence in January and run most of next year.  Please vote!

I don't believe we've publicized the "ballot" on the blog before, but here it is.  Perhaps it will entice prospective Bookmen members to check us out!

Cheers, Steve

Nominations for Bookmen DC’s 2016 Reading List 
This list isn't supposed to tell you everything you might want to know about each book, but rather to give you basic information and a description or quotation to make it easier to remember.  Often subtitles suffice. Also, there's a wealth of information on (be sure not to overlook the customers' reviews), Wikipedia and, of course, Google.

The list is constructed as follows:
Title. Author (Editor).  Year Originally Published (decreasing within genre), Number of Pages, Publisher, and Price (rounded up—usually at a discount on amazon)

The Medici Boy. John L’Heuruex.  2014, 320pp, Astor + Blue Editions, $17
Renaissance Florence: art, homosexuality, and murder (not necessarily in that order).
The City of Devi. Manil Suri.  2013, 400pp, W.W. Norton, $16
In post-apocalyptic Mumbai, a wife searches for her husband and a male hustler continues looking for his one true love.

These Things Happen. Richard Kramer.  2012, 272pp, Unbridled Books, $16
After his best friend comes out, a 15-year-old boy tries to reconnect with his divorced gay father and his father's longtime lover.
Was. Geoff Ryman.  1992, 384pp, Small Beer Press, $16
L. Frank Baum, “The Wizard of Oz,”  the “real” Dorothy Gael [!], Frances Gumm (who becomes Judy Garland) — and a PWA racing to make sense of it all … and his life.
Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity. Robert Beachy.  2014, 352pp, Vintage, $17
The Delectable Negro: Human Consumption and Homoeroticism within US Slave Culture. Vincent Woodard.  2014, 320pp, NYU Press, $27
Gay Artists in Modern American Culture. Michael S. Sherry.  2007, 304 pp, University of North Carolina Press, $32
Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe. Philip Gefter.  2014, 480pp, Liveright, $20
The Best Kept Boy in the World: The Life and Loves of Denny Fout. Arthur Vanderbilt.  2014, 260pp, Magnus Books, $20
In Bed with Gore Vidal. Tim Teeman.  2013, 296pp, Riverdale Avenue Books, $19 
Bettyville. George Hodgman.  2015, 288pp, Penguin, $17
Gay man returns to mother dying in Missouri and still unreconciled to his sexuality.
Silverchest. Carl Phillips.  2013, 80pp, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $14
The poet connecting to men and the natural world around them. (Sample the poems by clicking on the “Look inside” link.)
Choir Boy. Tarell Alvin McCraney. 2015, 112pp, TCG, $15
Young gay man leads his school’s prestigious gospel choir while negotiating his coming out.
Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh. John Lahr.  2014, 784pp, W. W. Norton, $20.
This very long, excellent biography, if chosen, will be read Third Wednesdays (hence its appearance here under “Anthologies”).
Blue, Too: More Writing by (for or about) Working-Class Queers. ed. Wendell Ricketts.  2014, 486pp, FourCats Press, $19
Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction. ed. R.D. Cochrane & Timothy J. Lambert.  2009, 265pp,  Cleis Press, $15
Our Caribbean: A Gathering of Lesbian and Gay Writing from the Antilles. ed. Thomas Glave.  2008, 416pp, Duke UP, $27

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Lambs and Dogs

Sorry to have missed the discussion  of  The Carnivorous Lamb.  I'd be interested to know if anyone has done a study about what might seem a logical coincidence of anarchy and homosexuality. Emma Goldman and her husband Alexander Berkman come to mind.  Others?

Speaking of coincidence, it is amusing that this month's reading,  We Think the World of You, should occur just as I've acquired two dogs.  As I've said to friends, after batting zero on for the last year, it seemed the simplest path to having someone to share meals.  Having now read all four of Ackerley's books and started into the Parker biography it seems Joe Ackerley would would agree: to quote from the appendix to his My Father and Myself,  "I was just under fifty when this animal [Tulip] came into my hands, and the fifteen years she lived with me were the happiest of my life."  While I expect Koukou and JoJo to supply a share of happiness, I will be sad to miss the Ackerley discussion on their account.  — Giogio

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mr. Write Now!

Just a reminder that this year's Outwrite occurs next weekend at the DC Center, 14th & U. In addition to attending you might want to volunteer (butch things like setting up and breaking down as well as the usual nelly "manning" the desks). As for myself, I will be sure to attend the writing-better-sex-scenes workshop Fade to Hot. (I hope they have live-streaming someplace nearby.)