Our best and brightest poets hold forth on what makes them tick
(published originally in the Gay and Lesbian Review-Worldwide)
RECENTLY, a first-of-its-kind book, Outside the Lines: Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets was published by the University of Michigan Press, a collection of interviews with some of the most prominent poets alive who also happen to be gay. On the occasion of the book's release last June, The Gay & Lesbian Review asked interviewer Christopher Hennessy to invite all of the poets who appear in the book to write a paragraph about how their artistic sensibilities have been shaped by their identity as gay men....
The poets are Frank Bidart, Rafael Campo, Henri Cole, Alfred Corn, Mark Doty, Timothy Liu, J. D. McClatchy, Carl Phillips, Reginald Shepherd and David Trinidad.
The poets agree that their outsider status as gay men influences them to be more questioning and subversive in their writing. Not a surprising or new idea. Their paragraphs say the same thing in slightly different ways, though the poets write such different kinds of poetry. I like best Henri Cole's brief response: "I think my love of simile is connected to homosexuality. Nothing is ever exactly itself, like me. Unexpectedly, I see this now as a gift to the poet."
The black poets also say something about race, but not Timothy Liu, and not the white poets. I wonder how lesbian poets would respond to the same question. Would they consider, or even emphasize, their similarities with straight woman writers? Would they question the focus on having a "distinctive" voice? I am not asking rhetorical questions. If there's a lesbian counterpart to Hennessy's book, I'd like to know of it.