i have come to
chew up yr language
-- Stephen Jonas
WHAT'S A QUEER POEM? what blueprint queers a page?
There's no reason to apologize to those who would disagree with me since there's no room for yet another body politely anesthetized and fractured beyond repair. What's a little pain? A little pain is relative. Celebrating how suffering has been managed is the best kind, the poem dancing offstage, backstage, out into the alley.
How queer was the poet? Here's a question to make me sleepy if the answer has to be heard. Maybe every poet is a little queer in the end. But identity -- forced or accepted -- is the calibration being served. Is the poem queer enough?
That queer poet's poem isn't queer enough. Are you sure they're queer enough? Hmm!
There's only been one man I've ever met who wanted to be queer but wasn't. He was SO Lovely, tender, and we thank him for his efforts. Somehow he couldn't manage the bridge and I even encouraged him to ask his therapist how to conquer this shortcoming (to the complete annoyance of his girlfriend). He fired his therapist for attempting to make him into a happy heterosexual, which of course he already was a heterosexual, but who on Earth is REALLY happy we both asked over cocktails? I told him he should have demanded that therapist bastard refund ALL previous sessions! Ah, why bother!? We hung out with the poet Etheridge Knight one late night, doing pain killers with shots of whiskey, and at the arrival of that very moment we were waiting for when the rough hands of our suffering days pulled away, he read us this most exquisite, sexy poem about wanting to be queer. Sometimes I wonder where he is, his poem queerly clearing the way for a new human adventure. How Lovely to have known a man who wanted to Love other men as much as he did! Be well you queer hetero weirdo wonder!
Who dares measure a poem's queerness? Or, it's celebration of...
Jonathan Williams once suggested I send a poem to a queer poetry anthology being edited by one porn star turned poet. My poem was about killing fag bashers, and the editor rejected the poem, which was fine, but he rejected it with the note, "CACONRAD THIS DOES NOT CELEBRATE BEING GAY!" Really? Because I wrote it for my boyfriend who was murdered in the hills of Tennessee, his hands tied behind his back, doused with gasoline, and set on fire. His name was Mark, but nicknamed Earth. Ever make Love with a man named Earth mister porn star turned poet? Oh GREAT worldly editor, how do you celebrate what you've kissed being burned to death? Hello Earth, Earth man. Earth, this blistering moment JUST for you! Dear Editor, mine was the most delicious celebration imaginable, for Earth. As though your porn films celebrated any better? EAT ME!
It's not nice to ask editors to eat you, someone said once, shaking their head. Is that queer poem allowed? It's not the right kind of queer poem. The poem dances offstage, backstage, out into the alley. Is it to be chased down? Isn't there another one you can create and keep to yourself? Since Out, the poem is everyone's poem. Judged and carried from city to city on paper. You have to be brave to create, yes? You have to be brave to know you've extended your body's experience into the world and the pulling seems to have no end out of you from that point onward.
It's an amazing thing when poets have stretched out for everyone. It encourages, hopefully it encourages everyone's need to create, stretch, let's stretch, yeah! Queer poets are poets who need to create the best possible poems they have to offer, and need to do so without the policing of how many queer items appear in a poem to be considered queer. The fact that you are a poet who is queer is enough. The experience your body has carried into time will create the poem. And the experience of being queer WILL be in the poem, whether it's automatically recognizable or not. Let's not worry about being queer in our poems, we dyke, we tranny, we fag, whore, bitch, cunt, cock, or not, or all, or none it's still there still hearing itself through the queerest of filters. Queer ears.
Just try to escape from yourself poet, which is an exciting goal, go ahead, I'd LOVE to see what pours out of you. Please do experience THAT for us! My old friend Alexandra Grilikhes has work included in this anthology. She died a few years ago. Her poems you will read here were from a collection I co-edited and co-published with Janet Mason and Jim Cory titled THE REVERIES (INSIGHT TO RIOT PRESS). We were proud of that book with its striking cover art by John Ignari. The poems were mostly about suffering at the hands of her abusive girlfriend. In a panic, once the book was published, Alexandra bought most of the print run and hid them in the attic. Years later while she was in bed dying, the books were discovered, taken outside and destroyed. A mere handful survive today. (this still makes me sick and mad SICK AND MAD!) And now, thanks to Alexandra's literary executor Michele Belluomini, we get to have a few of those poems printed again. I hope you read them. They are not ALL gone, fire be damned!
No matter what happens, as long as a few pieces of what you've made survive, they can still move from city to city, and you can stretch out for everyone, YOU poet. The poems by Almitra David included in the anthology were written when she discovered she was dying of cancer. Tim Dlugos and Karl Tierney wrote the poems appearing here just before AIDS struck, so young. Should we yell QUEER!? Yell QUEER! The showing up the shovel says, queer.
Thanks to Kevin Killian for gifting us with this never before published Jack Spicer short story "A Pillar of Salt," and for gaining reprint permissions, and for his "Afterword" to the story. Mr. Killian, we are always in your debt, your generosity never ceasing to humble. Thanks to Joseph Torra and Gerrit Lansing for granting permission to reprint the amazing Stephen Jonas. And thanks to David Trinidad and Erica Kaufman for leading the way to Christopher Wiss, who granted permission to reprint Tim Dlugos's devastating, beautiful "G-9" (which I’m happy to say is reprinted here without hindrance of page breaks. How wonderful to one day see this poem on a wall or ceiling, to see it ALL AT ONCE without the need to scroll down). Thanks too to Eleanor Wilner for leading the way to the publishers at Perguia Press who gave permission to reprint Almitra David. Thanks to my old friend and co-editor Jim Cory for letting us reprint the poetry of Karl Tierney. Thanks to the living poets amongst these forebears. To our publisher Tim Peterson the biggest thanks, even though some will complain we are incomplete. Holiest is the incomplete, the missing stitch.
Some of my favorite poets gave it up here. Take the caution tape down, caution is a different anthology I will not read.
Most sincerely, to your bravest fucking hours I salute!
Soft Skull Press published CAConrad’s book Deviant Propulsion (2006). He and Frank Sherlock recently co-authored The B. Franklin Basement Tapes for NEXUS Gallery in the city of Philadelphia, where he lives and writes with The PhillySound poets.