yrmencyn: (qc - drunk)
[personal profile] yrmencyn
Well, here I am in Chicago at the AWP conference.  We've been having a good time -- rode the Megabus on Wednesday, getting dropped off near Union Station just a scant mile from our hotel.  Brogdon, Maria and I are staying at the Palmer House, and.. god, y'all, that's some swanky swank there.  One of our fellow conference-goers (who is wisely staying at the Travelodge; we booked our room before we found that the department was cutting our funding) calls it the four-dollar-banana hotel, for lo, that is the price of a banana on the room service menu.  But it's also absolutely gorgeous, and really with the conference rate it's affordable, even if not super-cheap.  No use crying over spilt milk, so I might as well just enjoy the luxury :)

Yesterday, the first day of the conference, I was a bad conference-goer.  I didn't even bother to show up to registration, much less attend any panels or talks.  Instead, Brogdon, J-Love, Annie and I went to the Shedd Aquarium.  It was SO MUCH FUN.  The exhibits are very well laid out, they have a great variety of different ecosystems represented (everything from the Amazon to the Mekong to the Caribbean to Lake Michigan wetlands), and at 17.95 for all that and a 15 min Planet Earth short on a big screen, it was totally worth it.  When I die, I want to come back as a Leafy Sea Dragon, is all I'm saying.

After the Shedd, a couple of us were pretty hungry for seafood (*hangs head*).  Somebody said, "Well, there's some kind of pier over there; let's walk over and see if they have any seafood!"  That pier, of course, was Navy Pier.  Which is about 2.5 miles from the Shedd.  Thank God we're all walkers!  It was actually rather a lot of fun, walking all throughout Grant Park, eating at Charlie's Ale House (which was... oddly affordable, considering it's in the middle of tourist-land, then wandering back down toward Michigan Ave. and southwards back toward the Loop.  There was some kind of running joke about how the four of us should form a plural marriage and attempt to see a model of one of the "Private Residences" in the tower right by the Pier, which I don't quite remember, but I assume was somehow related to the fact that we suspected the waiter thought Brogdon and I were together (a possibility only further hilarified and supported by the fact that we both ended up at a panel about gay poetic lineage this morning).

Spent, of course, rather a long time at Cloud Gate, aka The Bean.  There's really no way to discuss it properly, except that it really is a fascinating piece of public art -- people can't help but interact with it.  I love the way that it collapses the distance between the viewer and the gallery wall.  Plus it's really shiny.  My camera, of course, is sitting on my kitchen table in Columbus.

And then I worked on rough drafts for hours and hours.  And then drank.  Which isn't really a causal relationship, though it also is in a way.

Today, I'm having a bit of a crisis of poetry.  After working my shift at The Journal's table in the bookfair, I went to the aforementioned panel, "Who's Yer Daddy? Gay Poets and the Inherited Present."  Like most panels, it was a bit of a mixed bag -- some really engaging speakers and some not so much (including the last one who I walked out on) -- but one guy, David Groff, was really great.  I wrote in my notebook, "I find him to be really lucid and honest -- calling for inclusion of everything, even what seems too esoteric, too banal, too embarrassing, too obvious."  That was really the crux, for him: that a truly queer poetics must be radically honest, must lay it all bare.  The most provoking possibility he raised relates: "Do we de-gay our poems before we even write them, like we maybe de-gay our houses before our parents come, putting away the naked postcards on the fridge, the photo of a dead trick with a visible lesion?"

The conflict comes in a poetics of circumspection versus a poetics of blaring openness.  Why is it that I don't generally write about a mind-blowing orgasm, about fucking and getting fucked, about the flaking skin on my nipples when they've been too much abused?  Is it because of some kind of de-gaying that I do unthinkingly, bowing to a heterosexist norm?  Or is it rather a discomfort with that kind of openness, quite apart from particular sexuality?  Does a gay poetics have to be completely, glaringly open, or can it, too, be more closed off, more discreet?

It seems like these are really two separate issues, which end up being conflated.  There is the question of being openly queer, or not, and there is the question of being circumspect, or not.  They don't have to correlate in any set relation, necessarily.  At the same time, I want to be the poet that CAN go there, that can pull in all the beauty AND the not-so-beauty of my life and make it poetry.  And I do want to be the poet who can be openly queer, revel in it.

Simultaneously, I don't know how to relate to much of what the panelists were discussing.  My life is very different from theirs.  I came of age after the peak of the AIDS epidemic -- I've never had a friend with AIDS (that I know of), much less have a loved one who died from it.  The community I live in, while not always supportive, is still leaps and bounds ahead in tolerance and, even, acceptance.  My family, while not always on board, has rarely been intentionally hurtful or cruel.  I just can't relate to a poetics of victimhood, to a poetics that rails against the hegemonic norm.  I don't WANT to be a gay poet; I want to be a poet who is gay.  It's how I live my life, though it's not always clear how I should act -- sometimes normalization feels cowardly, and sometimes it feels like the most radical stance of all.  But I think this is going to become more and more of an issue for me: how to engage with the tradition that I'm writing from -- both gay and straight -- while not also feeling as if my work is dictated by some pre-set theories about how I "should" write.

That's really disjointed; it's just thoughts I'm trying to get down.  Weirdly, I feel like there's a paper in there somewhere.

And now back to rough drafts.
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December 2009

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