God Is Gay

elliot-darrow

“God is gay” was a spoken slam poem by 20-year-old University of North Carolina drama student Elliot Darrow. It was performed during the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational finals. Elliot Darrow identifies as a straight, male Christian despite the fact that he does not currently attend church due to the time constraints of college life.

Most of Darrow’s poetry portfolio is made up of social issues, but “God is gay” was one of his first pieces that directly addressed his faith. Darrow started wondering if God were gay about a year and a half before writing “God is gay”. Though he doesn’t believe that God is a sexual being, his goal was to show that even God could have human traits such as sexuality.

When starting the piece, Darrow studied the bible to see how the church should view homosexuality. He wanted to break out of the idea that God hates gays and instead show that God loves all. Darrow challenges conventional views using bible passages in his poetry.

I chose to include this piece in our archive because it gives a fresh and interesting view on homosexuality. Many Christians view homosexuality as being wrong, so it is refreshing to see someone challenge that. Darrow directly opposes the view of most Christians, specifically when he suggests that Mary is a lesbian and Jesus’s two fathers could have been gay.

One thing that we discussed in class and read about was the straight mind. I feel that this poem essentially “calls out” how the church lives in a straight mindset and believes that anybody who is not that way is doing life wrong.

“What if I told you God is gay? Do you think belligerent bible-belters would still holler hate speech to the hilltops in His name?” When Darrow says this, he’s implying that the church is so straight-minded that even if God was gay, they might still condemn homosexuality.

“And although it has been accepted in recent years that there is no such thing as nature, that everything is culture, there remains within that culture a core of nature which resists examination, a relationship excluded from the social in the analysis — a relationship whose characteristic is ineluctability in culture, as well as in nature, and which is the heterosexual relationship.” This is a quote from The Straight Mind and blatantly displays the idea and logic behind the straight mind. Those that possess the straight mind believe that heterosexuality is the “natural” way to go, but Darrow is challenging that.

In “God is gay”, Darrow poses interesting points such as the fact that the Garden of Eden seems to have been designed by a queer and that God created the rainbow, the symbol of the queer community.

Darrow quotes two important bible verses in his poem: “Judge too and you shall be judged” (Matthew 7:1) and “Condemn not and you shall not be condemned” (Luke 6:37). These both show what Darrow believes to be God’s true message. He then contrasts these verses with a quote by the head of the Westboro Bapstist church, “You’re going to Hell. God hates fags.”

Slam Poetry, Walt Whitman, and the LGBTQ+ Community

Slam poetry first arose in the 1980’s in small cafes in big cities such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Its creator is believed to be Chicago construction worker and poet Marc Smith (known as Slam papi) who started a poetry reading series in a Chicago jazz club looking for a way to refresh the open mic poetry scene and let off steam. The purpose of slam poetry was originally to discuss social and political issues that aggravated the performer; it was a way to release aggression and address those who exasperated the performer. Today slam poetry has become a means of self-expression and emotional ventilation for the majority of the population especially the LGBTQ+ community worldwide.

As slam poetry has been historically tied to proclamation of social and political wrong doings, it has become one of the leading forms of emotional outlet for the LGBTQ+ community.  The current slam poetry scene has seen many breakout LGBTQ+ poets such as Elliot Darrow, Karen Grace, Denice Frohman, and Steven Boyle. The content of their poetry becomes very impactful as it is obvious that the words they are saying have come from personal experience and from a place of fear, or anger, or sadness that lies somewhere within them. The topics they discuss in their poetry covers a very wide spectrum. In Elliot Darrow’s God is Gay and Karen Grace’s Push: A Holy Thursday religion becomes a starting point of emotional turmoil in their rage filled free verse. Others such as Denice Frohman’s Dear Straight People angrily calls for justice and acceptance for the gay community from straight people; while Steven Boyle’s Modern Meltdown (I Hit Send) discusses the stresses that come with finding love in the gay community. All of these are  examples of how the LGBTQ+ community has found solace in slam poetry.

Walt_Whitman_by_Mathew_Brady

 

Slam poetry as a whole can be related to the works of Walt Whitman. As one of the pioneers of free verse poetry, Walt Whitman did the same thing that Marc Smith did. Tired of the classical structure of poetry (rhyming, classical rhyme scheme, etc.) he created poetry that did not require rhyme but still carried a rhythm. In his collection of works Leaves of Grass many of his pieces are seen as homoerotic, specifically his most popular piece In Paths Untrodden. With lines such as “From all the standards hitherto publish’d, from the pleasures, profits, conformities; Which too long I was offering to feed my soul; Clear to me now standards not yet publish’d, clear to me that my soul; That the soul of the man I speak for rejoices in comrades…” Here Whitman is saying that he has been pushing away from the life he knows he wants and finds solace in the presence of homosexuality within himself and his comrades. This poem was viewed as his coming out poem by the majority of the population and also broke boundaries with its lack of rhyme and rhyme scheme just like the origins of slam poetry.

Valentina Thompson (theseoverusedwords)

For my last ever post on this blog, I am going to be writing about my best friend and poet, Valentina Thompson. A little backstory: I have known her since we were little 10/11 year olds competing for the most reading points in our English class. The competition made us bond and we became friends and she stuck by me all throughout high school and even through college even though I moved across the country. We are from a small city just outside of Los Angeles, California and she started writing sometime in high school—somewhere around our junior year—and our whole friend group knew her as “The Tomboy.” In October 2012 (our freshman year of college), she made a Facebook video coming out as bisexual. She explains how she feels about sexuality and clears up some misconceptions about who she is as a person. Nowadays, she identifies as a lesbian and she attends the Pride Parade in San Francisco every year.

She has grown as a poet since writing on her calculus homework in high school: she runs a poetry blog on Tumblr and she has even been published on Poetry.com; she is also looking into publishing her own book of poems. She is very much an open book and writes through a lot of her pain. Valentina share something in common: we were both told that we suffer from depression and poetry is her outlet. Everything she writes, you can feel in your soul.

One of the poems I want to bring attention to is one she published 10 months ago titled “A Facebook Post about Facebook Posting about Sexuality.”

A Facebook Post about Facebook Posting about Sexuality

The title is pretty straightforward—she vents about what it is like to be “different” in a heteronormative society. She talks about what it feels like to have stigmas have an effect on how she goes about her day. She explains how words make a difference and that she is not asking for much—she is just asking for equality and for people to listen and try to understand.  This poem speaks to how frustrated she is because she feels silenced. She feels the heteronormative pressure that keeps building no matter what she does. My favorite line in this whole poem, though, is “…every single one of us who is out and visible and vocal about what we’re being denied is brave. And special. And worthy.” This speaks so much to me because I know how hard it is for LGBTQ+ adolescents and adults to accept themselves, much less think they are worthy of basic human rights such as equality. It it frustrating to read how torn my friend is about her lack of equality, and that’s just dealing with one aspect of herself. That’s just the frustrating that comes with being out of sync with heteronormative society.

Another one of my favorite poems, that should have attention brought to it is “Broken Fuses and Bathtubs (LGBTQ/Suicide Awareness).” This poem hits so hard with me because the people she is speaking about in this poem are people that I also know. These are people that also understand her struggle and just need to feel worthy and special. This poem also highlights how important it is to recognize that their lives are not something to be sexualized but also looked down on because it is different. It deals with the very real reality that suicide is not just an idea. It deals with the very real reality that there are people that have to hide themselves for their own safety and for their own sanity. The people she lists at the end are people I know I love–they’re people I didn’t realize were struggling. These aren’t just people who identify as gay and lesbian. These are people who are often forgetten when equality is sought. These are people who also identify as bisexual, transgender, genderqueer, asexual, etc. These are people who should not feel forgotten.

The last poem that I will talk about is “Why Your Depressed Lover Keeps Saying Sorry.”

Why Your Depressed Lover Keeps Saying Sorry

 

This poem never fails to make me cry, and she even read this poem aloud at a poetry reading and I come back to it every once in awhile to remind myself that I am not alone in feeling the way I do. This poem speaks to the side of her that has to deal with another sect of misrepresentation and inequality: mental illness. I can tell you from my own experience that dealing with depression sucks. It’s awful. It feels like nothing could ever make you happy again. It feels like someone has turned off all the lights and left you alone in the dark. But then trying to explain this to other people is a nightmare. As soon as I saw this poem on my Facebook feed, I tagged my boyfriend in it and I read it to him that night because there were finally words for me to help me express these feelings to him. Her poetry is rarely gender-specific, so it is something you can identify with and apply to your own life. Being able to identify with the author is so important because you don’t feel like they’re feeding words to you that they think you would want to hear. She speaks from the heart and gives the reader every piece of her.

Valentina Thompson, what can I say. Her poetry is so beautiful and if you get the chance, you should really check out her poetry tag on Tumblr. (i love you val)

Audre Lorde and a Celebration Through Labels

Audre Lorde, born Audrey Geraldine Lorde, was born on February 18, 1934 in New York City to Caribbean immigrant parents. Her parents came to the United States from the West Indies. As the youngest of three children she was raised in Harlem and was born so tounge tied and nearsighted that she was considered to be legally blind. Growing up Lorde developed a love of poetry early on from her mother teaching her to read and talk around the age of four, and being influenced by her mother’s “special and secret relationship with words’ writing her first poem in the eighth grade. Lorde stated “words had an energy and power and I came to respect that power early. Pronouns, nouns, and verbs were citizens of different countries, who really got together to make a new world”. While in high school she became the literary editor of her schools art magazine and her first poem was published to Seventeen magazine before she graduated high school.

After high school Lorde attended Hunter College from 1954 to 1959 and graduated with a BA studying library science and a spent a year at the National University of Mexico, which Lorde described as a time of affirmation and renewal. She supported herself by working numerous odd jobs as a factory worker, ghost writer, social worker, x-ray technician, medical clerk, and arts and crafts supervisor. After graduating from Hunter College, Lorde went on to get her master’s degree in library science from Columbia University in 1961. In 1962 lord met Edwin Rollins, to which she had two kids, Elizabeth and Johnathan, and the two would later divorce in 1970. Before divorcing her husband, in 1968 she became a writer-in-residence at Tougaloo University. There she met Frances Clayton, who would that became her long term partner.

Lorde self describes herself as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”. Lorde embraces these labels and uses them as a form of expression and almost liberation. She writes in the Cancer Journals “imposed silence about any area of our lives is a tool for separation and powerlessness”. Lorde used these labels as inspiration and a platform in her poetry for writing to tell of the injustices against woman, African-Americans, individuals of sexual oppression and many others. She looked at these identities, though seemingly different and incompatible, as working together to form one unique identity that encompasses all of her complexities and fully embraces them. In her poem Martha, she eloquently came out as a lesbian through storytelling:

I need you need me

Je suis Martha I do not speak French kissing

oh Wow. Black and…Black and…beautiful?

Black and becoming

somebody else maybe Erica maybe who sat

in the fourth row behind us in high school

but I never took French with you Martha

and who is this Madame Erudite

who is not me?

And in her poem Coal she openly accepts and embraces her race and say it in a way that can be interpreted as uplifting

“I

Is the total black, being spoken

From the earth’s inside.

There are many kinds of open.

How a diamond comes into a knot of flame

How a sound comes into a word, coloured

By who pays what for speaking….

I am black because I come from the earth’s inside

Take my word for jewel in your open light”

Lorde’s perspectives on labels is quite the opposite to some people’s views of labels today. Over the course of the semester, especially during the history unit when looking at Walt Whitman labels were seen as something that is no longer important or of use. It seems that one of the main consensuses was that people are starting to move away from these labels and push them aside in order to define themselves. There is very much a “you do you” attitude amongst the younger generations. The common belief may be that labels put the individual into a box and restricts them from being the complex being that they are. This rejection or unwillingness to accept a label has been around for years, and a prime example of this lack of labeling is Walt Whitman. Within Whitman’s poetry he commonly alludes to relationships between individuals sometimes without giving them a gender and has described these intimate relationships between men but refers to them as “friend” or “comrade”.  In the Calamus Cluster several of Whitman’s poems describe these intimate relationships between two men. In the poems A Glimpse and This Moment Yearning and Thoughtful, Whitman develops and describes relationships between men that could be interpreted as much more than a simple friendship

“A GLIMPSE through an interstice caught,

Of a crowd of workmen and drivers in a bar-room around the 

         stove late of a winter night, and I unremark’d seated in a
corner,

Of a youth who loves me and whom I love, silently approaching
and seating himself near, that he may hold me by the hand,

A long while amid the noises of coming and going, of drinking
and oath and smutty jest,

There we two, content, happy in being together, speaking little, 

 perhaps not a word. “

 

“THIS moment yearning and thoughtful sitting alone,

It seems to me there are other men in other lands yearning and
thoughtful,
 

It seems to me I can look over and behold them in Germany,
Italy, France, Spain,

Or far, far away, in China, or in Russia or Japan, talking other
dialects,

And it seems to me if I could know those men I should become
attached to them as I do to men in my own lands,

O I know we should be brethren and lovers,

I know I should be happy with them.”

Even when questioned about his sexuality and his poems, Whitman denies and runs from full disclosure, while Lorde seemingly does the opposite. Lorde can be cited as saying “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive”. While possibly in today’s standard these labels may be seen as confining and restricting, and that labels do nothing more than divide us and don’t explain how complex we are, Lorde would challenge otherwise. She wouldn’t look at the labels and think that she is being pushed into a box, she would look at these label and see a celebration and argue that we don’t have to pick just one aspect of ourselves to focus on or pick just one label to define ourselves. We are in control of how we define ourselves and these labels allow us to show our difference while also learning to live in harmony with the complexities within ourselves and other. Labels don’t have to be a source of confinement or a box; they can be whatever we want them to be.

“it is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences”

“The Platonic Blow” – A 20th Century Response to Whitman

W.H Auden was one the the greatest and most intelligent writers of the 20th century and one of my favorite poets of all time. Much of Auden’s work is influenced by politics, religion, philosophy, and love. Auden was gay and fairly open about that fact. He often traveled to Berlin before WWII broke out to enjoy the gay scene in the city and to visit his close friend Christopher Isherwood. Isherwood, whom we briefly discussed in class, traveled with Auden to China, Spain, and eventually to America. They collaborated together on books about the Sino-Japanese War and the civil war in Spain.

I will leave it to you to read Auden’s more famous poems (which is something you really should do) and instead focus on a particular poem that is not as well known. Auden wrote this particular poem to his lover Chester Kallman to be playful and never meant it to be published. It is titled “A Platonic Blow” and you can read it here. It’s worth the read.

Not only is the poem about a guy cruising a man, bringing him back to his apartment, blowing him and rimming him, but it is a finely structured poem on top of that. Auden uses internal rhyme, an end rhyme scheme of ABAB, and each line is metered so that there are five stressed syllables. “A Platonic Blow” is unique in Auden’s work because of the explicit and raw eroticism of it.

Auden and Chester Kallman

I chose to look at Auden and this particular poem in contrast to Walt Whitman. We spent a significant amount of time in class talking about Whitman and his poetry. Whitman is in ways regarded as one of the father’s of queer culture and literature, despite the fact words like queer or gay were not labels he applied to himself. It was the 19th century and these terms were not in play yet; however, Whitman still laid the groundwork for the queer literature to come. As you know from Whitman’s poems we read in class, much of his work was centered around the intersection and combination of the American nation and sex.

Auden and Isherwood

Auden, too, wrote about the nation and sex, but he chose to keep the two separate. His poem “Spain” is one of his greatest works and deals with the idea of the nation. He wrote it while in Spain with Isherwood, and it describes the country in its past, its present, and in its future. Much like Whitman, he had an idea of what he thought the nation should be, although they were writing about different nations. Whereas Whitman saw love and sexual relations between men as a reconstruction of the nation’s relations, Auden never mentions the two in conjunction. He, who was out in a way Whitman couldn’t be, chose to keep his ideas of the nation separate from his ideas of same-sex relations.

It may have been because Auden lived in a strange period where same-sex relations were not so taboo that he did not feel the connection between the homoerotic and politics that Whitman felt. The Weimar Republic was fading and war was approaching, but there seemed to be this bubble in time that allowed for queer culture to flourish for a few years. “The Platonic Blow” highlights the sexual climate of the time, which was becoming much more open than the the one Whitman knew. The poem is blunt, crass and beautifully written, and it seems to say that sex does not need the nation. It can exist outside the confines of politics and borders. Whitman saw sex and the nation as being intertwined, but Auden saw them as separate entities. “The Platonic Blow” is one step further into the explicit erotic that Whitman couldn’t take, and it show so clearly how Auden chose to keep his sexual feelings separate from his published work.

Here are some great Auden links:

Biography

Auden Reading His Own Poems

My Favorite Auden Poem

 

Renée Vivien 19th Century Poet

Renée Vivien was born in 1877 in England and shortly after moved to Paris where she and her sister attended school. When Renée was nine her father died and she was forced to move back to England until 1898 when she became of age and could return to Paris on her own. Renée published her first two books under a masculine pseudonym in 1901 and 1902 then published her third book, Evocations, under her own name in 1903. In all her writing Renée wrote unabashedly about being a lesbian. Many of her poems where about Natalie Barney a wealthy American who she had an on again off again relationship with. Another significant relationship was with Baroness Hélène de Zuylen de Nyevelt, whom Renée spent several years with until she got back together with Natalie Barney. Renée wrote many poems and stories over her lifetime, most revolving around her romances with other women and others featuring tragic heroines fighting against nature and oppressive men. Because of the homoerotic nature of her work it was unsellable in England and the United States and as such none of her poetry was translated in to English until the 1970s. To read more about Renée Vivien click here.

Roses Rising

My brunette with the golden eyes, your ivory body, your amber
Has left bright reflections in the room
Above the garden.

The clear midnight sky, under my closed lids,
Still shines….I am drunk from so many roses
Redder than wine.

Leaving their garden, the roses have followed me….
I drink their brief breath, I breathe their life.
All of them are here.

It’s a miracle….The stars have risen,
Hastily, across the wide windows
Where the melted gold pours.

Now, among the roses and the stars,
You, here in my room, loosening your robe,
And your nakedness glistens

Your unspeakable gaze rests on my eyes….
Without stars and without flowers, I dream the impossible
In the cold night.

Renée writes Roses Rising using nature and flower to represent the beauty of women. She starts out describing a particular women and then moves in to describing roses. Which I think represent all the women she has been with. She describes being drunk from many roses and how the roses follow her. She states, “I drink their brief breath, I breathe their life.” The rose is a common symbol for love, and in this poem Renée uses them to symbolize her past lovers, which is why she drinks their breath and breathes their life. All of her past lovers are in the garden of roses and that’s the miracle. The next few lines come back to the original girl and their interactions. The last line speaks to how Renée would feel without all her roses.
The Touch

The trees have kept some lingering sun in their branches,
Veiled like a woman, evoking another time,
The twilight passes, weeping. My fingers climb,
Trembling, provocative, the line of your haunches.

My ingenious fingers wait when they have found
The petal flesh beneath the robe they part.
How curious, complex, the touch, this subtle art–
As the dream of fragrance, the miracle of sound.

I follow slowly the graceful contours of your hips,
The curves of your shoulders, your neck, your upappeased breasts.
In your white voluptuousness my desire rests,
Swooning, refusing itself the kisses of your lips.

The Touch is a poem by Renée that is full of homoerotic text. The poem starts out with a tree and how it looks like a vailed women. Like her other poem Roses Rising the poem brings in nature to her description of an intimate relationship. Renée moves in to describing sex with her lover using the common symbol of petals to describe female anatomy. In the last part she describes the rest of her lover’s body.

Renée Vivien uses nature to help her describe the beauty of the female form much like Whitmen did to describe the beauty of the every human body. Vivien also compares to Whitmen in her use of the pronoun you to describe her lovers. Yes in Vivien’s poems she is unabashed about her lover’s sex and often puts in description indicators to show that she is talking about a women and not a man. She is also openly homosexual unlike Whitmen whose sexuality is still debated. In addition Vivien predates Whitmen and her poems are written in an even earlier style then what was popular in her time.

Read more of Renée Vivien here.

Labels and Sexuality

The heart of today’s newer generation of LGBT members beats a little differently than its predecessors. The stereotypical assumptions of queer people have started to fade as more and more of our youth choose to present themselves without trying to make a statement. This activist lifestyle seems to be losing its popularity, but there is always something to replace what we deem outdated. Instead of choosing an identity and advocating for it, the newer members of today’s community choose a more “you do you” lifestyle, rejecting labels and seeking to just be rather than be criticized or stigmatized for being categorized. No more is sexuality a structured entity containing stereotypes, but a continuum consisting of many ways of living your life and expressing yourself.

“I don’t need language, I don’t need a

categorizing word”

In ant interview last October with Oprah, Raven Symoné received criticism, not only for not identifying as a lesbian (despite her current relationship status with her female partner), but for going so far as not labeling herself as a black woman either; even Oprah was a little off put by the latter. After giving an ambiguous answer to Oprah’s question pertaining to what sexuality Symoné identified with, Symoné also went on to say that she didn’t need words or language to specify what she felt or who she chose to be. She firmly stated that she did not want to be labeled gay or black, but to be labeled as human, as an American, as an unlabeled person who can connect with anyone of any culture. And she’s not the only one who feels this way; YouTube is home to countless self-made videos on the same topic. One in particular makes a very good point, saying that we naturally like to categorize and label in order to help us understand the complexities of people. Just like our feelings, our sexuality too isn’t black and white, and the pressure to choose a label can be daunting to many who just don’t feel like they need to fit into a certain type. This refusal to take on a label is becoming more popular, but isn’t necessarily new. Walt Whitman is a prime example of someone who chooses to show all the signs, yet deny anything relating himself to a certain lifestyle.

In his collection “Live Oak, With Moss”, a series of twelve poems spread throughout his third edition of “Leaves of Grass,” Whitman alludes to many intimate encounters with another person. What’s so significant though is how suggestive it is of a homosexual one. There are no specific names for this person’s role in his life (like a wife or girlfriend), only the times he refers to this person as a lover or friend. He also 220px-Walt_Whitman,_steel_engraving,_July_1854frequently addresses this person with “you,” avoiding a gender. However, there are several times when he does use a gender pronoun. In his third poem he says “…for he I love is returned and sleeping by my side,” and that seems to say a lot to John Addington Symonds, who goes on to write and question Whitman about this, the “perplexity about the doctrine of ‘manly love’” and “propagating a passionate affection between men.” Of course, Whitman replies by denying such “morbid inferences,” and just to prove he’s not not straight, he states that he has six children. Although this seems like a cover-up, I can’t say Whitman knows what he is covering up for.

Like the modern day figure, Raven Symoné, Whitman too denies certain labels without explicitly saying what he is. It seems to me that Symoné chooses to stray away from labels in order to preserve her personal life and live without criticism from the subcultures she would be categorized in. Similarly, Whitman also tries to protect his personal life, but his professional life is on the line as well. There is no denying the irony of him voluntarily exposing himself in “Leaves of Grass.” There lays a similar undertone between the two, and the thousands of LGBT members today; that undertone that speaks of being a human without having to be labeled and associated with stereotypes, nothing more nothing less.

Allen Ginsberg Poetry

allen_ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg is remembered as perhaps the most influential queer poets of his time. Writing during the post World War II era and having led a full life which included drugs and a brief period of time in a mental institution, Ginsberg has all the makings of an intimate wordsmith full of experience.

Ginsberg was a prolific writer and many of his poems can be found here.

Among his multi-faceted works are included several poems directly speaking about sex. One of his more graphic poems, “Please Master,” describes a scene between a Master and sex slave of the BDSM world. BDSM refers to a kink community that can incorporate any or all of the following; Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism, and Masochism.

Check out the full poem here.

Alternatively, listen to Allen Ginsberg reading his poem via this video.

To read this poem is to become the sex slave, as the poem is written in in first person by the submissive partner. Over and over again as we read we beckon for the Master to give us permission. At first the poem starts out gentle, like foreplay; “can I touch your cheek… can I kneel at your feet.” Then we ask the Master for clothes to be removed; “can I have your thighs bare to my eyes…can I take off my clothes below your chair.” As the sexual act progresses we ask the Master for permission to “…pass my face to your balls…” and “…to lick your thick shaft…” The act has progressed to oral sex, however we beckon the Master for more, eventually culminating in anal sex until the Master comes. As the poem continues the requests of the Master become more graphic, “more violent.” The rigid “Please Master can I…” structure becomes a little less rigid and the sentences become longer. This feels a little more wild like the sexual act itself would feel.

The poem is such a beautiful description of a BDSM sexual scene between two men. There is “tenderness” in the act as their is in the poem describing the “sweat fuck.” Despite a very clear power dynamic in this poem and in BDSM, we read the pleasure that the submissive partner receives; “please master make me go moan on the table.” The submissive position that Ginsberg is describing is not one of oppression or degradation. It is one of pleasure giving and pleasure receiving. It is one of having power and giving it to the Master by asking for permission. It is one of conversation and openness (something that BDSM communities assert in every sexual encounter).

A major point being emphasized here is the power and pleasure received by a man who gives himself fully to his male partner. This is much like the anonymously written essay “Cocksucker” which was published in the Boston gay magazine, Fag Rag, in 1971. This essay opens with the discussion of how men who get fellatio are thought of as more masculine, but men who give fellatio are thought of negatively because “who would want to suck the cock of someone who had sucked the cock of every male in the room?” However, to be the submissive partner is not something that should be frowned upon or thought of negatively. It is the submissive partner in this poem who tells the Master what to do and sets up the entire scene to be pleasurable for both parties; and in a sexual act, is that not the very essence of power?

Another fantastically sexual poem by Allen Ginsberg is “Sphincter” which you can read here.

In this poem Ginsberg talks about his anal rectum, just as one might assume given the title. At the beginning of the poem, Ginsberg reflects on how over the past 60 years his sphincter has served him well. He hasn’t experienced any major medical complications, and it has been very receptive to pleasurable insertables.

This poem touches briefly on a more somber topic of queer sexuality; the AIDS epidemic. Ginsberg says in his poem that he will have to start using condoms to protect himself:

Now AIDS makes it shy, but still
eager to serve –
out with the dumps, in with the condom’d
orgasmic friend

As the poem comes to a close he looks towards the future hoping to still have an active, healthy sex life into his old age. He recognizes however that age can create changes to his sex life as he begins to experience aches and pains, yet he “Hope the old hole stays young/ till death, relax.”

Again with Sphincter as with Please Master, Ginsberg writes about empowerment through submission to other men. In Sphincter he speaks of his body part as “eager, receptive to phallus,” and he says he is “unashamed wide open for joy.”

Through both poems readers gain a sense of power through pleasure. Tearing down the fallacy that a man being receptive and submissive to another man in sex is a strong message being incorporated into these two erotic poems.

If you like all of this, check out the Allen Ginsberg Project.

Frank Ocean

frank-ocean-650px

Christopher Edwin Breaux, better known as Frank Ocean, is an americna singer, songwriter, and rapper. He’s an artist that seems to prefer no labels. In Frank Ocean’s coming out statement (http://frankocean.tumblr.com/image/26473798723 ) which read slightly more like a song at times, it appeared that he wasn’t really coming out, but acknowledging that he does not choose one sex or the other, in his own very poetic way. The statement, an image posted on Ocean’s tumblr account clarifys a situation that occurred when a journalist made comments on about several of his songs addressing a “male love object”. His announcement of the fact that he has once been in love with a man in an industry that is historically and currently deemed rather homophobic was significant and even more significant because he has not “come out” but rather just announced that he loved a man. He identifies with neither gay nor straight.

Instead of an announcement addressing his sexuality one way or another, Frank Ocean took to tumblr in a way in such that I would classify his work as art and specifically poetry in the way he articulates his thoughts. With his post, he breaks down normative thoughts about queer culture, and not only chooses to not classify himself as gay but not as straight either; in fact he does not classify himself as anything but simply defines himself as a loving human being who experienced a relationship with strong emotions.  While he did post this post out of a response to a journalist commenting on his “male love object”, he didn’t respond by simply saying he was gay; he responded by expressing a love he had shared in his life.

 

I think Frank Ocean’s coming out, if you will, or better said, expression of his sexuality, is important to gender, sex, history, and current queer culture, because it is so representative of what modern day sexuality should be like. Sexuality over time has been classified in very certain definite ways, and in today’s culture, not only should gender and sex not be assumed by someones appearance, but sexual preference should not have to be one way or another. Sexuality has evolved and through Frank Ocean’s statement, through the units of our class and discussion, if there is one thing that is clear, it’s that sexuality is and should be up for every individuals own interpretation and not classified as gay or straight only… if that is not what someone so desires.

 

Andrea Gibson: Defining Gender

“Hey… are you a boy or a… oh, never mind,
can I have a push on the swing?”
– Andrea Gibson, “Swingset”

Andrea Gibson, an American poet and activist, focuses her poetry on various political and social inequalities, specifically within the LGBTQ community. She uses poetry to convey the harsh truths of LGBTQ reality, and holds nothing back while she does so. Gibson, having short hair and “boyish” style, writes frequently about gender norms and the struggle she has personally faced while growing up as an androgynous woman.

She was born in Maine in 1975, and currently resides in Boulder, Colorado. As the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam, she has performed in many notable venues and has her work featured on prominent mediums. Gibson’s work has been highlighted on BBC, Air-America, C-SPAN, and Free Speech TV. In 2010, Gibson’s poetry was “read by a state representative in lieu of morning prayer at the Utah State Legislature.”
Gibson utilizes the form of free verse in her poetry. Because of this, her work intends for the audience to listen, as opposed to see. Gibson sells albums of her work on CDs. She has recorded five full-length albums of her poems, as well as published two books, which she sells on her website. Her albums include Bullets and Windchimes (2003), When the Bough Breaks (2006), Yellowbird (2009), and Flower Boy (2011). She also sells paperback editions of her work, such as Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns (2008) and The Madness Vase (2011).

She has received praise from various artists. Buddy Wakefield, an award-winning poet, has expressed admiration for Gibson’s ferocity. Wakefield said, “Andrea Gibson does not just show up to pluck your heart strings. She sticks around to tune them. If being flowed is new to you, you might want to grab a cushion. Whatever the opposite of fooling someone is, Andrea does that. Beware of the highway in her grace and the crowbar in her verse.” As Wakefield explains, Gibson manages to awaken raw emotion as she guides the audience through her own experiences, tragedies, and triumphs.

In Gibson’s poem, “Swingset,” she discusses the ways in which the students she teaches in her preschool/kindergarten class learn about and handle gender. The lyrics to the poem can be found here.

“Swingset” is found in Gibson’s book Pole Dancing to Gospel Hymns. The title of the book is important to highlight the irony and even discomfort of her collection of poems. “Swingset” reveals the “tidal wave of kindergarten curiosity” Gibson faces each day as they question her gender, simply because she does not look like a traditional “girl.” With each question of “are you a boy or a girl,” Gibson gracefully accepts the inquiry, answering each child, and then continues to play on the playground, which is what is most important to the children. She teaches the children that, regardless of their question, it doesn’t quite matter what gender she is. The children, every day, are satisfied by her answer, afterwards always asking for a push on the swing.

“Dylan, you’ve been in this class for three years
and you still don’t know if I’m a boy or a girl?”
“Uh-uh.”
“Well then, at this point, I really don’t think it matters, do you?”
“Um…no. Can I have a push on the swing?”

The question Gibson faces each day is symbolized by the swing set, itself. While she answers the question, figuratively and literally pushing it away, it continues to come back, an action as oppressive as the social construction of gender. However, to a young child’s mind, “they don’t care” about her gender. Gibson shows here that gender is learned, molded, and constructed.

Fast forward to Gibson’s “father sitting across the table at Christmas dinner” physically unable to eat because of how distraught he is over his daughter’s short haircut. “You used to be such a pretty girl!” he claims. As children grow older, they learn the gender norms that society forces upon them, facing the possibility of becoming like Gibson’s father.

Fast forward again to the “mother at the market, sticking up her nose while pushing aside her child’s wide eyes, whispering, ‘Don’t stare, it’s rude.’” This is when Gibson shows her true understanding of the social construction of gender. She essentially scolds the mother for taking away a valuable lesson her child could have learned, simply by seeing how she’s dressed, what her hair looks like, and overall what Gibson is. Her rage is shown when she barks at the mother (in her head), saying:

“Listen, lady,
the only rude thing I see
is your paranoid, parental hand
pushing aside the best education on self
that little girl’s ever gonna get.”

Gibson effectively shows the reader how gender is socially constructed. Children learn gender, and the older generation is at fault for teaching the confinements of it, according to Gibson’s rant about the mother at the market. Gibson knows that children are the ones who our society depends upon to break these constructions. Her lesson here to the reader is to focus on the youth, because they are the ones who will grow up and determine how society ultimately treats gender.

“I start my day with twenty-eight minds
that know a hell of a lot more than you do,
and if I show up in a pink frilly dress
those kids won’t love me any more or less.”