Category Archives: GLBT poetry

“Fireworks in the Graveyard” by Joy Ladin— Identity

Ladin, Joy. “Fireworks in the Graveyard”, Headmistress Press, 2017.

Identity

Amos Lassen

As we search to learn who we really are, we explore the concept of identity and realize that this is the most difficult riddle we will ever face in life. Joy Ladin faces the relentlessness of our most vexing riddles with it was style, lyricism and humor. grace, musicality, and wry humor. She looks at love in all of its mutations and meditates on love and faith and we feel her fear and acceptance that death is always impending.” Death in all of its grammatical forms is a major theme of the book, it is an inescapable fact of life. Memories and re-memories are another theme here.

Much like the Torah, Ladin uses repetition for emphasis. The poem “Sabbath” took me back to my youth when after the traditional meal we would sing for hours around the table. I love that she went to the Psalms to find songs and we learn that there are really no new songs to sing to God. By singing old songs we might find new meanings and a new way to understand.

In “While You Were Away,” we get the idea that a change has taken place and we see that this change was prolonged and contains frightening details. She shares that her “physical and mental state—breathless and broken.”

Ladin has structured her book in three parts, each named for a poem within it. These sections are the speaker, a lover, and often a mother or young boy. For those of you who do not know, Ladin is a trans woman.

Because poetry is so personal, I am having a difficult time writing this review. I know and love Joy and am a huge fan so anything she writes is a work of beauty for me. I feel as I am rambling here and I am about to do something I have never done before and that is end this review in the middle so that I can spend more time with the poems.

“Lovely: Poems by Leslea Newman”— A Self-Portrait Over Time

Newman, Leslea. “Lovely”, Headmistress Press, 2018.

A Self-Portrait Over Time

Amos Lassen

How does one start a review of a book by Leslea Newman? Every time she writes a new book, I face this problem. Let me explain why. Leslea Newman is one of the writers that introduced me to the beauty of LGBT literature but I have never shared that with her and when she reads this review it will be the first time she learns this. I was a gay man with a secret crush on a lesbian woman all because of Harvey Milk. If you are a Leslea Newman fan you know what I am talking about and if you are not, then you have some reading to do. Now she wrote about Harvey Milk years ago but I actually met Leslea in the flesh for the first time when I moved to Boston some six years ago and she was exactly as I had pictured her— a beautiful, feminine, extremely intelligent and immediately likeable person.

When I received my copy of “Lovely”, I did something I rarely do—I opened in the last page and the last poem and I have no idea why I did so. On that page I found the lovely little poem, “Why I Always Wear Mascara” and there was the Leslea Newman that we know and love. She tells us that the reason she always wears makeup is

“Because on the day I leave earth

and this face I call mine,

I want to remember them both

As divine.”

In this new poetry collection, Newman tells us about how she came to be who she is. We go back to what she remembers of her childhood in New York City when being queer made us outsiders. We immediately sense her vulnerability and the pains that were part of her and she tells us what we have to do so that we can all live in peace with each other. Through her poems we see the human experience, her own relationship with her mother, her own maturing and aging and, of course, sex. The pains of youth are here and so is how she coped with them. It is Newman’s self-awareness that makes her poems so raw and visceral yet tender and loving.

She guides us from childhood to adulthood and the pleasure and frailties therein. The poems are Newman’s self-portrait. As James Joyce says in his short story, “Eveline”, “everything changes” and so do we. “I love the rhythm of the poems and when added to humor, care, sensuality and love, we get beautiful poetry that does not hold back. She shares the pain of losing her mother, her own aging and the acceptance of a sexuality that society, for so long, did not consider to be the norm. I suppose I should have not been surprised to see that Newman shares the intimacy that existed between mother and daughter and I love that she did.

There are so many times that I want to illustrate something with a quote from one of the poems but I decided that when I began this review that I would only do so once and, in fact, I already have. I think it is so much better for readers to find the lines they want to choose as their own rather then me doing so and I challenge you to find a single verse that somewhat defines you. I am sure you will be able to do so.

As an aging gay male, I totally found myself in what Newman has to say about “the physical and emotional shame of aging, of sexual restrictions, of a finite lifespan.”

“Lovely” uses the themes of love, empathy, and the growing older— issues we all face. For this, the book is relevant but not all books need to be such. Sometimes it is enough that the language be beautiful. Yet when we put relevance and beauty together, we can very special literature. Newman also incorporates her Judaism into her writing and one of the key attributes of Judaism is empathy and we find this in many of the poems. Newman lets us know that it is important to be kind and kindness comes out of empathy.

Now that I have come to the end of my review, I am trying to find a sentence to tie it all together but am having no luck in doing so. Just go read the book and enjoy every word and be thankful that we have someone like Leslea Newman around.

“The Resilience Anthology”— A Journey

Heart, Amy, Sugi Pyrrophyta and Larissa Glasser, editors. “The Resilience Anthology”, Heartspark Press., 2017.

A Journey

Amos Lassen

I just received an announcement about “The Resilience Anthology” so I am passing it on to you.

“Take a journey through the worlds of over thirty (C)AMAB* trans writers in what is currently the largest collection of poetry and prose made for and by us. Featuring new work by Luna Merbruja, Magpie Leibowitz, Moss Angel, KOKUMO, Joss Barton, Ariel Howland, Casey Plett, Sascha Hamilton, A.K. Blue, Oti Onum, Rahne Alexander, Tobi Hill-Meyer, Lawrence Walker, Connifer Candlewood, Serafima Mintz, Talia Johnson, Tyler Vile, Lina Corvus, Bridget Liang, CHRYSALISAMIDST, Ana Valens, Larissa Glasser, Lilith Dawn, AR Rushet and more, including an introduction by Julia Serano!”

“Our writers featured in this book exist across the gender spectrum, but do not identify with their birth assignment. Many are trans women, but some are genderqueer, non-binary, agender, or all of the above.”

“We Still Leave a Legacy” by Philip Robinson— Hope, Determination and Rememberance

Robinson, Philip. “We Still Leave a Legacy”, We Still Leave a Legacy Press, 2017.

Hope, Determination and Remembrance

Amos Lassen

It was not that long ago when members of the LGBT community came face-to-face with death over and over again. HIV/AIDS claimed the lives and the loves of our friends and leaders and we had to learn how to deal with this. I had already left this country when AIDS struck so brutally and on a trip back home in 1989, I learned that mostly everyone in the community I had once known was gone. I have yet to be to reconcile that. Philip Robinson in “his

chapbook of verses written and dedicated in part to the many friends and family members that have transitioned either by way of HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-troubling issues” has reopened the wounds of that time but as he does, he also captures his sense of hope, determination and memory of those who are no longer here. He tells of the legacy they left and that legacy can be as simple as having once lived among us. In this way, they live on in our hearts and minds. I, for one, have never forgotten that we live today because others came before us and we now live on their shoulders. Not everyone can be a hero or an earth-shaker but everyone has the ability to influence who we are and how we live.

There is a great deal of emotion in the poems that we have here and there are many stories. I was immediately struck by “Standing Among My Heroes”. Set at the funeral of Thomas, we become one with those who have come to say their final goodbyes and see just how difficult that is. But we see something else and that is that “Yet, I know I stand on the shoulders and beside others. My heroes never leave me”.

What we see in most of the poems is that Robinson felt the need to be involved in the lives of his family and of those that he knew. While this is certainly a positive trait, it can also be heartbreaking and that tragedy and happiness can come at the same time.

I am not a poet and can never pretend to be one but one of my favorite hobbies is translating poetry from Hebrew to English. There is something about emotions that makes them very difficult to catch in another language. Just last year I finished the translation of a poem by one of my favorite Hebrew poets, Alexander Penn. I worked on that poem, off and on during twelve years and the reason I knew I had finished with it was that I was able to both laugh and cry as I read my translation. I felt the same as I read Robinson’s poem and these were about people I did not know anything about.

“We Still Leave a Legacy”, the title poem, tells us that with each we lose something of ourselves and we become more aware of our own mortality. If we bury our dreams, we let go of life but we also realize that with every death we gain more purpose in life and what we do is not just for us but for those who came before us. From death of others, we gain a purpose and it becomes our job to be the voices of those whose voices have been quieted. While death is permanent, life is not and we only have a short time to do what we want to do. I could go on and give the main idea of every poem here but that could make the read less effective for others. It is enough to say that I was affected by every poem in this collection and if there is one thing I have learned here and also by living my own life is that love does not die, people do. I urge you to read this book and think about what is here. I just want to add that it is every difficult to review this because it touches me so directly and I firmly believe that is why Robinson has brought us this collection.

 

“The Complete Works of Pat Parker” edited by Julie Enszer— Being Black, Queer, a Poet and a Feminist

Parker, Pat. “The Complete Works of Pat Parker”, (Sapphic Classics), edited by Julie R. Enszer, Sinister Wisdom and A Midsummer Night’s Press , 2016.

Being Black, Queer, a Poet and a Feminist

Amos Lassen

I must confess that although I consider myself to be a well-read person, I had never heard of Pat Parker before this book won the Lambda Literary Award, Best Lesbian Poetry. Even more surprising is that it was edited by Julie Enszer whose work I have followed since her first book an whose poetry has always been an inspiration for me. I am very happy to have plugged that hole in my education. However, it was not enough just to read this book, I also wanted to learn about Parker, the person and quite frankly, I was surprised that her name never came up in any of Women’s Studies courses as a graduate student or in Black Literature classes that I enrolled in. I can’t help wondering if that is because I went to school in the South or if I just missed those classes.

Pat Parker was very aware of black suffering, of violence against black people (especially women) and of the suffering brought on by unending oppression. “The Complete Works of Pat Parker” give us a window into her life and we quickly see her importance regarding black women’s literary traditions, lesbian erotica, black queer struggles, and global social justice movements. As I was writing that sentence, I thought how much better it would be if we could leave the word “black” out of it and just talk about Parker as a person. We can hope that day will come when people are not judged by color.

None of us can deny that Black people in this country have faced hard times as people and even harder times as literary people. Unlike the white majority, black writers and artists have had to find a way to bring together the personal and the political in their artistic output. Pat Parker, however, was able to do so. Her poetry affects the consciences of thinking people everywhere. Unlike others she dared….

Since this is the first and only complete collection of all of her poems, it is very special and a blessing for the reader. As I read I found it difficult to hold back tears as I thought about the atmosphere in which many of these poems were written.

The collection includes many new and previously unpublished poems, essays, and stories but it is stunning to think how long it took for some of what she wrote to be available to the public.

Julie Enszer has done an incredible job of bringing all this together in one volume and I have no doubt that this was simply a labor of love and respect for a great voice. Not only do we have the poems (which are grouped topically, i.e. “Married”, “Liberation Fronts”, “Being Gay”, “Love Poems” and “Uncollected Poems” 1970s” for example but we also have a wonderful introduction by another great voice in the field, Judy Grahn and an introduction to “Movement in Black” by Audre Lord. We have a note from editor Enszer, End Notes, Acknowledgments, a bibliography, appendix, photographs and drawings. As is customary, I knew that the question of which poem is my favorite and my answer would have to be, all of them. Who can possibly pick a favorite when they all are so good. However, I do have a great love for “For the Straight Folks Who Don’t Mind Gays But Wish They Weren’t So BLATANT”. At first reading I thought to myself that the beauty of this poem is its “cheekiness” but on the second reading I found it to be so very honest. Let me share two stanzas with you:

“Have you met the woman

who’s shocked by 2 women kissing

& in the same breath,

tells you that she’s pregnant?

BUT GAYS SHOULDN’T BE SO BLATANT.

 

You go in a public bathroom

and all over the walls

there’s John loves Mary,

Janice digs Richard

Pepe loves Delores, etc. etc.

BUT GAYS SHOULDN’T BE SO BLATANT”.

There is a lot to read and take in (almost 500 pages” but you will feel that Parker’s poetry is more than just a read, it is a total experience— one you do not want to miss. I personally am so sorry that I only discovered this in late life so I do not have many years left to contemplate it but I have made myself the promise to read a poem a day from it and when I finish it, I will start over in much the same way that the Jews read the Torah. I am sending a special thank you to Julie Enszer for having edited this— it has made a huge difference in my life, I can tell that already.

29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners Announced

29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Winners Announced

Those with an asterisk have been reviewed here at reviewsbyamolslassen.com

 

Lesbian Fiction

  • Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Liveright Publishing Corporation

Gay Fiction

  • *The Angel of History, Rabih Alameddine, Atlantic Monthly Press

Bisexual Fiction  

  • Marrow Island, Alexis M. Smith, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Bisexual Nonfiction 

  • Black Dove: Mama, Mi’jo, and Me,Ana Castillo, The Feminist Press

Bisexual Poetry 

  • Mouth to Mouth,Abigail Child, EOAGH

Transgender Fiction

  • Small Beauty, jia qing wilson-yang, Metonymy Press

LGBT Nonfiction

  • *How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, David France, Knopf

Transgender Nonfiction

  • Life Beyond My Body: A Transgender Journey to Manhood in China, Lei Ming, Transgress Press

Lesbian Poetry (TIE)

  • play dead, francine j. harris, Alice James Books
  • The Complete Works of Pat Parker, Julie R. Enszer, Sinister Wisdom/A Midsummer Night’s Press

Gay Poetry

  • Thief in the Interior, Phillip B. Williams, Alice James Books

Transgender Poetry

  • Reacquainted with Life,KOKUMO, Topside Press

Lesbian Mystery

  • Pathogen, Jessica L. Webb, Bold Strokes Books

Gay Mystery

  • Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery, J. Aaron Sanders, Plume

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

  • The Wind is Spirit: The Life, Love and Legacy of Audre Lorde, Dr. Gloria Joseph, Villarosa Media

Gay Memoir/Biography

  • *When We Rise, Cleve Jones, Hachette Books

Lesbian Romance

  • The Scorpion’s Empress, Yoshiyuki Ly, Solstice Publishing

Gay Romance

  • *Into the Blue, Pene Henson, Interlude Press

LGBT Erotica

  • Soul to Keep, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Bold Strokes Books

LGBT Anthology

  • The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care,Zena Sharman, Arsenal Pulp Press

LGBT Children’s/Young Adult

  • Girl Mans Up, M.E. Girard, Harper Teen

LGBT Drama

  • Barbecue/Bootycandy, Robert O’Hara, Theatre Communications Group

LGBT Graphic Novels

  • Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal, Ed Luce, Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal, Fantagraphics Books

LGBT SF/F/Horror

  • The Devourers, Indra Das, Del Rey

LGBT Studies

  • *Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display,Jennifer Tyburczy, University of Chicago Press

“Graybeard Abbey: Metaphors, Mumblings and Meditations” by Gavin Geofrey Dillard— A Year on the Farm

Dillard, Gavin Geoffrey. “Graybeard Abbey: Metaphors, Mumblings and Meditations”, self published, 2017.

A Year on the Farm

Amos Lassen

Just last week I found myself thinking that it has been a while before I could sink myself into a book of poetry and lo and behold, I learn of Gavin Dillard’s new collection of free verse, koans, haiku, and traditional waka form. But “Graybeard Abbey” is more than a collection of poems, it is a journal of a year on the poet’s small tea farm in Southern Appalachia. Dillard writes of the seasons the woods and field. animals, and life with eight kittens. I remember the first time that I read Dillard and was amazed at the beauty of his romantic poetry and he had been elevated to gay icon status. His writing has changed and now he writes about paganism, naturism, and Taoism “for emotional content, spiritual edification, and poetic flavor”. Perhaps romanticism is gone but that does not change the beauty of the word and there is much reverence and irreverence here just as there is profundity balanced against silliness. What we really see it the poet as authentic man and that peace and quiet can be found in the solitude of the woods and with nature. Dillard has found on his farm what he has searched for and he shares that with us. It is his originality and boldness that makes me who he is.

 

 

 

 

29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

29th Annual Lambda Literary Award Finalists Announced

 Awards Ceremony: Monday, June 12, 2017 in New York City   

 Note: The number of finalists in a category is determined by the number of submissions in that category. Those marked with an asterisk have been reviewed here at reviewsbyamoslassen.com

 Lesbian Fiction

  • *A Thin Bright Line, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, University of Wisconsin Press
  • Another Brooklyn, Jacqueline Woodson, Amistad
  • Bull & Other Stories, Kathy Anderson, Autumn House Press
  • The Day After Death, Lynn C. Miller, University of New Mexico Press
  • Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Liveright Publishing Corporation
  • Pretend I’m Your Friend, MB Caschetta, Engine Books
  • Tears in the Grass, Lynda A. Archer, Dundurn
  • They May Not Mean To, But They Do, Cathleen Schine, Sarah Crichton Books

Gay Fiction

  • *The Angel of History, Rabih Alameddine, Atlantic Monthly Press
  • *Black Deutschland, Darryl Pinckney, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • *The Cosmopolitans, Sarah Schulman, The Feminist Press
  • *Hide, Matthew Griffin, Bloomsbury USA
  • *Jazz Moon, Joe Okonkwo, Kensington Books
  • *Moonstone, Sjón, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • *The Rope Swing, Jonathan Corcoran, Vandalia Press
  • *What Belongs To You, Garth Greenwell, Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Bisexual Fiction

  • *Beautiful Gravity, Martin Hyatt, Antibookclub
  • Marrow Island, Alexis M. Smith, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Mouth to Mouth, Abigail Child, EOAGH
  • When Watched, Leopoldine Core, Penguin Books

Transgender Fiction

  • Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir, Kai Cheng Thom, Metonymy Press
  • If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo, Flatiron Books
  • Small Beauty, jia qing wilson-yang, Metonymy Press

LGBTQ Nonfiction

  • *Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair, Sarah Schulman, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • *Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York, Donald Albrecht, Skira Rizzoli
  • Ghost Faces: Hollywood and Post-Millennial Masculinity, David Greven, State University of New York Press
  • *How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, David France, Knopf
  • *Pride & Joy: Taking the Streets of New York City, Jurek Wajdowicz, The New Press
  • Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity, Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Duke University Press Books
  • *The Estrangement Principle, Ariel Goldberg, Nightboat Books
  • The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability, Kristen Hogan, Duke University Press Books

Bisexual Nonfiction

  • Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me, Ana Castillo, The Feminist Press
  • The Body’s Alphabet, Ann Tweedy, Headmistress Press
  • I Have Devoted My Life to the Clitoris, Elizabeth Hall, Tarpaulin Sky Press
  • Women in Relationships With Bisexual Men: Bi Men By Women, Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli and Sara Lubowitz, Lexington Books

Transgender Nonfiction

  • *Life Beyond My Body: A Transgender Journey to Manhood in China, Lei Ming, Transgress Press
  • *Outside the XY: Black and Brown Queer Masculinity, Morgan Mann Willis, Riverdale Avenue Books
  • Outspoken: A Decade of Transgender Activism and Trans Feminism, Julia Serano, Switch Hitter Press
  • Trunky (Transgender Junky): A Memoir, Samuel Peterson, Transgress Press
  • You Only Live Twice: Sex, Death and Transition, Chase Joynt and Mike Hoolbloom, Coach House Books

Lesbian Poetry

  • Bestiary, Donika Kelly, Graywolf Press
  • Complete Works of Pat Parker, edited by Julie R. Enszer, Sinister Wisdom/A Midsummer Night’s Press
  • Journal of Ugly Sites, Stacy Szymaszek, Fence Books
  • Night, Etel Adnan, Nightboat Books
  • play dead, francine j. harris, Alice James Books
  • Swarm Queen’s Crown, Stephanie Adams-Santos, Fathom Books
  • The Old Philosopher, Vi Khi Nao, Nightboat Books
  • You’re the Most Beautiful Thing That Happened, Arisa White, Augury Books

Gay Poetry

  • DIG, Bryan Borland, Stillhouse Press
  • Night Sky with Exit Wounds, Ocean Vuong, Copper Canyon Press
  • Primer, Aaron Smith, University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Rapture, Sjohnna McCray, Graywolf Press
  • The Halo, C. Dale Young, Four Way Books
  • The Taxidermist’s Cut, Rajiv Mohabir, Four Way Books
  • Thief in the Interior, Phillip B. Williams, Alice James Books
  • Trouble the Water, Derrick Austin, BOA

Transgender Poetry

  • even this page is white, Vivek Shraya, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • The Romance of Siam: A Pocket Guide, Jai Arun Ravine, Timeless, Infinite Light
  • Reacquainted with Life, Kokumo, Topside Press
  • Safe Space, Jos Charles, Ahsahta Press
  • Sympathetic Little Monster, Cameron Awkward-Rich, Ricochet Editions

Lesbian Mystery

  • Blood Money Murder, Jessie Chandler, Bella Books
  • Bury Me When I’m Dead, Cheryl A. Head, Bywater Books
  • Collide-O-Scope, Andrea Bramhall, Ylva Publishing
  • Final Cut, Lynn Ames, Phoenix Rising Press
  • Pathogen, Jessica L. Webb, Bold Strokes Books
  • Requiem for Immortals, Lee Winter, Ylva Publishing
  • Under Contract, Jennifer L. Jordan, Clover Valley Press
  • Walk-in, T.L. Hart, Bella Books

Gay Mystery

  • Bitter Legacy by Dal Maclean, Blind Eye Books
  • Homo Superiors by L. A. Fields, Lethe Press
  • Lay Your Sleeping Head by Michael Nava, Korima Press
  • Nights in Berlin by Janice Law, Head of Zeus
  • Speakers of the Dead: A Walt Whitman Mystery by J. Aaron Sanders, Plume

Lesbian Memoir/Biography

  • *A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain, Christina Crosby, NYU Press
  • A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder, Ma-Nee Chacaby, University of Manitoba Press
  • *Im Just a Person, Tig Notaro, Ecco
  • *Indomitable: The Life of Barbara Grier, Joanne Passet, Bella Books
  • The Wind Is Spirit: The Life, Love and Legacy of Audre Lorde, Gloria I. Joseph, PhD, Villarosa Media

Gay Memoir/Biography

  • *Books For Living, Will Schwalbe, Knopf
  • *Boy Erased, Garrard Conley, Riverhead Books
  • *Capsid: A Love Song, Joseph Osmundson, Indolent Books
  • *Cursed Legacy: The Tragic Life of Klaus Mann, Frederic Spotts, Yale University Press
  • *Lust & Wonder, Augusten Burroughs, St. Martin’s Press
  • *One Man Show: The Life and Art of Bernard Perlin, Michael Schreiber, Bruno Gmuender Books
  • *Proxies, Brian Blanchfield, Nightboat Books
  • *When We Rise, Cleve Jones, Hachette Books

 

Lesbian Romance

  • The Scorpion’s Empress, Yoshiyuki Ly, Solstice Publishing
  • Coils, Barbara Ann Wright, Bold Strokes Books
  • Finding Lizzie, Karma Kingsley, NineStar Press
  • Little Lies, Lila Bruce, Self-Published
  • Lost in the Starlight, Kiki Archer, K.A. Books
  • *Loving Eleanor, Susan Wittig Albert, Persevero Press
  • *Perfect Pairing, Rachel Spangler, Bywater Books
  • *The Liberators of Willow Run, Marianne K. Martin, Bywater Books

Gay Romance

  • Into the Blue, Pene Henson, Interlude Press
  • Pansies, Alexis Hall, Riptide Publishing
  • *Femme, Marshall Thornton, Kenmore Books
  • Rank, Richard Compson Sater, Bold Strokes Books
  • *Country, Jeff Mann, Lethe Press
  • Adulting 101, Lisa Henry, Riptide Publishing
  • Rented Heart, Garrett Leigh, Riptide Publishing
  • Caught Inside, Jamie Deacon, Beaten Track Publishing

LGBTQ Anthology

  • ALPHABET: The LGBTQAIU Creators from Prism Comics, Jon Macy and Tara Madison Avery, Editors Stacked Deck Press
  • *Building Fires in the Snow: A Collection of Alaska LGBTQ Short Fiction and Poetry, Martha Amore and Lucian Childs, Editors, University of Alaska Press / Snowy Owl Books Imprint
  • *No Tea, No Shade: New Writings in Black Queer Studies, E. Patrick Johnson, Duke University Press Books
  • *The Remedy: Queer and Trans Voices on Health and Health Care, Zena Sharman, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • *Queer, David J. Getsy, MIT Press

LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult

  • Beast, Brie Spangler, Alfred A. Knopf
  • Girl Mans Up, M.E. Girard, Harper Teen
  • Gravity, Juliann Rich, Bold Stroke Books
  • Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley, Dial Books
  • Not Your Sidekick, C.B. Lee, Duet
  • Our Chemical Hearts, Krystal Sutherland, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
  • *Symptoms of Being Human, Jeff Garvin, Balzer + Bray
  • The Midnight Star, Marie Lu, G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

LGBTQ Drama

  • Barbecue/Bootycandy, Robert O’Hara, Theatre Communications Group
  • Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week, Lois Fine, Playwrights Canada Press
  • Perfect Arrangement, Topher Payne, Samuel French, Inc.

LGBTQ Erotica

  • Camp Rewind, Meghan O’Brien, Bold Strokes Books
  • Roped In, Marie Sexton and L.A. Witt, Amber Quill
  • Steel and Promise, Alexa Black, Bold Strokes Books
  • Soul to Keep, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Bold Strokes Books
  • Skyscraper, Scott Alexander Hess, Unzipped Books

LGBTQ Graphic Novels

  • Active Voice The Comic Collection: The Real Life Adventures Of An Asian-American, Lesbian, Feminist, Activist And Her Friends, Written by P. Kristen Enos with Heidi Ho; Illustrated by Derek Chua, Leesamarie Croal, Casandra Grullon, Beth Varni, Dan Parent, Furia Press
  • *The Case of Alan Turing: The Extraordinary and Tragic Story of the Legendary Codebreaker, Eric Liberge and Arnaud Delalande, Translated by David Homel, Arsenal Pulp Press
  • Wuvable Oaf: Blood & Metal, Ed Luce, Fantagraphics Books

LGBTQ SF/F/Horror

  • *All Good Children, Dayna Ingram, Lethe Press
  • The Devourers, Indra Das, Del Rey
  • *Irish Black, David Lennon, Blue Spike Publishing
  • Kissing Booth Girl, A.C. Wise, Lethe Press
  • *Lily, Michael Thomas Ford, illustrated by Staven Andersen, Lethe Press
  • A Little Queermas Carol, Sassafras Lowrey, PoMo Freakshow
  • Style of Attack Report, By Ras Mashramani, Rasheedah Phillips, Alex Smith, and M. Eighteen Téllez, Metropolarity
  • Will Do Magic for Small Change, Andrea Hairston, Aqueduct Press

LGBTQ Studies

  • Asegi Stories: Cherokee Queer and Two Spirit Memory, Qwo-Li Driskill, University of Arizona Press
  • *Homintern, Gregory Woods, Yale University Press
  • Indian Blood: HIV and Colonial Trauma in San Francisco’s Two-Spirit Community, Andrew J. Jolivette, University of Washington Press
  • Melodrama: An Aesthetics of Impossibility, Jonathan Goldberg, Duke University Press
  • Not Straight, Not White: Black Gay Men From The March on Washington to the AIDS Crisis, Kevin Mumford, University of North Carolina Press
  • *Out in the Periphery: Latin America’s Gay Rights Revolution, Omar G. Encarnación, Oxford University Press
  • *Queer Clout: Chicago and the Rise of Gay Politics, Timothy Stewart-Winter, University of Pennsylvania Press
  • Sex Museums: The Politics and Performance of Display, Jennifer Tyburczy, University of Chicago Press

“The Education of a Daffodil: Prose Poems” by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub— From the Heart to the Page

Taub, Yermiyahu Ahron. “The Education of a Daffodil: Prose Poems”, Hadassa Word Press, 2017.

From the Heart to the Page

Amos Lassen

Every once in a while I come upon a writer whose words affect me and my life. Yermiyahu Ahron Taub is such a writer and as I write this I am trying to remember how I first came upon his writing. I can’t recall if someone else recommended it to me or whether I just found it through luck. It doesn’t matter really except for the fact that it has influenced how I look at the written word and especially how I regard poetry. His poems are those that I read with tears in my eyes because of the way he treats language. Now in “The Education of a Daffodil”, Taub reflects on violence and does so as an outsider; Taub is a poet who seeks connection with the world and is one who has lived life from the outside looking in. He is a gay Jew and a lover who grew up in the Orthodox Jewish world and who thinks of himself as a daffodil, a beautiful flower who has endured pain and rejection yet, in my mind, a writer who blooms all the more because of it. If I am ever asked who my favorite modern poet, the answer is clearly Yermiyahu Ahron Taub.

All of us have at some time felt that we have been outsiders causing us to be frustrated because we cannot find a connection, we feel like fragile daffodils as Taub says. Dealing with rejection and non-communication is painful and once have experienced this, we never want to do so again. However, that pain is necessary for us to better understand who we are and so Taub takes us back to the pain so that we can recover from it. In this our poet becomes more than a poet— he is also a storyteller and something of a dramatist by throwing us cues to which we react. He has divided his book into two sections. In “Brief Histories of Fear”, Taub looks at small scale violence with a series of prose poems that are not connected until taken as a whole. It is here that he builds his mise en scene by producing an atmosphere of danger and fear of what is to come. We strongly sense dislocation and violence and as we read, we become part of his writing. We see the dependence on those who are the opposite of the figures that bring this hate and violence into our lives. “if Aunt Lavinia were here… I would not be so afraid”.

The poems in this section paint portraits of both the poet and of the various anti-heroes in differing times of crisis and, as Taub states introspection. Too often we do not look into ourselves where the answer may be waiting. It is here that we meet those who have influenced his life as created the moods he has gone through and those that are yet to come. He takes us by the hand and guides us through his life as an underling and to the point that he can stand and say that he is proud of who he is. You may question my use of the word “underling” but you only need to read this collection to understand why I chose it.

The second section, “Life Studies in Yellow and Other Primary Colors,” we right away see the interconnection between the poems in which the poet moves from being unaware and unknowing through violence until he can reach a point where there is balance and he can find the equilibrium that he needs. If we take the collection as a whole, we see that he achieves some kind of spiritual education that enables him to continue forward. “The daffodil has turned in the tank… slender of stem and bright of bulb”. That daffodil has “ventured into worlds alternative…” He no longer meets with “pity or revulsion or distance”. We have been with him as he went from innocence to brutality to balance. We have read his stories of loss and trauma, of being displaced, of xenophobia and of dealing with his sexuality to find his place in this world of ours. His past is as important as his present and future for it is from there that he arrives at the others. If there is a message here and I believe that there is a strong one, it is that one who does not examine his life to learn who he is remains just that— unaware, unknowing and far from finished. As the poet is transformed, we are there watching— not as voyeurs but as friends in whom he has trust. He has such confidence in us that we he lets us see the cruelties that he experiences (and that we also experience) and we see his survival and hope that we can do the same. In fact, I would venture to say that the book, is an ode to survival.

In one of the blurbs of the book by others, I came across a Yiddish word that OI have not heard in years— “schlimazel” or one suffers but not by his own hand. Rather he is set apart by others and the result is not only that separation but separation from himself as well. It is possible to move from that as we see here and we become aware of what happens if one does not.

I have met Yermiyahu Ahron Taub and actually spent a weekend with him here in Boston when he came for a poetry festival a couple of years ago. I did not see the guy who appears in the earlier poems but rather the man who has found who he is and is confidant in that.

Stop to think for a moment how often you feel transformed after closing the covers of a book. It does not happen often but it will happen here and I promise you that. We must celebrate survival without ever forgetting how we got to it.

 

Six poems also have a Yiddish version.

 

“Avowed” by Julie Enszer— Changes

Enszer, Julie. “Avowed”, Sibling Rivalry, 2016.

Changes

Amos Lassen

Most of us can agree that the tremendous progress that the LGBT community has been able top achieve in the last few years is something we would never have thought that we would see in our lifetimes. We soon realized that if we want these freedoms to work for us and for the overall good of America, me must take them seriously as these are very serious changes that usher in an entire new world. Julie Enszer is one of my favorite poets and I anxiously await every new verse she writes. What she does in “Avowed” is react to the new freedoms as she explores her own relationship with her wife, Kim,

Her relationship with the larger LGBT community and her relationship with her country. Enszer is a wise woman who sees things as they are and then shares them with a touch of humor, eroticism and compassion. Every time I meet a guy who then introduces me to his husband or a woman who introduces me to her wife, I find myself a bit shocked to hear this words and about the whole concept of same-sex marriage. But the shock I receive is indeed positive and so very welcomed.

What I so love about Julie Enszer’s poetry is that she never forgets who she is and uses that in her writing. She is at home quoting or paraphrasing Jewish sources and integrates them into her verse and I often sit back and think about the research she has done just to get her idea across to her readers.

Many of her poems allude to her marriage to and partnership with Kim in which she celebrates their union. They have been together for over fifteen years but could not become a legal couple until the Supreme Court decision.

“we sign a ketubah

break a glass, stand

before G-d and our

families, make promises.….

Only we wonder

Why does the state take

so long to catch up”?

I love the playful eroticism of ”Connubial Hour” of the wedding night— a night with “no bloodstain, no mystery, just relaxed intimacy of long-time lovers and a Thai meal afterwards. I doubt that there are many poets that can make “vaginal mucus” sound as poetic as it does here. In “Imperfect”, Enszer tells us that marriage is more than just a piece of paper, “things don’t always fit. Fold, adapt, squeeze into form. Make do”. In a sense, she even takes Judaism to task and changes one word in a prayer that I recite every morning thanking G-d for making me a man; “everyday/I thank God/I was born a woman.” We get a mixture of politics, religion, visibility and love throughout the collection.

In questioning the institution of marriage, we see that the lesbian bride understands and was part of the fight to make our marriages legal and in LGBT society, marriage is so much more than just a piece of paper. For the poet, it has been a hard and long battle and a journey.

I usually do not publicly choose a favorite poem in an anthology but I cannot leave writing about “Avowed” without mentioning “A Lesbian Fantasia on ‘Angels in America’”. I absolutely love this poem as it brings us back to one of the most important dramas in LGBT history while shifting its emphasis to women. Enszer looks at Tony Kushner’s work with the idea of finding hope but instead finds anger…

“and Kushner gives me no model

no hero

just anger at G-d

who has abandoned us”…

we won’t die secret deaths any more

we will be citizens

the time has come

you are fabulous

each and every one

and I bless you

more life

the great work begins”

I remember sitting in the theater and hearing those words and weeping openly. I have not read them for many years but there are still as vibrant as my first encounter with them. The “great work” began and is continuing and as a minority that has suffered so greatly, we need to pat ourselves on our backs but never lose sight of our journey.

I am running out of special places on my desk for certain books that I love but I will a place for “Avowed”. Julie Enszer’s partnership with Kim is personal while our partnerships with each other are now public and have created a very powerful bond and movement. I must thank Julie for reminding us of that.

This is a “bittersweet journey of a lesbian couple’s struggle through the happily ever after with an edgy and humorous perspective that dares to share deep truths about desire, sex, and love”. Those truths are for and about us all.