Cory, Jim, editor. “Have You Seen This Man?: The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney” , (Arkansas Queer Poet), Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019.
I find it fascinating that Karl Tierney was born in Massachusetts, the state where I presently live and that he earned an MFA from the University of Arkansas, a place where I used to teach. Had he lived a bit longer, I feel sure that our paths would have crossed. Tierney published more that 50 poems in magazines and anthologies before his death. In December of 1994 he became sick with AIDS and took his own life in October of 1995 by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. He was 39 years old. I believe that he would have loved seeing this book in print. The poems in “Have You Seen This Man?” are a tribute to the time that he lived and they are sharp and witty. For me, this is a reminder of how many lives were cut short by the terrible AIDS epidemic.
Jim Cory has done a wonderful job editing this collection and his introduction is brilliant. He brings us the range of Tierney’s talent and he takes us back to the 80s and 90s to San Francisco at the time when you could feel the pulse of sex everywhere even though we were being devastated by the epidemic. The poems that document the devastation impress me the most and I found myself weeping at times and grinning at other times. Tierney reminds us that even as we faced death and the disease, we did not stop dating and having fun.
Tierney and his poetry came into their own in the early 90s. He wrote with confidence and directness as he dealt with his own emotional conflicts. He really gets into it when he writes about love. He yearned for it and he searched for it relentlessly. I can only wonder if he would have found it before AIDS and suicide cut his life short.
I debated whether or not to share some lines from some of the poems and there are several that can stand alone but they mean so much more when read in their original form. However the real reason that I did not include them is because I want each of you to sit down with the book and relish every line. Don’t forget to think Jim Cory for his wonderful work here ad when you have a moment send a mental note to Karl Tierney. We all could use some of his wit right now.