Soden, Christopher. “Closer”, Rebel Satori: Queer Mojo, 2011.
Before I read “Closer”, I really knew nothing about Christopher Soden except that he was a Facebook friend and a poet. Imagine my surprise as I found myself engulfed in his book and in his life as I read. I rarely let emotions get the best of me but it was impossible not to with these gorgeous poems. I felt as if Soden pulled me into his life as he told me about it. There is something existentially honest about his verse. At times witty and playful, at times somber and introspective, Soden has written something for every taste. He deals with important themes—sexuality, gender, masculinity, identity and the nature of the human condition.
What really drew me in is that Soden says what he thinks and he does not hold back. He struggled at times as a gay male and he tells us so and as open as he is, he is humane as well. While at times he was not always comfortable with his sexuality, he now celebrates it as all of us should and he does so as a member of the world. It is as if Soden is rediscovering himself through his poems and as he does, he rips the pain away to find love (we all have felt that pain but I doubt that many of us can write about it like this poet does). We feel his vulnerability and we watch him push it aside as he tells us of his life. He comes to terms with who he is and we are right there with him as he tells us.
If there is an overall theme here it is the intimacy that men share with each other and that intimacy need not always be sexual. Sometimes one misunderstands that asexual intimacy and what could have been beautiful is lost forever. I suspect that what Soden says to us is to hold onto the intimate relationships we have and make sure that we deal with them correctly so as not to lose them. I remember too well that my closest friend is straight and we accept each other totally. We also love each other intimately yet not sexually—we know where we stand and to violate that is to lose each other. Our poet looks at relationships like that.
I love that Christopher Soden and I share a sense of spirituality. I am an observant Jew and I am active in my religion. Soden was once very religious and is spiritual today but there was a time in his life that he believed that gays were God’s failures and because of that he had trouble accepting himself as gay and spiritual. He tells us how he felt and he tells us how we felt. He has found a way to God now because he has been able to push those who preach that we are not worthy out of his mind. He lets us know that they know no more about God than we do and their ideas are extensions of the brainwashing they have had. We can rise above that and Soden does.
I do not believe that many of us were able to deal easily with our sexual orientation and in his poem “Original Sin”, the poet tells us how he felt and he does so in a way that we cannot ignore one syllable of one word. All of us have issues and all of those issues need resolution and sometimes reaching the resolve can be painful. If you are like me, you will feel that as you read these poems. You will remember your mistakes and your misjudgments and you will celebrate your successes. More than that, you will see that what Christopher Soden has to say is not at all different from what we believe. He just has the ability to say it beautifully and stylishly and that is the difference.
I understand that some of the poems in this collection were written as long ago as thirty years ago. Well, Christopher Soden, I am letting you know that I do not feel like waiting 30 plus years for another book. You have jumped into the water and I want you to, I need you to, keep swimming.
- Posted in: GLBT poetry