All posts by Dan Vera

My Forebears, Whitman, Brown & Cox

As a poet and writer living and working in DC I like to pay attention to writers like me who may have experienced many of the same things I have.  What I mean is I’m conscious that my work (hopefully) has something to say about the place I live in that is in conversation with others who’ve written here as well.  That’s not to say that all my poetry is place-specific, but a lot of it is.  I become more and more conscious of the poets who have called Washington home.

Bk_leaves Yesterday I picked up my partner from work and we went to have drinks at a little bar in Logan Square (we were enticed by some very crazy martinis they’re famous for at this place).  While we sat there on comfy couches by the front of the bar I pulled out my trusty copy of Walt Whitman and started reading into Pete’s ears.  Just loud enough for him to read…

I am indifferent to my own songs—I am to
          go with him I love, and he is to go
          with me,
It is to be enough for each of us that we are
          together—We never separate again.

And we had our delicious fruity drinks and enjoyed being connected to a poet we both love and admire.

I dance with the dancers and drink with the drinkers.

We would’ve danced if the drinks hadn’t been so powerful.  Now, I’m sure there were a lot of folks wondering what we were doing there in this bar reading from a book.  But Whitman deserves to be read aloud in all places and especially in the Washington he loved so much (the city he probably would’ve been buried in had he not suffered a stroke and had to move closer to family in Camden).  So, I take Whitman with me in a lot of places and I become more familiar with the Whitman-specific things in DC (thanks to Kim Roberts, Martin Murry and many writers).

I also think of Sterling Brown because he lived in Brookland and I live in Brookland.  I sometimes wonder how he experienced these same sidewalks and blocks in our corner of DC.  I think that it’s good to remember you weren’t the first to experience life where you live.  Whenever I think it might be odd to be writing about my life or the place I live I recall those who came before me.  Those who wrote and to whom I’m endebted for populating my historical mind with precedents of verse and imagery.

EdcoxWhich brings me to Ed Cox.  Yesterday I was given a delightful gift by Kim Roberts of an old cover of the Washington Review featuring a great photograph of Cox (by Jesse Winch) on the cover.  Cox was part of the Mass Transit poetry scene of the 1970s. 

I never knew Ed Cox and didn’t move to DC until 10 years after his death.  I first heard about Cox when I picked up a copy of his Collected Poems put out by Paycock Press.  I was stunned by his poems.

Bk_cox_collectedworksAlong with Beth Joselow, Michael Lally, & Terence Winch, Cox was a key figure in that circle that created Some Of Us Press.  As a partner in bringing a small poetry press to life there’s some connection there too.  A group of poets wanting to bring the work of their fellows to life.  His connection to a circle of friends, literary and artistic reminds me of the work I do with Bo on White Crane.

So, discovering a poet like Ed Cox, who made a life here and was so involved and committed to the city and its people and to living an out life as a Gay man in the 1970s is helpful to me.  A poet who was kind and thoughtful and a good listener.  These are all good things to aspire to.

If you don’t know who Ed Cox is or aren’t familiar with his work, we are again endebted to the amazing work of Kim Roberts, whose Beltway Poetry site serves as repository of the brain of DC Poetic history.  There are a lot of amazing pieces there including a remembrance by Richard McCann, and an old interview of Ed Cox by E. Ethelbert Miller which was originally in the old Washington Review (where the above Cox photo by Jesse Winch comes from).  In his gorgeous piece, McCann remembers his old friend as having "a gift for listening deeply, with a patient and even profound attentiveness."  This gift, McCann observes, can be found throughout Cox’s poetry.

I am you,
as you are me in the misery of these avenues
and streets.  Cuddle the bricks, whisper
beneath the great map of stars.

It seems fitting to remember the work of Ed Cox on this Gay Pride Month.

Great Night at the Lammies

Lammylogo Thursday night, May 31st, a nice contingent of White Crane folks descended on the Lambda Literary Awards held at the Fashion Institute in New York City.  These events are always a lot of fun as they afford an opportunity to see a lot of writers and artists whose work has meant so much.  Dan drove up from with partner Pete and went with Bo and his partner Bill Foote.

CharmedlivesWhen we got to F.I.T. we were delighted to meet up with Toby Johnson and Kip Dollar, in from San Antonio. Toby was a finalist in the Anthology category for the White Crane Books project he and Steve Berman edited, Charmed Lives. Berman appeared a few minutes later and we had a great time talking with each other, catching up (such is the nature of internet publishing 68jeff_mannand editing, that one relishes the opportunity to just look at each other in the face and be in one’s presence!) The winner, alas, was not our book, but Love, Bourbon Street, edited by Greg Herren and his partner, Paul J. Willis. Next year…All: A James Broughton Reader!

Other friends at the reception included Jeff Mann, author of the amazing collection of poetry, On The Tongue (reviewed in the Summer ’07 of White Crane) and the scorching A History of Barbed Wire, winner in the category of Gay Erotica. 

We had a great interview with Jeff last year when his last book Loving Mountains, Loving Men came out. You can read an excerpt of that interview online.

Perry Brass, author of Angel Lust, and Substance of God and regular contributor to White Crane was there as well and it’s always good to see Perry.

Tom Spanbauer, who was nominated for his latest novel Now Is The Hour was there from Portland with mural painter, theatre technician/designer, tattoo artist, and permaculture specialist, Sage Ricci.  It was wonderful to meet them in person after the interview (online excerpt) Bo had with Tom in White Crane a few years ago.

Timmons_gayla Frequent contributor and friend Stuart Timmons was a double winner last night with the Lambda Literary Awards for GLBT Non Fiction and GLBT Arts going to the book he co-wrote with Lillian Faderman Gay L.A.  Since Stuart wasn’t able to attend the ceremonies Bo and I had the good fortune of stepping out of the hall and calling him to give him the good news after each win. The book is really a wonder and it’s a well-deserved double win.

It was also great to see Gregg Shapiro, a wonderful writer and poet we’ve featured in White Crane at the ceremony. Gregg has a book of poetry coming out next year and we had a chance to catch up with him as he’s on a whirlwind tour of the East Coast doing some music reporting and generally being a charm in every circle he enters.

It was great to see many legends at the event too, like Martin Duberman, author of the brilliant biography of Lincoln Kirstein, The Worlds of Lincoln Kirstein, was honored with the Pioneer Award at the gala event, and the brilliant Alison Bechdel, of Dykes To Watch Out For and author of Lesbian Memoir/Biography Lammy winner, Fun Home, to name just a few. Bechdel got to present a Lincoln_kirstein Pioneer Award to Marijane Meaker, author lesbian pulp novels in the fifties, to groundbreaking young adult books like Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! to her amazing memoir Highsmith, A Romance of the 1950’s, which is about her relationship with Patricia Highsmith. She just turned 80.

Afterdeath_2 The winner in the Spirituality category was Michael McColly’s The After Death Room (Soft Skull Press) which is reviewed in the Summer 2007 issue of White Crane. We will have an interview with the author in an upcoming issue.

The After-Death Room is McColly’s chronicle of the events that took him from the day in a Chicago clinic when he heard the news that so affected his life, to the many steps he took to reconcile himself to the diagnosis, to becoming a world traveled AIDS activist and journalist.

Jim Elledge’s A History of My Tattoo won in the Gay Poetry category.

Gay Activism in Iran

A really amazing Canadian Broadcasting report on Iran’s Gay Community.  Or perhaps more accurately Gay Life in Iran. Hidden and subversive and overcoming.  Really gripping and amazing for its depiction of the repression and the revolutionary activist community in Iran.  This is a must see report.  These are people who know and experience repression and yet are demanding the right to live their lives.

"The only important thing is that some day I could walk and breathe freely in this country.  And get to choose the one I love and live with him freely.  To have the same rights as the other citizens.  To have the right of legal marriage.  To have the right to adopt a child.  These are very basic things.  It’s not extraordinary at all.  I just hope it’ll actually happen one day.  Hope, hope is all I’ve got.  But it’s a long, hard road ahead of us.  Right now, it’s just a hope.  That’s it."

We only wish the report had made clear that this isn’t unique to Iran.  That many other countries are repressive.  That a lot of these restrictions exist in many states in the United States — where the grand majority of states have taken the time to make their animus toward Gay citizens crystal clearThe life-threatening repression exists in Saudi Arabia and in Iraq and in every Sharia-controlled country in the middle east.  We’d love to hear about exceptions…but don’t know of any.

French AIDS Cartoon

Frenchaidsfilm This is nothing short of amazing. 

A witty and very honest little animated film about AIDS and prevention and leading a good healthy gay life.  Survival and overcoming are the central themes.  This French PSA is the work of filmmaker Wilfredo Brimo.

Wish I had seen something like this when I was coming out.  It’s both funny and realistic.

Brilliant and touching too.

Watch it and enjoy!.

Gay Wisdom: David & Jonathan

Dj_casparluiken1TODAY’S GAY WISDOM – David & Jonathan

Many of our stories can be found in the great traditions.  One of the oldest stories in existence, Gilgamesh & Enkidu is a love story of men.  Another is the great love of David & Jonathan found in the Hebrew Tanakh, known as the Old Testament to Christians.  The story of David & Jonathan has been retold for centuries.  One gorgeous retelling is that of the contemporary poet Steven Schecter, who wrote a beautiful book-length poem titled David & Jonathan: An Epic Poem of Love & Power in Ancient Israel.

Schecter_davidjonathanToday’s Gay Wisdom is an excerpt from the poem in which Schecter retells the exchange between the lovers told in two verses at the end of the 20th chapter of the book of Samuel.  In the book of Samuel the story is recounted as:

41 And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the South, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed down three times; and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.
41 ‘Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of HaShem, saying: HaShem shall be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed, for ever.’

Schecter’s retelling fills in the unmistakable details of this meeting of lovers:

~ ~ ~

David hears Jonathan’s lonely footsteps
and waits no longer.
At once rises.
A diver breaking the water’s surface.
A prisoner his bonds.
A wail its sorrow.
And falls.
Three times rises and falls
until the full-length lover has turned
to a howl in the dust.
Jonathan stares like a bronze,
surprised at the derelict hands
encircling his feet.
They knew it could come to this,
would come,
David more than he,
but knowing the future is sometimes
like knowing the past,
the battle dates mere numbers
to reveal a tale of hope and ruin;
one is therefore well advised to sound one’s heart
before entering history.
Even a priest listens
before dashing blood against the altar.
But not David,
who picks up people like war campaigns
and figured it all as the calculus of God’s grace.
Jonathan does not approve,
has never approved,
has more than once told him he misreads his own heart,
but has come to appreciate
that his lover, like a caterpillar,
only learns by shedding his mistakes;
and so ought not to be surprised.
And yet is.
The man’s pain is so great
it cracks the ground on which he kneels
and runs the fault line to Jonathan’s heart
that weeps, weeps,
for this poor tumbleweed of love.
It is all he can do to pull the man up.
His cries screech against the air,
are gone,
again rise up,
a mad assault on a sponge.
Jonathan hugs David close,
his lips on his neck, in his ear,
murmuring the prayer for ex-lovers:
"God Almighty, let him not fall by the wayside,
not rot in despair,
not spit on hope.
May he remember life is long,
and that I love him;"
and with the hand that caressed him to the tailbone
rubbed the prayer into his bones.
Quiet limped into David’s body.
His sobs grew less and turned to tears
that flowed over the prince’s shoulders,
wet, warm watermarks of love
that mingled with kisses;
and the kisses soon drew forth an embrace,
and one embrace drew forth another,
until David,
as tradition would later have it,
And then Jonathan sent him off
in peace as they had sworn,
tongue to tongue
and seed to seed
as God was their witness.
And when David could no longer be seen,
Jonathan also turned his back
and returned to the city of kings.

from Stephen Schecter’s David & Jonathan published by Robert Davies Publishing.

~ ~ ~

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Gay Wisdom – May Sarton


Today is the birthday of poet, memoirist, & novelist
May Sarton

Best known for her novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaid Singing, Sarton also wrote over 15 books of poetry, more than 20 books of fiction and over ten memoirs. 

Her novel, Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaid Singing is considered a classic for its frank writing about her life as a Lesbian. In her Journal of Solitude (1973) she wrote that "The fear of homosexuality is so great that it took courage to write Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, to write a novel about a woman homosexual who is not a sex maniac, a drunkard, a drug-taker, or in any way repulsive, to portray a homosexual who is neither pitiable nor disgusting, without sentimentality."

~ ~ ~


Andrew Ramer, author of "Two Flutes Playing: A Spiritual Journeybook for Gay Men" and the Praxis column in each issue of White Crane, knew and corresponded with May Sarton for many years.  We asked Andrew to recommend one of her works for inclusion in this Gay Wisdom message.  With no hesitation he recommended Sarton’s poem, "The Great Transparencies."  Thanks Andrew!

The Great Transparencies by May Sarton

Lately I have been thinking much of those,
The open ones, the great transparencies,
Through whom life–is it wind or water?–flows
Unstinted, who have learned the sovereign ease.
They are not young; they are not ever young.

Youth is too vulnerable to bear the tide,
And let it rise, and never hold it back,
Then let it ebb, not suffering from pride,
Nor thinking it must ebb from private lack.
The elders yield because they are so strong–

Seized by the great wind like a ripening field,
All rippled over in a sensuous sweep,
Wave after wave, lifted and glad to yield,
But whether wind or water, never keep
The tide from flowing or hold it back for long.

Lately I have been thinking much of these,
The unafraid although still vulnerable,
Through whom life flows, the great transparencies,
The old and open, brave and beautiful . . .
They are not young; they are not ever young.

~ ~ ~

"But what is becoming tiresome now in the American ethos, is the emphasis on sex, and especially on orgasm as an end in itself. Let us think more about what enriches life; to put it in the metaphorical form, let us think about flowers and animals in a new way. A sensitized person who feels himself at peace with nature and with the natural man in him is no going to be troubled about sex.
It will have its day and its hour and the orgasm, should it occur, will come not as a little trick cleverly performed, but as a wave of union with the whole universe. The emphasis on orgasm per se is just another example of the devaluation of all that is human."
May Sarton, from her Journal of A Solitude

~ ~ ~

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Lorenz Hart


Today’s the birthday of
Lorenz Hart (1895), lyricist half of the famed Rodgers & Hart team. 

Hart struggled with his homosexuality, which was a carefully guarded secret for most of his life.  But what he left us was the most amazingly witty, lyrics in songwriting.

His lyrics include the classics  "Blue Moon", "Isn’t It Romantic?", "The Lady is a Tramp", "Manhattan", "Thou Swell", "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered", and "My Funny Valentine" and one of my favorites, the lyrical tongue-twister of a treat, "I Wish I Were in Love Again":

I Wish I Were in Love Again, Lyrics by Lorenz Hart

The sleepless nights,
The daily fights,
The quick toboggan when you reach the heights—
I miss the kisses and I miss the bites.
I wish I were in love again!
The broken dates,
The endless waits,
The lovely loving and the hateful hates,
The conversation with the flying plates—
I wish I were in love again!
No more pain,
No more strain,
Now I’m sane, but …
I would rather be gaga!
The pulled-out fur of cat and cur,
The fine mismating of a him and her—
I’ve learned my lesson, but I
Wish I were in love again.
The furtive sigh,
The blackened eye,
The words ‘I’ll love you till the day I die’,
The self-deception that believes the lie—
I wish I were in love again.
When love congeals
It soon reveals
The faint aroma of performing seals,
The double-crossing of a pair of heels.
I wish I were in love again!
No more care.
No despair.
I’m all there now,
But I’d rather be punch-drunk!
Believe me, sir,
I much prefer
The classic battle of a him and her.
I don’t like quiet and I
Wish I were in love again!

Although his lyrics usually dealt with such standard "boy-meets-girl" fare, his own sentiments seem to creep up in a few of his songs, like "Zip" from "Pal Joey" and "Come with Me" from the musical "The Boys from Syracuse" in which Hart exults in the life of the "bachelor" and the freedom to commit the little "sin" away from condemning eyes.

Come with Me, Lyrics by Lorenz Hart

Come with me
Where the food is free
Where the landlord never comes near you
Be a guest in a house of rest
Where the best of fellows can cheer you.
There’s your own little room
So cool, not too much light
Where you’re one man for whom
No wife waits up at night
When day ends
You have lots of friends
Who will guard you well while you slumber
Safe from battle and strife
Safe from the wind and gale
Come with me to jail

You’ll never have to fetch the milk
Or walk the dog at early dawn
There’s no -"Get up- you’re late for work!"
While you rest in the pearly dawn
You’re never bored by politics
You’re privileged to miss a row
Of tragedies by Sophocles
And diatribes by Cicero
Your brother’s wife will never come
On Sunday noon to bring to you
Her little son who plays the lute,
Her little girl to sing to you
You can commit you little "sin"
And relatives won’t yell "Fie!"
You needn’t take the annual trip 
To the oracle at Delphi
You snore and swear and stretch and yawn
In this, your strictly male house
The only way that sinners go to Heaven
Is in the jailhouse!

For more on Lorenz Hart, visit the Lorenz Hart Website!

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Sigur Ros’ Gay Boys video

This Sigur Rós video is pretty stunning.

Sigur Rós, the Icelandic band is known for their ethereal multi-layered music (they were an enormous influence on Radiohead’s Thom York), has produced a stunner here.

The video for the song titled "Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása" from their album Ágætis byrjun present a stunning series of images telling a very old story about gay being and the array of social and religious constraints against natural love.

The lyrics are in a homemade language created by the band, they call it Hopelandic and consider it their form of their native tongue.  The title has been translated as "Good Weather for Airstrikes" and was named after that phrase which was said by a weatherman during the Kosovo war.  It’s interesting to have this video attached to what is clearly an anti-war song.

Very moving.  A bit long but there were moments that left me speechless.

James Broughton’s ALL

AllbroughtonWhite Crane Books is extremely proud to announce the publication of its sixth book. 

Edited by poet and KPFA radio host, Jack Foley, James Broughton’s ALL: A James Broughton Reader is a collection of the great Gay sage’s writings on filmmaking and his extensive poetry.

The book has already garnered some great buzz among reviewers lauding the publication of this great writers’ work, who had sadly been missing from print since the closing of Black Sparrow Press, Broughton’s last publisher.

Purchase a copy for yourself or a friend at your local bookstore or purchase a copy online at, Powell’s Books, TLA Video, & Barnes & Noble.