We (and by “we” I mean “I”) are (am) proud to announce that my friend, Dan Vera, aka Managing Editor for White Crane, has been chosen as the awardee of the Letras Latinas / Red Hen Poetry Prize, for Latino poets who have already published at least one or two books of poetry. The inaugural judge for this prize was poet and Notre Dame professor Orlando Ricardo Menes.
Dan’s winning entry, slated for publication in 2013 is The Guide to Imaginary Monuments. In addition to his White Crane Journal and White Crane Books duties, Dan is a DC-based poet, and also the author of The Space Between Our Danger and Delight (Boethuk Books, 2008).
Two manuscripts were selected, and their publication by Red Hen Press will be spaced two years apart, to give Letras Latinas momentum to promote and publicize the winning books, its authors, this new literary series.
The second award was given to William Archila’s second book, The Gravedigger’s Archeology, which will be published in 2015. His first book was The Art of Exile (Bilingual Press, 2009), a book that speaks to Archila’s Salvadorean heritage and his immigration to the U.S. during the Central American civil war. He is based in Los Angeles.
THE FIRE IN MOONLIGHT Stories from the Radical Faeries Edited by Mark Thompson White Crane Wisdom Series 9781590213384, 309 Pages, $25.00
Mark Thompson’s latest anthology, The Fire in Moonlight (White Crane), is a collection of first person accounts of the Harry Hay-inspired Radical Faerie movement. Hay, a co-founder of the Mattachine Society, joined forces with Don Kilhefner and Mitch Walker to start the Faerie movement in order to add a spiritual dimension to the (often dry) nuts and bolts world of emerging gay politics.
Inspired in part by the writings of Edward Carpenter and the Calamus poems of Walt Whitman, Hay saw the homosexual as much more than a creature fighting for rights in a hostile society. The homosexual, according to Hay, was a multidimensional being with roots in the mythic, a sort of alien spirit with special healing gifts for the world.
As Stuart Timmons notes in his introductory essay, “The Making of a Tribe,” Hay once told a circle of 200 Faeries: “We Faeries need to stop saying, ‘My consciousness is better than your consciousness.’ That’s heterosexist. No one person, no one group, no one ideology has the answer. You need a spirit.”
Theologians may quibble with that relativist statement, insisting that if one truth is as good as another truth, then there’s no truth anywhere. One thing’s certain, however: You have to have spirit in order to “build.” For Hay, this meant constructing a homosexual spiritual dimension outside the world of conventional religion.
In a 1975 edition of RFD, Hay wrote: “To be a true homosexual, is to be put at odds with home, school and society….We are so other that we have to learn early how to protect our very survival.”
While this perspective may seem dated post-DADT, Hay was nonetheless insistent that a pronounced queerness was buried inside the homosexual’s “stubbornly perverse genes.” Hay’s vision of a monastic-like collective of queer men of all ages coming together in friendship circles for a process of “shedding the ugly green frog skin of hetero-imitation” started with the first Faerie Circle in Colorado in 1979.
Called “A Spiritual Conference for Radical Faeries,” at that Labor Day event hundreds of men (the gatherings would later include women) participated in mud baths and neo-pagan, quasi-Native American rituals like circle hand holding, chanting, and taking turns speaking to the circle while holding a Talking Stick. Many of these ad hoc talks were spiked with references to Aliester Crowley as well as Hay’s own take on what it means to be “queer” and “other.”
In these free-love pre-AIDS gatherings there was ritualized group sex as well as individual couplings. As Timmons observes, “In selecting fairies as a role model for gays, [Hay] combined logic with inspiration to surpass the medieval Mattachines—to a pre-Christian time and beyond human limits.”
With its emphasis on aspects of Native American culture and worship of the earth, the early Faeries attracted gay men who had had enough of the dead end clone life in the urban gay ghetto.
At the second Spiritual Gathering for the Radical Faeries in 1980, in Estes National Forest above Boulder, Colorado, faerie names were adopted and the emphasis on paganism was enhanced. As contributor Carol Kleinmaier notes, besides a denial of spirit-body and male-female duality, Faerie spirituality “was sourced in… the celebration of sacred sexuality, Wicca, paganism and shamanic traditions.”
As one would expect, highly eclectic and a diverse range of spiritual references as well as divergent opinions about the Faerie experience mark these essays.
Allen Page, for instance, writes that during the first gathering he “asked the Goddess (which Goddess he doesn’t say) to show him why he needed to be there.” Meanwhile, “a young man shook a rattle and stands up in a speckled dress.” The philosophy was to embody masculine and feminine energies although one finds in many of these stories a distinct prejudice against patriarchy as well as an emphasis “to take the gifts of the Father back to the Mother.”
Philadelphian Chris Bartlett (The Lady Bartlett) notes:
I like cultures that use rituals to embody choice: the Amish Rumspringa when Amish teens, following a year of exposure to the outside world, choose to join the Amish community (be baptized) or are shunned. Another example is the bar/bat mitzvah when young Jews choose to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. The investiture of a priest in various religions is another moment of powerful choice. When participants in a culture choose to embrace that culture, they become full actors, as opposed to full recipients.
In Faerie circles, identification with the feminine is assumed. It would not be unusual, for instance, for the males in a circle to cry while listening to reports of the rape of a female friend of a member. Since Radical Faeries spanned all age categories, older men were respectfully called elders and were regarded as purveyors of wisdom, even if that “respect” ended at the bedroom door. Wisdom cannot compete with beauty when it comes to a good lay.
Just as in any local city bathhouse, the young are attracted to the young, as the older and less appealing find themselves casting about for a bone or having to spend their nights alone, Trappist monk-style.
Artwit, for instance, writes that at one gathering he got lucky three times so that his “usual depression at being alone while the slender twinks slept in pairs was less severe.” Highly critical of many in the Faerie community, Artwit states that “self righteous beliefs about food seem to be a hallmark of the Faeries. We used to joke in the kitchen about making ‘Cream of Vegan’ soup for our next meal.”
Artwit also writes about the Faerie Drag Wars.
The first two Gatherings had that old rustic-northwest-jeans-and-flannel flavor and here come these queens from California doing wigs and make-up. So a small culture war was started at the Gathering, with the hosts deciding not to send the Call to California next year. “[But] over the years, wigs and makeup won and overtook whatever Heart Circles there were.
For Artwit, the Faeries main problem was making social problems into personal ones.
“I have no desire to be a Faerie Mormon and make breakfast while the pretty ones sleep in and fuck,” he writes.
Editor Mark Thompson is to be commended for not editing out Artwit’s less than flattering reminiscences. The inclusion of such criticism is a tribute to the Faerie generosity of spirit, although there’s enough good stuff in this book to make Harry Hay proud.
As Berbiar (Jerry the Faerie) puts it, “We need queers who have radical askance alternative viewpoints to dominant cultural mores. May the Radical Faerie movement continue to play its role in providing a cauldron of change so needed in this ignorant and repressive world.”
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About a month ago I went and saw “Hide and Seek,” the Queer portraiture exhibit now at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. I had just started a long term on grand jury and regularly found myself in that part of the city when a member of the jury urged me to go. So one evening my partner and I joined a friend and took in the show before dinner.
What I saw stunned me. We went from room to room and I found myself repeatedly goggled in disbelief that I was seeing what I was seeing. Many of the pieces I had heard of or seen over the years in textbooks or online. Many were by artists whose work I had always wanted to see and never had the chance before this show. Artists like AA Bronson and Felix Gonzalez-Torres, the Cuban-American artist whose portrait in this show is perhaps the most unconventional and most memorable. A small pile of beautifully wrapped candies against a corner weighing exactly 175 pounds – his partner's body weight at the time of his death. The artist requested that the viewer take and eat a piece to "participate" in the “wasting away” of his partner – a bittersweet evocation of the way that time fades on the tongue. As I went from artwork to artwork I felt as if I was participating in a sacred pilgrimage, witnessing the relics of masters and their attempts to put into visual form a lasting record of their lives, their loving, and their loved ones.
The well known artists are well represented: Andy Warhol, Annie Liebowitz, and Robert Mapplethorpe… the "usual suspects" you'd expect in an exhibition about Gay portraiture. Their place is certainly deserved. But this exhibition aims at more than mere predictability. It seeks to lay bare what has been long known but consigned to whisper. So there is work by Robert Rauschenberg, and his lovers Cy Twombly, and Jasper Johns. There are also canvases by Marsden Hartley and perhaps most daringly Grant Wood. Think about that for a minute. These are all artists largely understood by those in-the-know to have been Gay (or whatever term theorists want to apply to men-who-loved men back in the day). But their families and estates have stubbornly refused to acknowledge the fullness of their sexualities. This show does not hedge its bets. It seeks to lay bare the closer truths of these lives.
I was especially delighted by what I perceived as hidden, or perhaps just accidental, pairings. The aforementioned portraits of and by Hartley appear across the room from the works of Charles Demuth. Hartley and Demuth were contemporaries and colleagues and traveled in many of the same circles. They were also both Gay men. But they chose to live their lives in very different ways. Hartley was conflicted and embittered by his sexuality (his early letters and poems to Walt Whitman's executor and friend Horace Traubel reveal the young painter's awkward attempts to reconcile and find joy in his sexuality — sadly to no lasting avail). Demuth on the other hand was surprisingly "out" for his day and lived a productive life as an individual cherished by a wide circle of friends. Demuth is best known for his symbolic portraits (William Carlos Williams’ portrait as “I Saw the Figure Five in Gold”) and his precisionist floral watercolors. But his luscious portraits of 1920s New York's gay bathhouses speak across the decades and are represented in this show. It was as if these two artists were “speaking” to one another across the hall and my mind began to spin. This exhibition continually had that effect on me.
And then there's the direct influence of poets in this exhibition. A handsome portrait photograph of Walt Whitman holds pride of place. This is fitting since it was the curator David C. Ward's inclusion of a portrait of Whitman and his lover Peter Doyle that led to his meeting the Gay scholar Jonathan D. Katz. Their collegial friendship led to this historic exhibit. But Whitman's work also pops up in David Hockney's "We Two Boys Together Clinging" on loan from a museum in England. The other poet whose life threads through the exhibit is Frank O'Hara. Not surprising since O'Hara was very much a part of New York's mid-century art scene as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art. The Jasper Johns in this show is based on one of O'Hara's poems and O'Hara is physically embodied in four portraits here.
I could go on about this exhibition. But the important thing here is this: if you have even the faintest interest in this subject matter, you must see this exhibition. You should do whatever it takes to get on a plane, drive a car, or take a train to the nation's capitol and see this show. It is not hyperbole to state that this may be the most important Queer exhibition of the decade. This is our King Tut exhibit. That is, perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime museum experience. Why? Because it’s hard to imagine the stars aligning again anytime soon to have all of these works in one place. The pieces are on loan from museums across the United States and Europe — itself a miracle of curatorial good-fortune. For this brief window of time these portraits are here speaking to each other. And they are here to speak to you.
As Gay people, this is our inheritance and a breathtaking exhibition of our stories. These are works of art by men and women who came before us and tried to make sense, in their way, of what it means to be men who love men and women who love women. And even all of that aside, the art itself is stunningly beautiful. That the Smithsonian has mounted this show is a feat that would be staggering and unprecedented for ANY arts institution in the country and they are to be applauded for their boldness and gutsyness. Do not let this opportunity pass you by. The show is on till mid-February.
Get off your asses and make it to this show. Trust me. This is one exhibition that will stay with you for a very long time.
UPDATE: as many of you know this exhibition is now getting media attention because right-wing religious fundamentalists and many Republican elected officials are outraged about the content and want the show shut down. Even more reason to go see this exhibition as soon as you can.
We're pleased to announce…heck, we're tickled pink…that White Crane has been honored by The Monette-Horwitz Trust with their 2010 award. Along with co-honoree, RFD, White Crane is acknowledged by the Trust as reader-written-and-produced
quarterlies celebrating queer diversity. White Crane is celebrating 20 years of publishing; RFD is celebrating 35 years.
Other honorees this year include activist and author, Leslie Feinberg, the oral history film project Impact Stories, the civil rights group Iraq LGBTQ, the Reverend Eric P. Lee, President of the Los Angeles Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Indian NGO AIDS care organization The NAZ Foundation.
The Trust has been presenting these awards for the past twelve years.
We're pleased and honored to be in such company.
Writer, Paul Monette and his lover, attorney Roger Horwitz, moved from Boston to Los Angeles in 1977. Both men were strongly associated with the LGBT activities of that city until their deaths. Horwitz succumbed to HIV-AIDS in 1896, which inspired Monette to write his groundbreaking memoir, Borrowed Time (1988). Monette went on to win the National Book Award for Becoming A Man: Half A Life Story (1992) and dedicated himself to the writing and activism for which he will remain known, capturing in poetry, prose and public speaking the hopes dreams and rage of a generation of gay men.
Before his death from HIV-AIDS in 1995, Monette established the Monette-Horwitz Trust to ensure the continued fruits of their activism as well as the memory of their loving partnership. The Monette-Horwitz Trust provides annual awards to people of diverse cultural backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations who hare, through their work, making significant contributions to eradicating homophobia.
A nice piece from the writer Augusten Burroughs. Wish he'd named some of those forebears, but still take his point. It's reminiscent of something Harry Hay used to say about not needing Gay "Pride" marches but Gay "Freedom" Days. That it was crazy to be "proud" about being Gay. It was like being "proud" for having blue eyes. I think he said "blue eyes" as memory serves.
I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the
shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people
when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that
Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil
incarnate, but I'm no welcher.
The way you put it, making a deal with me
leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but
when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on
earth — glamor, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle.
Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before
Haven't you seen "Crossroads"?
Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots
of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind
of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing
against it — I'm just saying: Not how I roll.
You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip
your wings — just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the
good kind of bad.
Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.
This was originally published in the Minneapolis Star Tribunein their Letters To the Editor section. It was later revealed to have been written by a Lily Coyle of Minneapolis.
A story from Texas this morning seems trivial. A little kid in pre-Kindergarten is being sent home, suspended, because his hair is too long. Four years old and this kid has already run smack dab into institutional gender comformity. It's not the style of his hair it's just the length. And it's not very long either. Little "tater tot" as he likes to be called just likes wearing his hair long. But that's not acceptable to the defenders of propriety at the Mesquite Independent School District outside of Dallas, Texas.
When the boy didn't comply (his parents are supporting him 100%) the school isolated him from the rest of the students. The boy is FOUR YEARS OLD. But we must not let such untoward behavior contaminate the rest of the children. Can't let the other boys wear their hair a bit long.
Now this blog is about Gay issues and this story isn't directly about a Gay issue. But I do think it's related to Gay experience in that it's a reminder of the still present gender conformity that is drilled into the (well-shorn) heads of kids at such an early age. What's missing in the Associated Press coverage of this story is a recognition that the boy is not wearing hair the way BOYS are "supposed" to wear it. Girls can have long hair and braid it and have it in pony tails. There is no doubt that this wouldn't be an issue if Taylor was a girl. But he's a boy and Balch Springs, Texas has very strict rules about how boys should look. And I think it's right here that the problem starts. This is one of the places where societies start laying down expectations on how boys and should be, and act, and dress, with no sense of whether such judgments are based on anything more than personal mores and prejudice.
Even worse little Taylor Pugh likes his hair. Click on that link and look at him sitting there beaming. His hair isn't causing a problem for anyone but the uptight scolds who don't have anything better to do but over-regiment the lives of little kids in their care. As the wise sage musician Frank Zappa once said "Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible." Well the Mesquite Independent School District will make sure there's no deviation from their boring calcified norm.
I expect this will not hold up in court. And I applaud Taylor's parents for letting their son pursue what he loves and for exploring his own individuality. It's an important lesson to learn at an early age.
Building Connections & Community for Gay Men since 1989