Category Archives: Dan Vera

WC71 – Editor’s Note

Opening Words from the Editors

Our Special Role
Dan Vera & Bo Young

Bo: So this was an issue long in the “a-borning” process.

Dan: Gestating?

Bo: We’ve had the germ of this issue for almost two years

Dan: Wow. Has it been that long?

Bo: Victor Marsh’s interview with Don Bachardy sat for a long time until we could figure out how to present it. I’m not really sure “Beats & Bohemians” is the right rubric for it.

Dan: Well we have talked about the term “Beats” being a misnomer. “Beats” was coined from “beatific” and applied by people outside the movement. It was an invention of the press, if memory serves.

Bo: And that “Bohemian” is a term that stretches from the turn of the century.

Dan: Yes. Andrew Ramer writes about the confusion-inducing nature of that term in his column this issue.

Bo: I think the idea is about “outsider” being “different” and the perspective that offers. And “Bohemia” has always seemed like a place where the sexual “transgressive” fit in. Andrew Ramer talks about it in his column, how there was this perception of sexual freedom right from the earliest notion of the term. I remember in my own “coming out” days wanting to get away. The Hippies were the bohemians of my youth and I wanted to be one.

Dan: What was it about them that attracted you?

Bo: The pretty men with long hair. The whole communal thing and the experimental nature of it all. They were trying out new ways of being in a time when I didn’t think much of the way I’d seen things being done. I wanted nothing so much as to put as much distance between me and Suburbia as I could. And Suburbia is still the only place I’m afraid of – that Stepford effect.

Dan: There is a geographic element to this discussion. I’m reminded of Edward Field’s recent memoir on the Bohemians of New York’s Greenwich Village after World War II. He writes about how they found this enclave where they were free to explore their lives and their art.

Bo: The dictionary’s first definition of “bohemian” is geographic. The second is about people who “live and act free of regard for conventional rules.” It’s about being unconventional.

Dan: Sure, but the question is what happens when the conventional rules change. Being gay in Chelsea or Washington DC’s Dupont Circle is not an act of brazen liberty is it?

Bo: No, but it was when those neighborhoods weren’t so trendy we made them trendy. In fact I’d go so far as to say we fix cities we settle areas that others desert.

Dan: So trendyness is today’s bohemianism?

Bo: No. That’s the wake, the afterward. It is about pioneering.

Dan: So Bohemianism gives birth to banality.

Bo: Only when it gets commodified after the true bohemians have moved on. It’s just one of the social roles that same sex people have always played. I don’t think it’s simply a subset of the group that sexual freedom is part of it. I think in some ways it defines it.

Dan: Where have they moved to? I guess that’s what I’m curious about. Cause I go back to the theory that Bohemianism has a direct relation to cheap rent. Allen Ginsberg could live on unemployment and do his art.

Bo: Oh yes. Cheap rent is very much a part of it. Except after the bohemians move in, the rents end up going up. We make it safe and profitable

Dan: So, I’m just asking the question that cities may not be where Bohemianism is living today because people can’t make art free of constraints if they’re working for Smith Barney to pay the rent. I was reminded from our recent time there that the same is true of the Castro. I’m sort of haunted by the conversations we had there with artists who struggle to make sense of what’s around them.

Bo: Well, there are surely “bohemian” people in rural places, too. I don’t think “bohemia” as a concept has a geography, per se. There are rural bohemians, and there are urban bohemians. The connection is living outside the boundaries, and moving the boundaries. It gets back to the traditional social role of same sex people, to my eye. It’s another “contrary” role – the “re-interpreter.”

Dan: I don’t think people struggled to create communities or neighborhoods so they could be co-opted. I think they wanted more – still want more. I don’t think the end result was to be tastemakers. That’s way too safe and we didn’t need liberation to perform that function—those of us who perform that function (not all of us do of course).

Bo: Oh I agree. I think the motivation is about finding a better, more satisfying way to live—unconstrained by social rules that have become constraints.

Dan: Well by most definitions the movement’s sort of hit a wall. I think the social rules can only apply if you’re living in Anniston or Pagosa Springs.

Bo: I don’t know those references.

Dan: Anniston, Alabama or Pagosa Springs, Colorado. I was just referencing more rural locales.

Bo: I think that’s the whole point. There isn’t any one “movement.” Bohemia is about the individual. The minute it becomes a “movement” it’s something else.

Dan: No. I disagree. The Beats, as we call them, were not individuals. That’s a total myth. They functioned and “succeeded” through their collective efforts. The reason we know of Burroughs and Kerouac is because of Ginsberg and the reason we have Ginsberg – as David Carter’s piece demonstrates beautifully – is because of his interaction with Burroughs and Kerouac. Ginsberg championed his friends’ work when no one would pay any attention. If the world loves On The Road, they owe a debt of gratitude to Ginsberg who used the his Howlfame to push for its publication

Bo: I think that’s the other side of this, too. All these radical “individualists” like the Goths now, or even the Hippies all dress alike, all look alike. It becomes about being identifiable. There is always this regression to a mean. But I think that is precisely what the “true bohemian” is responding to.

Dan: Sure. “The 50s begat the Beats which begat the Hippies, which begat the Punks” etcetera, but it sort of falls apart somewhere there at the end.

Bo: But there’s always one, or a few, who wander off and try to reestablish some individuality. It’s a very scary place to live, though, and it is certainly one of my interests with respect to modern gay folk. Getting back to Harry Hay’s whole idea that “the bedroom is the only place we’re like straight people.” It’s amazing how threatening that is to a large group of gay people and how easy it is to slip back into that Stockholm Syndrome of trying to convince hetero-society that we’re “just like them.” And how really difficult it is to stand outside and declare your differences. But this issue seems to confirm how important that is.

Dan: I just had a conversation with an artist we both know. He’s devoted his entire life to living simply so he can do his art. I asked him if he knew where the gay bohemians were today. His reply was a question. “Is there such a thing? I thought gay was part of the norm now so that we don’t need to live in special areas.”

Bo: Well, that is interesting. But for me it reinforces that the whole “gay lib” thing isn’t about sex. It’s about social roles. Sex is just sex, like Harry says. It’s the only place we’re the same as “them.” It’s every other way that makes us another “them.” As desperately as people will try to hold on to being “just like everyone else.” The feeling that it’s important to “fit in” is deeply tribal. It’s scary to be on the outs or feel like you’re on the outs. I think the point is that we actually have a special role and the sooner we go about defining it the better off we’ll all be.

Dan: What are some of those roles?

Bo: One of those roles is to be the outside commentor – the perspective that being outside, even briefly, offers. That’s very important for culture and society. Sometimes that outsider role is the joker, the jester making fun of things. That’s revolutionary by definition. And sometimes it is as the contrary: deliberately going against the flow. These are all definitions of “bohemians.”

Dan: I just think it’s near impossible to do that from a point of comfort. And we’re way too comfortable as an enclave. Chelsea is way too comfortable and cozy. Part of the dynamic is the carving out of space that is other, that is protected – a liberated zone if you will. Is there any chance to break from the rootlessness of that role? I mean to actually put down roots in a community? To not be the cultural interior decorator for the society or for realtors?

Bo: Well, for me that’s the point. “Bohemia” isn’t geographic. It’s a state of mind with very strong ego boundaries. Rootlessness is another synonym. They just don’t want to be confined by convention.

Dan: Maybe we’re challenged by trying to talk about them in general terms. Maybe it’s about intentionality. How you do things authentically.

Bachardyday2no3 Bo: There is a social co-dependency that is considered “the norm.” It’s easy if you fit in but not so easy if you don’t. Some people get bent out of shape with it all. Still others turn it into an art form. “Life as Art.” Which is certainly what Mr. Bachardy is doing.

Dan: It’s a big thing for our humble and solid little publication to be printing four of Don Bachardy’s nudes in this issue. They are truly works of art and they signify a threshold for us in keeping to our mission. You had the chance to sit for him. What was that experience like?

Bo: It was an honor to sit for him and fascinating. He works so fast and the concentration and meditation he speaks of in this interview, is palpable. There is a clear connection made with him as you sit there and his laser eye takes you in and translates you into color on the page. I think it’s Fauvist (another bohemian split from the art establishment in its time!) He really colors outside the lines. But I really got a sense that he lives to paint.

Dan: That may be the purest way to understand this issue. To talk about life as art. Or the pursuit of art. But I don’t think it has much to do with these creators thinking of themselves as Bohemians. It had more to do with their being honest about their lives and their expression of that liberated life through their art. I think these larger sociological conversations are just dead ends. They get too convoluted. Just sound like catch-phrases. Maybe because so much of the language has been co-opted on to Gap Ads.

Bo: Well I think that’s certainly true. Everything and everyone is capable of being coopted. But there will always be bohemians. Whatever they call themselves.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Bo Young and Dan Vera are editorials mid-wives and co-conspirators in creating each issue of White Crane. Bo lives in Brooklyn, NY a few blocks from a museum and Dan lives in Washington, DC a few blocks from a Shrine. Bo is the author of First Touch: A Passion for Men and Day Trilogy and Other Poems. Dan is the author of two chapbooks of poetry, Crespuscalario and Seven Steps Up. If they sometimes seem interchangeable in the minds of White Crane readers it’s because they talk on the phone each day and bask under the shade of the same growing tree, the watering of which they consider their contribution to the continued flowering of gaiety.

WC71 – Updrafts

A quarterly column of wise words…

I am a lover of truth, a worshipper or freedom, a celebrant at the altar of language and purity and tolerance. That is my religion, and every day I am sorely, grossly, heinously and deeply offended, wounded, mortified and injured by a thousand different blasphemies against it. When the fundamental canons of truth, honesty, compassion and decency are hourly assaulted by fatuous bishops, pompous, illiberal and ignorant priests, politicians and prelates, sanctimonious censors, self-appointed moralists and busy-bodies, what recourse of ancient laws have I? None whatever. Nor would I ask for any. For unlike these blistering imbeciles my belief in my religion is strong and I know that lies will always fail and indecency and intolerance will always perish.
You should try the fruit of every tree of every garden in the world. But ‘try’ is the word. Some fruits will be rotten, some will be poisonous, and some will be so seductive you eat nothing else and become malnu-treated, if there is such a word.  STEPHEN FRY

The integrity of love is always more important than the purity of dogma.  UNKNOWN

Our life is but a mere tracing on the surface of mystery.  And the surface of mystery is not smooth. ANNIE DILLARD

Did you once desire to shine among your peers—or did you shrink from the knowledge of your won defect in the midst of them?
Did you, friend, covet so to be more beautiful, witty, virtuous—to be able to tell a store or sustain an argument well, or to be able to discourse on any subject, or to be a skilful rider or a good shot?
Or shrank from the ridicule which the reverse of these excited—which was certain and is still certain to come upon you?
Was it really your own anxious face you used to keep catching in the glass? was it really you who had so many things, one way or another, you wanted to conceal from others—so many opinions too to disguise?
All that is changed now.
The doors that were closed stand open.
Yet how slight a thing it is.
The upturning of a palm?  the curve of a lip, an eyelid?  Nothing.
Nothing that can be seen with the mortal eye or heard by the ear, nothing that can be definitely thought, spoken, or written in a book—
Yet the doors that were trebled-bolted and barred, and the doors weed-overgrown with rusty old hinges,
Fly open of themselves.  EDWARD CARPENTER

Tell me the landscape in which you live, and I will tell you who you are. JOSÉ ORTEGA Y GASSETT

If I could take all my parts with me when I go somewhere, and not have to say to one of them, ‘No, you stay home tonight, you won’t be welcome,’ because I’m going to an all-white party where I can be gay, but not Black. Or I’m going to a Black poetry reading, and half the poets are anti-homosexual, or thousands of situations where something of what I am cannot come with me. The day all the different parts of me can come along, we would have what I would call a revolution. PAT PARKER

When you consider that God could have commanded anything he wanted—anything!—the Ten [Commandments] have got to rank as one of the great missed moral opportunities of all time.  How different history would have been had he clearly and unmistakably forbidden war, tyranny, taking over other people’s countries, slavery, exploitation of workers, cruelty to children, wife-beating, stoning, treating women—or anyone—as chattel or inferior beings. KATHA POLLITT

Ours should be a vision willing to exceed all that attempts to confine and intimidate us.  We would be wise to develop strong powerful voices that can range over the entire landscape of human experience and condition. ESSEX HEMPHILL

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are a reader-supported journal and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

Wisdom – Monday, Jan. 15th


070115_moliereToday is the birthday of Molière (1622-1673).
The French playwright is considered the greatest writer of French comedy and is known for his plays "Les Femmes Savantes," "The Imaginary Invalid,"  "Sganarelle, ou le Cocu Imaginaire," "Tartuffe" and many other masterpieces of Commedia dell’arte.
Martin Greif writes that when Molière was in his late forties he fell in love with Michel Baron and brought him home to live with him.  When the playwright’s wife protested Baron moved out till Molière ordered him back.  When his wife made an ultimatum that the playwright choose between her or Baron, Molière chose.  Three years later, when the Molière died, Michel Baron was at his side.
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“One should examine oneself for a very long time before thinking of condemning others” ~Molière

“The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.”  ~Molière

“I prefer an interesting vice to a virtue that bores”  ~Molière

“To live without loving is not really to live." ~ Molière

And knowing money is a root of evil, in Christian charity, he’d take away whatever things may hinder your salvation. ~ Molière
I assure you that a learned fool is more foolish than an ignorant fool. ~ Molière
Let us drink while we can, One cannot drink forever. ~ Molière
Of all the noises known to man, opera is the most expensive. ~ Molière
“Things only have the value that we give them”  ~Molière

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For silly fun, check out David Lehre’s humorous & satirical "Life & Times of Moliere" below:

WC70 – Opening Words – Editors

Opening Words from the Editors

If you meet the Buddha in the Baths…
Dan Vera & Bo Young

Dan Vera: A few months back we heard from a writer we’d published. A somewhat well-known writer who had a change of heart — to be charitable —  and no longer wanted to be known as a gay man.  Although he was duplicitous in his dealings with us, taking us around the block with many tales of woe and stalkers, before he came clean and admitted the truth.  The real reasons he wanted his material removed from our website was it was going to hurt his sales in Asia if he were known as a gay writer.   Now this guy was looked up to as a source of “wisdom” by his readers and a “guide” for living the right life. Behind the scenes he’d made the decision that it wasn’t lucrative to his career to be known as a gay man.

Bo Young:  When we asked around we heard from other people that this sort of thing has happened for years in magazine publishing.  The whole point of White Crane has been that the talking circle eliminates the need for leaders. If we share our stories, we can learn from the collective wisdom of the community. As Sheldon Kopp famously advised, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” I think I have just reached a point where I don’t buy into the whole “guru” thing anymore.

Dan: For some reason I’m thinking of “right livelihood” which is good and what we’re talking about here… how would we differentiate?

Bo: That’s a good question…because there are some people that I’m fine with and others that my bullshit detectors just go off.  It’s a difficult distinction, and it gets back to the idea of discernment, which is, in one way or another, the topic we’ve been dancing around for the last four or five issues…just calling it another name, or approaching it from a different angle…like calling it “healthy spirituality.”

Dan: There are always exceptions to the rule. Last issue we spent some time discussing the need for mentors, or guides for the path. This issue, in a way, seems like a guide for what to watch out for. What sets off bullshit detectors? I mean on the one hand people got to put food on the table. We don’t have institutions that would normally take care of people doing this kind of work.

Bo: Well we do have institutions, but some of them are also simply imitations of old style, hierarchal institutions…it’s just “daddy telling you what to do” all over again…

Dan: So, maybe what we’re not crazy about is another “priestly class” of gurus?

Bo: But there seems to be this gaggle of people who see the whole “gay spirituality” movement as a career opportunity and present themselves as having all the answers, when I sincerely doubt they’re even asking the right questions. All they’ve really done is read the “canon” as it were, then they repackage it with themselves at the center, and hope to book a few author’s tours and cruises. It always comes back to Bob Barzan’s genius for me. He always used to say he thought most people had a good pamphlet in them, but the publishing business forced people to produce whole books…stretching a subject beyond it’s need and the thing writer had to say. If I get one more book that promises me “Self-Transformation for Joyful Living” I’m going to use them for fire starters!

Dan: Yeah, but combustion is never a good idea with those types of books. Because they always come clad with a glossy cover emblazoned with a soft-core smiling models.  I can imagine the toxic fumes those glossy covers would give off in a fireplace.    But your mentioning of cruises and retreats brings up the disturbing issues of class that are likely to come up around that kind of programming. It enforces an idea that only the wealthy or connected can have access to wisdom – that you need a spa to transcend.

Bo: Or the “nobility” of poverty. Somewhere in that scale is “the noble Indian” too, for lack of a better term. Or all things Indian are, by definition, holier, Earthier, more spiritual.

Dan: Yes. It’s faddish almost. A good teacher of mine, I don’t want to name drop here, used to joke that in Indian communities they always qualified Indian time in terms of “B.C.” eras. “Before Columbus,” “Before Custer” or “Before Costner.” Many Indian scholars see new age interest in Indian Religions as a form of self-colonization on the part of Indian tribes in which their rituals become a spectacle or observed event, completely changing the communal power.

Bo: And again…we come full circle to discernment…how do we know when to say “enough”? The thing that keeps coming to me is our Be Your Own Guru t-shirt. “Snake oil” and “charlatan” comes down discernment…how to separate wheat from chaff, gold from fools gold? — or fools from their gold?

Dan: There’s a lot of pyrite in them thar hills. That brings up another bullshit warning. Beware a teacher who claims infallibility.  I love that old line from the Kena Upanishad: “If you believe you know, you do not know. If you believe you do not know, you know.”  It doesn’t mean there aren’t basic understandings, but absolutes are very tricky.

Bo: Sure…and there’s another dynamic of seeing something or someone who once was a teacher for you but is no longer…someone is still going to need that kind of teaching even if YOU don’t. “Been there, done that” doesn’t necessarily mean it no longer has value.

Dan: Agreed. It once held value but doesn’t anymore. But there are some who never break from that. They never seem to move beyond that disciple stage or even know it’s a possibility.

Bo: There are people who never leave therapy, either…and there’s a connection. In therapy there’s the phenomenon called transference and reverse transference (from the therapist to the patient). It’s no accident that some of our most loyal readers are therapists. Doing your own psychological work is an inherent part of spiritual growth. So there’s a natural bent towards “self-help” work and therapists and “those from whom all wisdom flows” and I guess my own interest is where does that process end and when do we stand up and say “you know, I think I have the tools I need to make my own mind up”…that’s discernment. When do we start looking inside ourselves for the answers instead of outside? I’m tired of being told that the answers are “out there” and that we need some intermediary to attain it…one of the first things I ever wrote was my own declaration of what I was seeking and right at the top of the list was I was tired (as a recovering Roman Catholic) of intermediaries interpreting for me. I was willing to sit in student/teacher relationship, but only if I knew there was going to be an end to it and at some point knowledge and such would be passed along to me.

Dan: I think another thing to always watch for is our own penchant for placing teachers on pedestals. We forget their fallibility. And it’s not useful. We don’t need more hierarchies. We’re not maturing. We’re giving the authority, again, to someone else.

Bo: When I was trained as a therapist, one teacher suggested that therapy was like a boat that people take to get “the other shore.” But the problem was, most people never got out of the boat! And it’s the same with spiritual gurus and teachers. People either get lost in the myth or the myth-teller, it seems, and forget that it’s meant to be poetry and metaphor trying to explain something that is, in the end, unexplainable. It’s Dorothy and the Wizard. Eventually someone has to pull the curtain and see who’s pulling the strings. Learning that those imperfections — including my own — were part of the deal. That’s something I think people fall prey to…this idea that we can BE perfected.

Dan: When you say people fall prey, do you mean searchers or leaders? Or both? I’m guessing searchers because that’s the belief that can be preyed upon by a bad guru. A “buru.”  I think it’s the role of the mentor to be constantly checking his altitude. When you sense you’re floating too high, you need to step off the pedestal you’re being placed on. “Uh oh, the air is thinning. Crap. They’re doing it again.” [teacher steps down]

Bo: And I still think that’s putting the responsibility on the outside. At some point each of us has to know when to say “enough.” When to know when the learning has run its course and now it’s time to move on. Which is not to say we don’t value teaching. I just have reached a point where I think the ultimate authority has to be YOU.

Dan: There’s that great story in the Christian Gospels about Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, which is enormously revolutionary.

Bo: Yes. That’s certainly a Christian image that sticks with me. The humility. You don’t see a whole hell of a lot of humility out there. It’s usually “I have all the answers.” Or I have the answers you need, at least…follow me.

Dan: Another warning sign is beware a guru who’s an angel in public and a mean S.O.B. in private. I’m sure we could tell stories.  For me it means that one’s public and private life shouldn’t be a Jekyll and Hyde production.

Bo:  And doesn’t that seem like it should go without saying almost?

Dan: Sure, but then you run into so many “private bastard/public angel” that you think that’s normal.

Bo: That’s why I love the idea of the “secret mentor” that Chris Bartlett writes about in this issue. The Jewish tradition has levels of mitzvahs where you do good deeds, with varying levels of public knowledge or awareness about it…ranging from everyone knowing you’ve done it to it being done in complete anonymity. Eric Rofes would talk about this…being a “secret mentor”…he would see someone who he believed was doing good work or had potential to do good work and he would support them. But he would do it without letting them know he was doing it…sending books, articles, making connections for them.

Dan: Look, I think what we’re talking about is another refraction of the last issue, which was all about mentors and maturity and transmitting gay culture. We’re all searching out and trying to make sense of this “one wild and precious life” as Mary Oliver puts it. We find guides, fellow travelers, who can point us in the right direction. Some of them screw us over and some of them honor us with their grace.

Bo: Occasionally, the screwing over is as valuable as the grace.  The “screwing over” is the grace.

Dan: Well, yeah. So, we do our own work knowing that we’re going to be called on to guide others after us. So this issue is as much a handbook for future guides as it is a warning to searchers.

This is just an excerpt from this issue of White Crane.   We are reader-supported and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

White Crane #70 – EXCERPT C. Cleo Creech Interview

70creech My People,My Tribe
An Interview with Poet
& Activist C. Cleo Creech

By Dan Vera

Sometimes things connect in ways one could never expect and you’re reminded how delight walks on the thinnest of filaments in our lives.  I received a letter from a dear friend, Mark Clinard, in Atlanta.  He’d attended a reading of gay poets organized by Franklin Abbott and had been moved in particular by the work of one poet.  And knowing my love of poetry, he sent me two poems in an envelope.  This is how I came to know of C. Cleo Creech.  Upon reading the two poems I knew what had so captivated my friend  Here was a writer of directness and power. 

I got a hold of Cleo to see about publishing his work in White Crane.  But when I chatted with Creech, he told me of his latest project — a collection of poets responding to the killings of LGBT people by the U.S.-supported Iraqi government.  This work is alive and so current that you may be forgiven for not knowing the subject at hand.  The repression has received scant attention in U.S. media.

I had a chance to speak to Cleo about his writing and the heavy cost of doing the vital work of bearing witness:

Dan: I wanted to talk to you about the Green Zone project.  Can you tell me how the project came about?

Cleo: Well the first I heard about it was a column in the Advocate a few months ago.  There has been only very spotty coverage on the issue.  It was taking about the recent Fatwa or religious edict issued by the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani.  When asked what the punishment should be for gays and lesbians.  He stated that they should be executed and killed in the “worst possible way.”  That edict just opened the floodgates to allow Islamic fundamentalists to openly execute gays and lesbians and they have the protection of law under the new constitution.

Dan: Have there been specific cases reported in the media?

Cleo: Several, but mainly in international and UK media.  A transvestite was stoned to death in a public square. A gay man was shot by a mob that came through his gym. There are stories of men being lured into rendezvous via chat-rooms only to be met with death squads, the list goes on and on.  The most unsettling for me though, have been the execution of children.  One 14 year-old boy who was merely trying to raise money for his starving family was accused of male prostitution and executed on his family’s doorstep by police.  Recently an 11-year old boy who was kidnapped by crime gangs and forced into prostitution was similarly executed by police.  The stories go on and on.

Dan: Al-Sistani is the leading Shiite cleric in Iraq.

Cleo: Right and actually the man who the Bush Administration has held up as a great leader in Iraq, and one of the main people the U.S. Government has chosen to work with, the British Government as well.  He has his own security force, the Badr Brigade, which enforces Islamic/Sharia law, and it is now taking over the security and police forces in Iraq.

Dan: Can you say a bit about the relationship of Sharia Islamic law to the U.S.-supported Iraqi government?

Cleo: Well, in forming a new Iraqi government, the United States was under such pressure to get a government in place and appear to be making progress.  They made a major concession from a secular constitution to a Sharia-based constitution.  At the time it was presented as “not that big a deal.”  However, some red flags were raised immediately.

Dan:  What red flags exactly?

Cleo: Howard Dean, to his credit, immediately pointed out that women’s rights had just been knocked back generations, and all the voting rights and equality of women were gone over night.  He was slammed at the time for raining on the parade.

Dan: What’s your role as a poet in all of this?

Cleo: Well as a poet, or any artist, you have to feel that your craft has a chance to change people’s minds.  To make them feel and empathize for people.  Even to make a difference and change the world.  I’ve always believed that what the essay is to reason and logic, the poem is for feeling and understanding.

Dan: I love that.  But you’re in Atlanta. Whose minds are you trying to change?

Cleo:  Hmm… good question.   Atlanta isn’t really a hot bed of international rights.  However don’t forget we’ve produced two Nobel peace-prize winners in MLK and Jimmy Carter.  I myself come from a very rural fundamentalist (Baptist) background.  I knew people that were active members in the Klan and my hometown had the last standing KKK billboard in the country.  So in a sense, we’re not all that far from what’s happening in Iraq.  This was one of those instances where I just had to ask myself, “what can I do about this?”  And as a poet, I’ve done what I do.  There’s a great synergy between political action and arts.

This is just an excerpt from this fantastic interview in White Crane.   We are reader-supported and need you to subscribe to keep this conversation going.  So to read more from this wonderful issue SUBSCRIBE to White Crane. Thanks!

C. Cleo Creech was born in North Carolina to Conservative Baptist tobacco farmers in 1959.  He led a very sheltered life until he went to college and became the biggest partying frat boy on campus overnight.   After leaving Wake Forest he moved to Atlanta GA, the gay capital of the South.  He did all the basic wham things, worked tables, bartended.  He went back to school for a BFA in ceramics and printmaking.  He has been writing poetry for about 10 years now and is very active in the spoken word scene in Atlanta.  He is also an active volunteer in everything from politics to tree planting.  He has been HIV positive for 20+ years – which has heavily influenced his writing and activism.  He lives in the East Atlanta enclave, with his cat Ava, named after Ava Gardner, the only famous person ever to come from his hometown.  He has a bit of a mixed family pedigree in literature with an ancestor, (William Creech), who was the poet Robert Burns’ Scottish editor and publisher and another ancestor (William Creech) the compiler of the first Baptist Hymnal.  He is hoping to fall somewhere in between.

He can be reached via email or visit him at his website.

Mid-Atlantic Men’s Gathering

1herm1_1This weekend I attended the Fall Gatherette of the Mid-Atlantic Men’s Gathering (MA-MG1herm4).   This is the Autumnal installment — a little smaller and less structured — of a larger Spring gathering that has been held in the Mid-Atlantic region for over 20 years.

It is now held at The Hermitage, an amazing intentional community built by two gay men in Central Pennsylvania.  These two caretakers have gathered, nay, rescued, historic buildings from the surrounding valleys of 1herm3_1this historic farming region. They have transported them to the site, lovingly rebuilt and preserved them for future generations. So, stepping on to the land, is like transporting oneself to a farmstead of two centu1herm5_1ries ago. 

The Gemeinehaus is the jewel in the crown, a Moravian  meeting house from the 1700s with its original stone hearth and circular staircases. It is a wonder to behold, a pleasure to walk through, and an experience to spend a night in.  The setting is rustic but the furnishings are all period and the experience is singular.

This Fall we had a dozen men, all gay,  who gathered to renew themselves on the land — far from the hum of electricity or the busyness of modern bother. 

1herm2_11hermI am always struck by the profundity of gay men gathering in nature to reconnect with one another.  It is too rare an occurence in our life and they stand as experiences of grounding one another in our nature as loving men. There were artists and novelists and cooks and all gentle souls who created a few days space for happiness with fellow travelers.

What other gatherings do people take part in around the country?  May you all experience many such weekends of easy joy.

Toby Johnson’s latest book reviewed in Washington Blade

Rvu_tobywalter2spiritsToby Johnson, White Crane‘s former publisher and current contributing editor, has recently written a book with Walter L. Williams titled Two Spirits: A Story of Life With the Navaho.  It recently received a very favorable review in the pages of the Washington Blade newspaper.

"gay authors Walter L. Williams and Toby Johnson deftly unveil the great histories of gay people as seen through the mythic and cultural expressions of the Navajo."

You can read Jesse Monteagudo’s review in the September issue of White Crane and you can purchase the book at Lambda Rising On Line or via Toby Johnson’s website at