Category Archives: Gay Wisdom

Gay Wisdom – Thoreau


Today is the birthday of naturalist and transcendentalist writer Henry David Thoreau (born 1817).  Famous for his writings Walden and Civil Disobedience, historians such as Jonathan Ned Katz have written about Thoreau’s deep attachments to male friends throughout his life. 

Like Whitman and Emerson, much of Thoreau’s meditations on the higher meaning of male friendships can be found in his writing, specifically Thoreau’s notebooks which he kept throughout his life.

From Thoreau’s Notebooks:

[Nov. 5, 1839]
These young buds of manhood in the streets are like buttercups in the meadows, —surrendered to nature as they.

On June 17, 1839, Edmund Sewall of Scituate visited Concord for a week. After five days of sailing and hiking with Edmund, the twenty-two-year- old Thoreau fell in love with him, writing in his journal:

[June 22, 1839] Saturday. I have within the last few days come into contact with a pure, uncompromising spirit, that is somewhere wandering in the atmosphere, but settles not positively anywhere. . . . Such [spirits] it is impossible not to love; still is their loveliness, as it were, independent of them, so that you seem not to lose it when they are absent, for when they are near it is like an invisible presence which attends you.

Two days later, after Edmund’s departure, Thoreau writes a love poem.

[June 24, 1839]
Lately, alas, I knew a gentle boy,
Whose features all were cast in Virtue’s mould,
As one she had designed for Beauty’s toy,
But after manned him for her own stronghold.
On every side he open was as day,
That you might see no lack of strength within,
For walls and ports do only serve alway
For a pretense to feebleness and sin.
Say not that Caesar was victorious,
With toil and strife who stormed the House of Fame,
In other sense this youth was glorious,
Himself a kingdom wheresoe’er he came.
No strength went out to get him victory,
When all was income of its own accord;
For where he went none other was to see,
But all were parcel of their noble lord.
He forayed like the subtile haze of summer,
That stilly shows fresh landscapes to our eyes,
And revolutions works without a murmur,
Or rustling of a leaf beneath the skies..
So was I taken unawares by this,
I quite forgot my homage to confess;
Yet now am forced to know, though hard it is,
I might have loved him had I loved him less.
Each moment as we nearer drew to each,
A stern respect withheld us farther yet,
So that we seemed beyond each other’s reach,
And less acquainted than when first we met.
We two were one while we did sympathize,
So could we not the simplest bargain drive;
And what avails it now that we are wise,
If absence doth this doubleness contrive?
Eternity may not the chance repeat,
But I must tread my single way alone,
In sad remembrance that we once did meet,
And know that bliss irrevocably gone.
The spheres henceforth my elegy shall sing,
For elegy has other subject none;
Each strain of music in my ears shall ring
Knell of departure from that other one.
Make haste and celebrate my tragedy;
With fitting strain resound ye woods and fields;
Sorrow is dearer in such case to me
Than all the joys other occasion yields.
Is’t then too late the damage to repair?
Distance, forsooth, from my weak grasp hath reft
The empty husk, and clutched the useless tare,
But in my hands the wheat and kernel left.
If I but love that virtue which he is,
Though it be scented in the morning air,
Still shall we be truest acquaintances,
Nor mortals know a sympathy more rare.
from Jonathan Ned Katz’s Gay American History, Meridian, 1992. pp. 481-494

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Gay Wisdom – Hadrian, Proust & Rofes

Today’s Gay Wisdom

This entry was also this day’s Gay Wisdom email

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20070710_hadrian_2On this date in the year 138 BCE, the Roman Emperor Hadrian, (b. 76) died. On a visit to Claudiopolis to survey damage from a recent earthquake and to dispense his largesse, Hadrian met the beautiful Antinous, a young boy who was destined to become the emperor’s "eromenos" — his beloved. Sources say nothing about when Hadrian met Antinous, however, there are depictions of Antinous that shows him as an exquisitely beautiful man of 20 or so. As this was shortly before Antinous’s drowning in 130 Antinous would more likely have been a youth of 13 or 14. Antinous may have been sent to Rome to be trained as page to serve the emperor and there rose to the status of imperial favorite. However it happened, he became Hadrian’s lifetime love, and upon his mysterious death by drowning in the Nile, spawned a rival religious movement to the early Christians, that also focused on a martyred youth, dying on behalf of the people, and providing restoration to life. Hadrian was grief struck and ordered cities to be named after the boy, medals struck with his effigy, and statues erected to him in all parts of the empire. Temples were built for his worship in Bithynia, Mantineia in Arcadia, and Athens; festivals celebrated in his honor and oracles delivered in his name. The city of Antinoöpolis or Antinoe was founded on the ruins of Besa where he died.
[Suggested reading: Royston Lambert Beloved and God: The Story of Hadrian and Antinous. (1997)  ISBN 1-85799-944-4]
20070710_marcelproust_2On this day in 1871, the intellectual, novelist and essayist Marcel Proust was born.  One of the first European writers to treat homosexuality at length, Proust  is best known for his novel, Remembrance of Things Past.  André Gide was the first to point out that Proust made certain characters female when he meant them to be male in the novel.  For example, the character of Albertina was really based on Proust’s own chauffeur-lover Alfred Agostinelli.   The book was first translated into English by C. K. Scott-Moncrieff between 1922 and 1931 in a bowdlerized version that removed many of the sexual aspects of the work.  The work was recently retranslated from authoritative French originals to recover what had been lost.
On this day in 1954 Neil Tennant was born.  Tennant, who, with his colleague Chris Lowe, make up the pop duo, Pet Shop Boys. Although Tennant avoided the issue of homosexuality in the 1980s, preferring his lyrics to be androgynous, shortly after the release of 1993’s Very he publicly came out in Attitude, a UK Gay publication. According to the musician Tom Stephan aka Superchumbo, they had a two-year romantic relationship.  Tennant was most recently the executive producer for Rufus Wainwright’s album Release The Stars, released in May 2007.
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20070710_ericrofes In 2005 White Crane published a special themed issue, "Our Bodies, Our Selves" in tribute to the groundbreaking women’s health book of the same name. At the time, we invited Eric Rofes, author of numerous books, including Reviving the Tribe, to write an essay on health and Gay men’s lives. Rofes amazing article, Gay Bodies, Gay Selves: Understanding the Gay Men’s Health Movement can found seen in the archives of White Crane.
That article grew a collaboration between White Crane Institute and Eric that became the Gay Men’s Leadership Academy [  ] Now in its second year, it continues on both coasts under the creative and inspired management of White Crane Project Partners, Chris Bartlett, Kevin Trimell Jones, P. Scott Pegues and Fred Lopez.
Eric’s idea of an "academy" was to create an on-going dialogue among leaders from across various disciplines to bring in creative thinking. He posited that the origins of virtually all of the modern LGBT liberation movement wasn’t the result of "professionals" but of young people who didn’t know that things couldn’t be done, agitating and organizing to create new institutions to take care of LGBT people
Yesterday we began an excerpt from Eric Rofes visionary Reviving the Tribe and offered the first four prescriptions he offers at the end of that book. We continue with the next three today:
4. Support Both Separate and Mixed Spaces for HIV+ and HIV- Men
Few people deny that HIV-infected Gay men and people with AIDS need venues for support and discussion with men who share their status. From the early days of the epidemic, a peer model of emotional support has developed and entire organizations and networks of people with HIV/AIDS have coalesced around the need for shared wisdom to emerge out of a convocation of peers. In epicenter cities, social organizations, mental health support groups and even dating services have been established focused on the needs of HIV-positive Gay men.
Parallel organizing by uninfected men has met a great deal of resistance, but not always from HIV-infected men. Support groups for HIV-negative Gay men have been discounted, mocked and derided. Social programs which can fill a wide range of needs of uninfected men have been accused of "viral apartheid." In one Midwestern city, local activists protested the creation of services for HIV-negative Gay men, taking out advertising in the local media demanding that not one cent of AIDS-related funding be used to support these efforts. One therapist’s proposal to convene a workshop for HIV- men at a national Gay conference was met with derision. "Isn’t that like Germans getting together after World War II to congratulate each other on not being Jews? He was asked."
Survival is a critical issue for the Gay men’s community at this point in its development. It is a matter which deserves to be on the mind and lips of every Gay man, regardless of antibody status. People with HIV disease need to discuss long-term survival issues, treatment strategies, sex matters, and the natural history of HIV disease, as well as the torrent of feelings which accompany living with a life-threatening illness. HIV- Gay men need to discuss long-term survival issues, sex matters, and the impact of the epidemic on their psyches. Both of these discussions are valuable and both need to occur among peers of similar antibody status. By shaming uninfected men away from creating community with one another, a powerful message is delivered: you must be infected to merit attention and concern in this community.
Offering separate services and venues for Gay men of differing antibody statuses does not preclude a commitment to dialogue between men with HIV disease and uninfected men. In fact, such dialogue is essential for continued community building. While some have concluded that the Gay community has become fractured along antibody lines, my own experience with Gay men throughout the nation reveals a vast number of men of differing statuses in relationship together – either romantic, sexual, friendhip, political or professional. Few men have carved out lives entirely with men of the same antibody status.
In an ongoing epidemic we need spaces to come together and spaces to be apart. Individual men will find that certain times they will need to speak with others in similar situations to their own, and at other times, need to speak to a broader, more diverse group. For any community to fulfill its function as a place of support and sustenance amidst a continuing avalanche of loss, these differing needs unabashedly must be affirmed and supported.
5. Support Gay Men’s Involvement with Children and Youth
A common response to mass catastrophe which brings about loss of life and causes survivors to experience great amounts of infirmity and death, is to focus on affirming life through the reproduction of the species. After Hiroshima, Japanese culture experienced a fierce – almost obsessive – focus on reproduction, child-rearing, and the creation of the next generation of Japanese. Many populations which have suffered genocide during the 20th century have emerged from the experience to replenish their ranks and ensure their population’s survival in the face of decimation.
It should not surprise observers of community response to catastrophe to note increased Gay male interest and participation in becoming fathers, working with children and teenagers, and serving as sperm donors for Lesbians. Gay men’s interactions with children and youth have long been considered controversial due to the stigma of child molestation which society confers on Gay men. Despite progress made by the Gay movement, recent sex panics surrounding adult-child sex issues (charges against Michael Jackson, North American Man/Boy Love Association controversies) may have strengthened the linkage between Gay men and pedophilia in the public mind. Homosexual men have been involved in the lives of children for a long time – as child advocates, teachers, school administrators, social workers, children’s book authors, and the leaders of social, fraternal, and athletic networks – yet the majority of Gay men in these professions have remained closeted. Today Gay men working with children wrestle with overt discrimination and whispered allegations that arise when the relationship between children and gay men enters the public sphere.
The involvement of Gay men with children has changed dramatically since the start of the epidemic and may reflect both the natural development course of Gay liberation and a response to Gay men’s premature and overwhelming experience with death. Gay men’s increased involvement with fatherhood – as sperm donors, co-parents, adoptive parents and full-time fathers – has been commented upon extensively in the popular media which have cited in particular Gay men’s roles in the continuing "Lesbian baby boom" of the 1980s and 199s. Less visible has been the increased participation by Gay men in the creation and development of a wide range of educational, social and health-oriented services focused on Gay, Lesbian, bisexual and transgender and questioning youth.
…Lesbian and Gay community support for children and youth is likely to continue as the epidemic deepens. Yet the stake which Lesbians and Gay men have in these concerns appears to be distinct from that of certain ethnic, religious, and racial groups whose blood-line is threatened by genocidal action. Because Lesbian, Gay men and bisexuals need to neither reproduce nor "recruit" to ensure the survival of the queer tribe, the fear that AIDS will wipe out future Gay male life seems difficult to substantiate. Efforts aimed at fostering the health and well-being of future generations of queer youth focus less on reproducing the species and more on altering key institutions – schools, family, media, Boy Scouts, military, organized religion – which exert a powerful influence over the self-image and self-esteem of sexual minority youth. The increase attention and resources devoted to these matters in recent years represents an affirmation of life and a commitment to the future of the community.
6. Encourage The Celebration Of Life
During recent years concerns have surfaced amongst the leadership of Gay organizations and on the pages of the Gay press about the penchant which Lesbians and Gay men appear to have for parties, festivals, and mass celebrations. This is not a new debate. For many years, annual events marking Lesbian and Gay Pride Week were the subject of fierce debate about whether the convergence of the masses was to focus on either a "march" or a "parade," a "demonstration" or a "festival." While often the overt discussion focuses on politics versus culture, the conversation’s subtext concerned the increasing commercialization of Gay culture, the relationship of the movement to traditional American social change movements, and judgments about Gay male culture’s focus on sex, costumes, and gender play. The political status quo of the Gay community has long harbored conflicted feelings about celebrations.
The March on Washington in 1993 raised this debate to an entirely different level. As the national Lesbian and Gay community was placed center stage during a brief period of unprecedented media visibility, several factors caused leaders of established organizations to question the "propriety" and usefulness of aspects of the weekend’s events. C-SPAN’s uninterrupted coverage of the rally at the U.S. Capitol exposed to millions of viewers bare-breasted Lesbians, flagrantly sexual Gay men, and one Lesbian’s declaration of desire for the First Lady. Religious extremists unveiled and mass-distributed controversial videotapes such as Gay Rights, Special Rights and The Gay Agenda, which included footage of local and national marches with special focus on controversial segments of the community (leatherfolk, sadomasochists, NAMBLA, clubkids.)
…While critiquing the focus, position and public relations of Gay community parties and celebrations is merited, leaders should resist any temptation to excoriate celebrations from its central position in the movement. Every oppressed group has created social and cultural outlets which affirm life and community values, even in the midst of extreme historical cataclysms. Any Tan, in The Joy Luck Club, provides rationale for celebration through the powerful voice of one of her central characters who struggled to survive the Cultural Revolution in China:
People thought we were wrong to serve banquets every week while many people in the city were starving, eating rats and, later, the garbage that the poorest rats used to feed on. Others though we were possessed by demons – to celebrate when even within our own families we had lost generations, had lost homes and fortunes, and were separated husband from wife, brother from sister, daughter from mother, Hnnnnh! How could we laugh? People asked.
It’s not that we had no heart or eyes for pain. We were all afraid. We all had our miseries. But to despair was to wish back for something already lost. Or to prolong what was already unbearable. How much can you wish for a favorite warm coat that hangs in the closet of a house that burned down with your mother and father inside of it? How long can you see in your mind arms and legs hanging from telephone wires and starving dogs running down the streets with half-chewed hands dangling from their jaws? What was worse, we asked among ourselves, to sit and wait for our own deaths with proper somber faces? Or to choose our own happiness?
While it might seem to some like a bizarre transmutation of reality to witness huge dance parties, upbeat street fairs, and endless parades of community celebrants while the epidemic rages among us, Gay men need not harbor any feeling of guilt about celebrating life when we are immersed in so much death. Rather than a denial of the ugliness and sorrow which intrude upon our daily lives, mass celebrations may affirm commitment to community and life, and offer a vision of ourselves broader than our illnesses and victimization. Gay men are caregivers, but more than caregivers; we suffer tremendous pain, but our pain is not all of who we are; we are surviving, but for our communal lives to have meaning, we must find ways to be more than survivors.

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Andrew Harvey at the NYC LGBT Center

Out at the Center’s Chris Dawes was involved with both shooting and editing this segment and had this to say about his experience: "I initially chose to produce the Sacred Activism segment because of the spiritual element inferred by the intriguing title. I am very interested in religion and spirituality, so I tend to gravitate towards such stories. After hearing Andrew Harvey speak however, it was his empowering message to the LGBT community that struck me the most; we are unique and gifted and special and we have the power to change the world for the better and better ourselves in the process if we so choose. During my coming out process, I read somewhere that you eventually come to feel glad that you were born Gay instead of straight, because you are different and special. I could never fathom myself feeling that way, but after hearing Andrew Harvey speak, I can now see it. It was difficult to edit his powerful message and his wonderful wit and sense of humor down to just five minutes. White Crane thanks Richard Davis for providing this clip. We will also shortly be posting an interview done by Out At the Center with Mark Thompson on the occasion of the opening of the White Crane sponsored Fellow Travelers exhibit.

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.

The 2007 Triangle Awards


I count myself among the "word-loving, book-besotted" and last night I found my people.

I sat with author and White Crane Institute Advisor, Perry Brass and the Gay Glitterati, last night, at a lovely evening honoring LGBT writers, the annual Publishing Triangle’s Awards presented in the Tishman Auditorium at The New School.

Yoshino Eight Publishing Triangle Awards were presented to various men and women, including The Randy Shilts Award for Gay Nonfiction, which was awarded to Kenji Yoshino (at the left), for his groundbreaking and important book, Covering. Other nominees in the category were Bernard Cooper for The Bill from My Father and Rigaberto Gonzalez for the beautiful and poetic, Butterfly Boy. Coveringcov

Nancy Bereano (below right), a frequent Lammy winner, was honored by PT for her two decades of work as the founder and publisher of Firebrand Books, one of the most successful lesbian/feminist presses in the world. The press publishes such titles as Alison Bechdel’s (another honoree last night) Dykes To Watch Out For, Audre Lorde, Dorothy Allison and Barbara Smith. Nancy_bereano

Along with Alison Bechdel, who won for Lesbian Nonfiction for her masterful Fun Home, Catherine Friend was nominated for the delightful Hit By A Farm, and Marcia Gallo was acknowledged for Different Daughters, an important history of the Daughters of Bilitis.

Chris Weikel, a founder of the Tosos II Theater Company, received the Robert Chesley Emerging Playwright Award.

Gutted Poets Jennifer Rose and Justin Chin won, respectively, for Lesbian and Gay Male poetry. Justin’s Gutted was nominated along with Jim Elledge’s A History of My Tattoo and Greg Hewett’s The Eros Conspiracy. Robin Becker and Kate Lynn Hibbard were nominated for The Domain of Perfect Affection and Sleeping Upside Down, respectively.

Fiction was ably represented in both Men’s and Women’s categories. Rebecca Brown’s The Last Time I Saw You, Lisa Carey’s Every Visible Thing, and Ivan E. Coyote’s Bow Grip in the Lesbian Fiction catergory. Men’s Fiction was acknowledged with Martin Hyatt’s A Scarecrow’s Bible (from Suspect Thoughts), Steven McCauley’s Alternatives to Sex and (the winner) Christopher Bram’s elegial Exiles in America. Exiles_2

Bentley230_2 The truly remarkable renaissance man, Eric Bentley (at the left) was recognized for his lifetime (when he mentioned in passing that he was 90, the room gasped!) of writing and activism…critic, playwright, editor, translator of Brecht, chronicler of Oscar Wilde in the play, Lord Alfred’s Lover…Bentley’s comments, which we hope to be able to reproduce here or in the pages of White Crane, reminded everyone present that LGBT people are still the targets of religious fanatics. He spoke of the pivotal roles that "love and death" play in the arts and literature and cautioned that there was still plenty of both in store for LGBT people.

Grief_2 Finally, Andrew Holleran, recent author of Grief, and the fabled Dancer From the Dance, received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The Publishing Triangle presents the annual Triangle Awards in collaboration with The Ferro-Grumley Literary Awards, the Robert Chesley Foundation and the New School.

Stay tuned…in just over two weeks, we will be reporting onthe 19th Annual Lambda Literary Awards. White Crane Books’ Charmed Lives is a finalist in the Anthology Category.

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:

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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."

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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.

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"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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Fellow Traveler’s Extended

Fellow Travelers Exhibit Run Extended

Because of the move, this week, at the new, green Chicago Center on Halsted, the White Crane sponsored photography exhibit, Fellow Travelers: Liberation Portraits by Mark Thompson has been extended at the New York Lesbian, Gay Bisexual & Transgender Community center on 13th Street. If you haven’t seen this wonderful show of 15 black and white portraits of beautiful Gay men, by all means drop by the Center and take it in. The exhibit will be at the Center, 208 W. 13th Street for another two weeks.

Fellow Travelers Closing Reception

And a fine time was had by all! 

A roomful of readers, lovers and passers-by joined White Crane Institute at the New York City Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Community Center last night in celebrating the vision and wisdom of Mark Thompson’s Fellow Travelers: Liberation Portraits exhibit.

Mark came in from Los Angeles (we missed you Malcolm…feel better soon!) and was joined at the Center by fellow authors Gary Schmigdall (Walt Whitman: A Gay Life) Arnie Kantrowitz (Under the Rainbow), Joel Singer, whose late partner,  James Broughton, Broughton
was among the many beautiful portraits. It is a very moving display of some of the most influential thinkers and artists in our movement.

The exhibit, which is touring LGBT Community Centers around the country over the next year under the auspices of White Crane Institute, is a stunning collection of 15 black and white portraits of some of the giants of the Gay wisdom, spirituality and culture movement. Planning is under way to bring the exhibit to Chicago and the brand new Center on Halsted … the Cleveland LGBT Community Center…and then Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Salt Lake City and Modesto, California. Watch for listings in your area.

In fact, this was to have been the closing reception for the show, but response has been so positive, that it is being held over for another two weeks at the Center on 13th Street.

Ft_invite_front Sometime in May, video of the show, and interviews with Bo Young and Mark Thompson about the Fellow Travelers photography show will be available on-line at Out at the Center, the NY LGBT Community Center cable television show, which is shown at various times on both Time-Warner Cable in Manhattan and Cablevision in Brooklyn.