Category Archives: Poetry

WC80 – Cleo Creech – Poem for Jaheem Herrera

A Poem for Jaheem HerreraJahHerrera

The Peace of Gentle Waves

By Cleo Creech

This is our child,
if not by blood
then by heart and spirit.
We hold him close
as we must all children
as we must hold all
innocents who cry alone.
Those sad and lonely ones,
solitary and surrounded,
by those who care,
by those who listen,
and those who turn away.
We mourn as brothers,
as sisters, as family
he never knew he had;
those who know his pain,
united by kindred spirit.
We tend the signal fires
on safety of sandy beach,
a distant light some never see.
Send out the boats,
for there are other spirits
far from shore, from home,
who know only the
violence of the crashing sea,
and not the peace of gentle waves.

Jaheem Herrera was a Georgia fifth-grader who committed suicide in April.
The 11-year-old hung himself at home after relentless bullying at school.

The poet and artist Cleo Creech was last featured in the Fall 2006 issue of White Crane (#70).  He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.  For more on Cleo, visit him at

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WC80 – Review of Ed Madden’s Signals

RVU_Madden Signals By Ed Madden
The University of South Carolina Press
69 pages, $14.95
ISBN: 1570037507

Reviewed by Dan Vera

Ed Madden teaches English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of South Carolina.  He’s also a hell of a poet.  The publication of a book like Signals heralds great things for lovers of honest poetry that captures the lyrical beauty of life.  I spent a few hours reading this book, contempling the words and images.  I found them populating my mind.  I found a deep resonance to the questions I hold in my heart as a Gay man in the world and one deeply in love and partnered.

Along with his academic bona fides Madden serves as writer in residence at the Riverbanks Botanical Gardens in Columbia, South Carolina.  One sees evidence of this connection to the natural world in Madden’s work.  In poems like “Cabin Near Caesar’s Head” there is a gorgeous attention to the botanical splendor of the countryside.  Again and again one is — I don’t know what other word to use but — blessed by a precise litany of names — the luscious names of trees and flowers.  There is such great attention here and such care taken in creating miniature pictures in the mind.  I have to add that this collection is of importance for those grown thirsty for poems about the love of men, for Madden breaks the drought throughout this book. What’s most refreshing is the exercise doesn’t seem forced or premeditated.  Madden is writing plainly but with intention.
Signals has a number of poems that speak to the peculiar nature of the South’s ever-present racial history.  Others have done this.   But Madden is writing from his perspective as a gay man partnered with another.  This happens best in the poem “Confederates,” a poetic account of a day marching against South Carolina’s confederate-laced flag.  When a woman asks what the two white Gay men are doing at the march, the question has an immediate percussive ring that lays bare the joint allegiances Gay men and people of color should hold at this point in history.  It’s startling and affirming at the same time.  I can’t recall another poet writing of these things so effectively and convincingly.

Last October, after many years of being an admirer of his work, I had the good fortune to read with him at the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival.  Hearing him read from these poems is a memory I will long treasure.

Signals is the resulting book from Madden’s winning the 2008 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize.  It is the greatest gift South Carolina has given me.  The gift is yours for the taking.

Dan Vera is White Crane’s managing editor and a poet living in Washington, DC.

For more White Crane, become a fan on Facebook and join us on Yahoogroups.

Subscribe today and keep the conversation going!  Consider giving a gift subscription to
your friends who could use some wisdom!  If there's an article listed
above that was not excerpted online, copies of this issue are available
for purchase.  Contact us at

Rise Up and Shout!

RISEUP_FILM_POSTER_Small Got some good news in the morning email (almost called it "the post" which has a whole new meaning now) from psychotherapist and filmmaker, Brian Gleason, who works so hard in Los Angeles.

Some of you may be familiar with the Rise Up & Shout! project with which White Crane has been associated. It started in Los Angeles, with people like Brian, Malcolm Boyd, Don Kilhefner, Mark Thompson (I'm leaving out many, may other names of people…this kind of thing takes dozens of people…just don't have them in front of me as I write. I'll find them and include them later, promise) working with young GLBT people in L.A. to produce a talent show showcasing their various and sundry talents.

More importantly, it offered young GLBT people a chance to come in contact with elder GLBT people and let the intergenerational transfer of wisdom and experience mingle with the exuberance and freshness of youth. The first Rise Up & Shout, was a live stage production at the Barnsdall Park theater, directed by award-winning Broadway director, Jim Pentacost, and benefited White Crane, among others. And it was filmed by Brian Gleason.

That film will now receive the wider audience it deserves when it is aired on the Sundance Channel, later this month. The schedule is:

Mon 06/22/09 9:00PM       Sat 06/27/09 3:35PM       Sun 06/28/09 06:40AM

This is MUST SEE TELEVISION folks! Stirring, inspiring, touching. Worth getting cable for, even.

Check your local listings, as they say, for airtimes in your area.


RFD: 35 Years – Remarkably Festive Divas


Join the NYC Circle of Radical Faeries for an evening of readings, ritual, high drag and magic! Celebrate the 35th anniversary of RFD,

the digest of the Radical Faerie community.

Saturday, May 30th at BLUESTOCKINGS

6:00 PM Meet, Greet, Drum and Chant

7:00 PM Readings…and…


RFDIssue132 The current issue explores the relationship between the Radical Faerie's ritual practices and Starhawk's Reclaiming Collective. It includes articles on the life of Faeries and Witches in the 1970', 80's and 90's
as well as meditations on the current practice of Faerie Ritual. Rare back copies from the last 35 years of quarterly publication will also be available for sale. 

a bookstore, fair trade cafe, and activist center
in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
172 Allen St.
New York, NY 10002
Bluestockings is located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan at 172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington, one block south of Houston and First Avenue.

By train: F train to 2nd Ave , exit at 1st Ave , and walk one block south.

By car: If you take the Houston exit off of the FDR, then turn left onto Essex
(a.k.a. Avenue A), then right on Rivington, and finally right on Allen, you will
be very, very close.

Some thoughts on the Inauguration…

ArethaOK…is it just me? Sylvester

…or is Aretha Franklin sounding more and more like Sylvester these days?   

Obama's inaugural address is one that bears repeated readings and/or listenings, I'd say. This was a wake-up call for sobriety, to a nation that's grown drunk on celebrity and wealth.

I hear a lot of people expressing disappointment…not enough this, not enough that…much of the same sort of thing we heard early on in this intriguing man's campaign…not "black enough" "not experienced enough"…it's time to stop bringing our expectations to this man and trying to fit him into them, and let him do what we put him there to do. Some people expected more reference to Martin Luther King…missing, I think, the point that this is not just the first African American President…with no diminishment for all that means…this is The President. And I think that's what he was letting everyone within earshot know. And is this the first time a President has acknowledged "non-believers"? How refreshing.

It has been noticed that, within seconds of President Obama's swearing in, the official home page of the White House was updated with a lengthy list of commitments to further LGBT rights. It doesn't go far enough and we will see if he is really committed to it, but there's an opening. Perhaps the only way you aren't going to be disappointed by this man is if you are looking for disappointment. There he will not disappoint.

That said, the expectations for this man are so high, and one suspects so unreasonable, that it is inevitable that he will disappoint: he's already disappointed me with the Gene Robinson snub. I don't care who's decision it was to censor him, the buck still stops on Obama's desk. This wouldn't (and obviously didn't) happen to Rick Warren.

Warren's Christ-centric blather seemed to be generally ignored, to my ears, with nary an "Amen" joining in from any corner at the end, that I could hear. Reverend Joseph Lowery was sweet and funny…though, as my friend Ellen pointed out, after "the black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around … when yellow will be mellow … when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right"…he left out "And Gays will have their day."

Wow…Gays were left out. What else is new? President Obama is asking us all to "rise above" and leave childish things behind (Are you listenting Senator John Cornyn?…what a numbnuts.)

Anyway, while we're at it…how about putting homophobia on that list of childish things we leave behind?

(…I'm not a cynic, but it's only been three days and I am already finding and Oprah's "America's Song" insipid.)

A Prophet in His Own Land

Boyd-prophet-cover[1]   We're pleased to find out that the esteemed Richard Labonte has named our latest book (on the left there) as one of the Top Ten Nonfiction Books of 2008.

Here is what Richard had to say:

 A Prophet in His Own Land: A Malcolm Boyd Reader, Selected  Writings 1950-2007, edited by Bo Young and Dan Vera (White Crane Books/Lethe  Press, $30)

 "Over the years, Boyd has written or edited more than 30  books, from which the editors have carefully culled the prose and the  prayers comprising this rich reader of a gay elder's always-questioning, never-faltering activist faith—selections spanning more than 50 years that distill Boyd's wisdom wonderfully."


I mean…it's special enough to have had the pleasure of working with Malcolm Boyd…but then we get to be acknowledged. That's the kind of thing that makes you want to get up in the morning and go to work!


And we're in excellent company…here are the other books on Richard Labonte's list:


 My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy, by Andrea  Askowitz (Cleis Press, $14.95) In this memoir about "40 weeks and five days in hell," Askowitz milks self-professed misery over her pregnancy for captivating comic effect. The ordeals of becoming a single mother—finding sperm, inserting it, week after dateless week—are chronicled in a diary that's winsomely whiny and harrowingly honest.


Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America, edited by Mitchell Gold with Mindy Drucker (Greenleaf Press, $23.95) These personal accounts of rejection by parents, renunciation by churches, and ridicule from and physical attacks by peers link generations and genders through their depiction of the heroism of survival. In a perfect world, every school library would have a copy.


 Intersex (for Lack of a Better Word), by Thea Hillman (Manic D Press, $14.95) Hillman's sprightly essays add an intersex's story—please don't call us hermaphrodites, pleads the author—to the queer literary spectrum. The author writes about a muddled medical childhood, her emergence as  an intersex activist, and the women (and men) in her life, neatly blending the political and the sensual.


The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy, by Robert Leleux (St. Martin's $23.95) Debut memoirist Leleux bests both David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs as a raconteur of wacky family tales with this rollicking story of growing up queer in East Texas. The author confesses to taking some license with veracity, but depictions of his gold-digging mother's fashion and surgical excesses, and of how he found himself falling in love with a Cajun choreographer, resound with wickedly sincere truths.


About My Life and the Kept Woman, by John Rechy (Grove Press, $24) Rechy writes with eloquent elegance about growing up Mexican-American in El Paso, where "Juan" often passed as "Johnny" because of the light skin he inherited from his angry Scottish father; about the double life hiding his poverty from better-off friends; about shying away from his true sexuality while in the military during the Korean War; and, most compellingly, about how he became the street-wise, tough-guy hustler of City of Night.


Sex Talks to Girls: A Memoir, by Maureen Seaton (Terrace Books/University of Wisconsin Press, $26.95) As "Molly Meek," poet Seaton tracks her passage from religious orthodoxy to sobriety and sexual exuberance—a journey marked by drag kings, butches, all kinds of over-indulgence, and a couple of kids to care for along the way—with writing that is heroically revealing and  often very funny.


King of Shadows, by Aaron Shurin (City Lights, $16.95) Shurin's brief essays reveal a multitude of selves: the young student diving with sensual pleasure into sexual San Francisco; the homemaker enthralled by how sunlight adds sheen to his natural pine floors; the "lovechild of Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan" dedicating his soul to the purity of poetry. Resonant fragments coalesce into a vibrant mini-autobiography.


Sparkling Rain and Other Fiction from Japan of Women Who Love Women, edited by Barbara Summerhawk and Kimberly Hughes (New Victoria, $16.95) Two fascinating books are crammed—small type, narrow margins—into this groundbreaking anthology. The first: illuminating essays on the sexual, social, and literary culture of Japanese women. The second: revelatory short stories (plus poetry, manga, and a screenplay) about women loving women in an overwhelmingly patriarchal culture. Part fiction, part nonfiction—but the latter makes this one special.


The Dictionary of Homophobia: A Global History of Gay  & Lesbian  Experience, edited by Louis-Georges Tin (Arsenal Pulp  Press, $44.95) More than 70 scholars contributed 160 mini-essays to this wide-ranging survey of where and how in the world homophobia continues  to resonate. It's an invaluable eye-opener for North American-centric queer activists who believe that many battles have been won. Originally published in France in 2003, this ambitious translation from a small Canadian press is an honorable achievement.

A Great Voice Silenced

I woke up this morning to hear the sad news of the death of a great woman, one of the single name wonders in the world, Odetta. I have no idea of Odetta's sexuality, but I know her, personally, from many years ago when we were fighting another anti-Gay initiative in California, the one in the new film about Harvey Milk, Prop. Six. One of the many ways we raised funds for that fight (including an art auction and a state-wide Hair-cut-athon) was a fantastic concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Peter Yarrow (of Peter, Paul & Mary) performed and so did Odetta.

I honestly don't remember what she sang that day. But it is impossible not to remember her voice, her incredible voice that was like a force of nature itself. I remember her devotion to civil rights.

I remember, even then, how her presence was a blessing on a campaign we were none too sure was going to go our way.

I remember, when she agreed to come, I offered my profuse thanks to which she responded "Where else would I be?"

Indeed. Once more, the LGBT community has lost a friend and ally.

National Book Award

Doty and dog

White Crane is proud to offer our warmest congratulations to White Crane James White Poetry Prize judge and University of Houston professor Mark Doty for his being named as the National Book Award poetry prize-winner for Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems (HarperCollins).

Doty has taught in the University of Houston Creative Writing Doty_jacket Program since 1999, but next spring he begins teaching at Rutgers University. Fire to Fire brings together new poems with selections from his previous seven collections, including My Alexandria (1993), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award.  There is a wonderful interview with Mark here. And you can see his moving acceptance speech here.


Doty is our judge for the first James White Poetry Prize for White Crane. That winner will be announced in spring 2009.

Happy Obama

Barack I slept in this morning.

We worked at CNN until the wee hours of the morning last night, watching and waiting for the ripe fruit of the last few states to fall into the big blue basket of the Democratic column and Obama's historic victory.

Even my big yellow dog didn't demand his Democratic victory walk until I was ready to stir this morning.

I walked out the front door of my building feeling the electricity in the air from last night, still. As I got to the corner, the crossing guard that protects the children going to that school I voted in yesterday from the onslaught of traffic at the crossroad of Classon and St. John's Place raised her voice and hand to everyone who passed and greeted them with a "Happy Obama!"

Happy Obama. Indeed.

It was amazing, gratifying. Brilliant. 

It was also maddening.

In many ways, the same voters who made history with the triumphant election of Obama, also opted to vote discrimination into the California constitution. And it is hard for me to separate that from my celebration of Obama's well-deserved victory.

We turn one corner, and come to another. We drive a stake into the heart of one fearful discriminatory impulse in this country that, it seems, rarely does the right thing the first time, and raise up another strawman of fear and loathing on which to focus immature and unimaginative minds.

I don't want to take anything away from this beautiful moment. But I think it is as much a sign of how degraded the American ideal has become in the past eight to 20 years as it is a moment to celebrate. And I think one of the things this President is going to require of all of us is honest self-appraisal.

And I am ashamed and dejected in equal parts to my pride and elation this morning.

I know one thing in my bones: expectations are high for this new President. Everyone is hoping that he is, as they say The One. I read an interview with President Elect Obama in which he spoke about "Gay marriage" (a term I'm not entirely comfortable with) in which he said he believed that "marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman" and he wasn't willing to degrade that in any way. 

How can such a brilliant man be so abysmally ignorant?

So, I have high expectations of this man, too. But I am also realistic in my belief that we are all bound to be disappointed in him in some way, at some point. But here is my pragmatic expectation: that someone, somewhere, somehow sits down with this brilliant and inspiring man and explain to him in painfully exquisite detail the gulf of difference between "holy matrimony" and "marriage."

Explain to him how the former is "church" and the latter is "state" and that somehow, in the same way that that unholy alliance once justified slavery and the oppression of Black people that we now justly celebrate the death of…is now being employed to hurt loving men and women, who pay taxes and raise children (or not) and are undeserving of having their civil rights, their human rights unjustly curtailed because of the superstitious tyranny of the majority.

Keep your "holy matrimony" President-elect Obama. 

Holy Matrimony is a religious ritual. Marriage is a civil right.

Give LGBT people the same, equal, civilly righteous protections every other citizen in this country has under the sacred language of our constitution, no matter how many times the radical religious right wastes our time, money and souls in the pursuit of their fearful discrimination.

And we will have those rights, Mr. President-elect.

Yes…we will.