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Split This Rock: Citizen Poet Queer

March 27, 2014
Citizen Poet Queer: Building a Blue print for LGBT Cultural Activism
Julie Enszer, David Groff, Reginald Harris, Donika Ross

CitizenQ1.JPGThe Dresser will give some details from this panel presented In the Split This Rock Poetry Festival March 27. The biennial literary festival focusing on themes of social justice and activism began in 2008.

Learning the language of marginalized communities and how to use it was a theme in this well presented panel with three in the room and one projected from New York on Skype!

Moderator David Groff set the tone of this discussion with this question: How can you effect change?

Julie Enzer presented thirteen reflections on the LGBT writing community. Her first run through of the thirteen were questions.


Here are some of the highlights:
Enzer advocates buying books directly from publishers because they get as much as $6-8 per book more. Write a letter of appreciation to the author. Praise the praiseworthy and say nothing about yourself.

There are not enough reviewers of queer lit.

Writing books is a political act, good for exploring queer, feminist, political sensibilities.

Blogging brings more audience.

She advises LGBT community to participate in editing LGBT work.

She noted the struggle for balance between activism and generating new work.

Need more public curation - reading series, literary salons, blogs.

Organize - need audience. Try festivals, social occasions.

Literature challenges boundaries.

LGBT community need empathy. Writers invite us to see the world differently.

Poems not guns!

Looking for new words to describe how she & her wife live their lives. She says now it is boring.

Reginald Harris began by addressing word appropriation: Straight people have taken over the word partner, so now use Ursula Le Guin's word kemmer [This word comes from her novel The Left Hand of Darkness.]

Harris advocates involvement with a virtual writing community like Kundiman.

Be diligent in forming online community.
Being a good literary citizens is a model that goes against individualism.

How to find readers--how do readers find LGBT community?
No more LGBT bookstores in NYC.

Harris talked about the LGBT community literary antecedents: Sees connection to Whitman, Dickinson, the NY School--Frank O'Hara, Steven Watson's books including Prepare for Saints.
Harlem Renaissance was very gay.

Out gay men in positions of "power" like Stephen Motika at Poets House. [This is also where Reginald Harris works and where he was in the Skype broadcast.]

If a reading series doesn't exist to suit your needs, create it

Toi Derricote exercise: write a poem about what you could not tell your mother.
Be sure to bring everyone with you in your poem!

Donika Ross

She lives in Nashville but folks there still not used to people being out.

Her goal is to make normal what is strange.

Make a list of what is normal. (What manhood class)
Radical empathy--blackface at Halloween. Blacks consider it racist but lots of people who are not black don't see the racism. Do not coddle folks who make these mistakes, be polite but make it known such words as mulatto offend.

She suggests modeling the kind of behavior we want to see in the world just as Reggie suggested.

David Groff

People are marginalized for various communities they belong to, including poetry.

Every person needs a mission statement--a rabbi he knows said his mission is to spread light while Groff said his was to engender resonant words.

Be a public advocate for a changed world.

Draw more folks into poetry. Hard to publish LGBT work in the mainstream.

LGBT interests can't stay to themselves and must see their contributions as valid.

LGBT needs a version of VIDA.

Need models for how to communicate with each other.

Audience member: we need LGBT books in High School libraries. Young adult lit is overwhelming white and middle class.

Who holds power to say when LGBT issues are done in a community?
Harris--people say we need to stop all these coming out stories. Are we done? No.

Enzer--the dirty perverse has gone underground. Things have gotten boring. You are either mind or body. As more LGBT get married, we change marriage. Harris wants to destabilize this house. Writers and poets need to create this kind of world.

Going forward without hate but not without rage. -Julie shocked by rage still inside her about AIDS denial during Regan years.


Comments (3)

Grace Cavalieri:

We are reliant on you Karren, to fill us in with events we cannot attend.

Mary-Sherman Willis:

Thank you, Karren, for scouting out these powerful ideas at the heart of our nation. You take the journey and always bring back the goods!


[Straight people have taken over the word partner, so now use Ursula Le Guin's word kemmer...]

good grief. well, if they decide to tie the knot I hope they have a great cabbage.

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