Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Playland (A New Chapbook)

A lifetime--or decade and a half, to be exact--ago I completed a book of poetry entitled Heroic Figures. It was a finalist for an Academy of American Poets Prize, and later, a finalist for the Cave Canem Prize. My experiences with publishers, however, unfolded in the same way: interest, sometimes quite genuine, only for nothing to happen or the book to be rejected. I even thought about self-publishing it, but ended up working on Seismosis, the collaborative project with artist and poet Christopher Stackhouse, as well as a novel (still in progress) and Counternarratives, and so the poetry manuscript, I thought, would be consigned to the archives.

Earlier this summer, however, Ron Mohring of Seven Kitchens Press wrote to ask if I still was interested in publishing a distilled version of the earlier collection that I submitted a few years ago to one of their contests. (It did not win, of course.) I looked back over the manuscript, and realized that I could add a few newer poems and have a little collection that looked back to my writing in the 1990s, a good of which dealt with my youth in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the worst days of the HIV/AIDS and linked them to more recent concerns. The result, which I sent to Ron and which passed his muster, is Playland, a chapbook of 20 or so poems now available, in very limited quantities, from Seven Kitchens Press. Many thanks to Ron for making this publication possible!

The poems include one of the first I wrote as an adult writer, "Mission and Outpost," a response to a visit in 1990 or 1991 to San Francisco, where I hung out with the cousin of one my former bosses and mentors, listened to his stories of pre-AIDS San Francisco, and mused about how I might have responded to the liberatory promise that seemed to beckon to those heading there in the first decade after Stonewall. A much more recent one, "Suit," emerged as I considered my friendship with the late performer and dancer Phil Horvitz, who was the boyfriend of artist Nayland Blake. Phil and I worked at National Video Resources in the late 1990s, and whose career as an artist I only fully learned about after we'd both moved on to different jobs. The title poem is one I wrote while a Cave Canem Fellow, and the collection owes a huge debt to my three years at their invaluable workshops. I should admit that I initially worried that the poems might read as out of fashion compared both to my newer writing and to the brilliant poetry my contemporaries and younger poets are writing today, but I'm happy to say I think all of it holds up pretty well, since the emotional content crosses temporal and chronological barriers. (Now if I can only figure out to publish the revised volume of poems and a new one!)

You can order a copy here. There are only two dozen for sale, so if you're interested, please get yours today!

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