Poetry is Queer (The Power of Poetry) – KIRBY

“Amidst the loose life of my youth

The projects of my poetry were forming.

The circuit of my art was being drawn.”

– C.P. Cavafy, “Understanding”, translated by Robert Liddell.

Queerer than Queer Eye (television), The Tony’s (stage), Rufus (pop), Warhol (pop art), Van Sant (film), Brando (icons), La Cage Aux Folles (in all it’s incarnations). Combined.   

Poetry is QUEER. 

Not quaint. Queer as fuck. 

In fact, considering historically how in and out of vogue, how “repellant,” I’m surprised when anyone conformist is even attracted to the form. Poetry itself is queer by nature. 

Queers do love to blaze a trail. We relish it.

“Such a brave and lovely act it is to let the body celebrate,” Tom Spanbauer, In the City of Shy Hunters

Like many gay men “of a certain age,” I entered adulthood well before my teens. No “boy crazy’” adolescence, leapt from child to adult, “an old soul,” the common phrase of the time. Illness most of my childhood, born 7 months 2 ½ pounds, Suzanne called my life into being. A shout. Call of love, that. To this day attached like Rodin and clay. Such love.

Omg. In my lifetime, moms were actually accused and hated, disabused themselves, for “making their sons homos.”

What we’ve lived through. Such times. (Thanks mom.)

Poetry was my pre-google queer guide to literature (that and an affinity for simple line drawings). Friendly queer librarians helped. It was in poetry I found my queerness. My queers. My body. My voice.

My mother blamed Thor, the Hulk, superheroes in tights. When Tom Jones came on, “I think it’s past your bedtime.” Thank the fairy gods Keith Partridge was on before 9PM.

Nope. It was, then, now, and forever shall be, poetry that forged my queerness.

Rilke’s Archaic Torso of Apollo. Cavafy’s alleys. Ginberg’s queer shoulder. Giorno’s Stretching It Wider. Dlugo’s Fast Life. Jimmy’s Blues. Hemphill’s Ceremonies. Cooper’s Idols. Gunn’s Touch. O’Hara’s Meditations, Whitman’s Leaves. Lorde’s Sisters. Antler’s Tagteam. Stein’s Buttons. Rich’s Dreams. Lorca’s NYC. Liu’s Kingdom Come. Cole’s Sacrament. Jordan’s Kisses. Strand’s Clarities. Killian’s Fascinations. Hughes’ America. Phillips’ Men. Conrad’s Frank. Siken’s Crush. Durbin’s Mature Themes. Nguyen’s Juice. Dimitrov’s Begging for it. Ladouceur’s Otter. Sax’s Madness. Scott’s Soho. Kotecha’s Switch. 

This barely barely barely skims the surface. Poets. Baring all. Life-changing. To this day. The power of poetry to shape/shapen lives. A shape not dependent on any other shape. Unabashededly, unapologetically, never bowing to shame QUEER POETRY shapes, reshapes my life, my body, my world, my pen, every living day.

Returning to Cavafy:

“I know that I am cowardly and am unable to act. Therefore I confine myself to words. But I don’t think my words are without purpose. Someone else will act. But my many words — the words of a coward — will make it easier for them to act. My words clear the ground.”

Ground clearing. A significant [powerful] act, dear Constantine. Yes, the best of poetry does this exceedingly well. Ushers in the new. 

“To find a whole new pocket of gay I never knew existed.”  Today. 

How utterly delightful.


KIRBY’s earlier chapbooks include Simple Enough, Cock & Soul, Bob’s boy, The world is fucked and sometimes beautiful, and SHE’S HAVING A DORIS DAY (knife | fork | book, 2017). They also appear in Matrix Magazine, National Poetry Month.ca, Dusie, Canthius, Carousel, and The Rusty Toque (Pushcart Nominee). Their full-length debut, THIS IS WHERE I GET OFF is newly out from Permanent Sleep Press. Their new reading class, POETRY IS QUEER begins this fall. Kirby is the owner/publisher of knife | fork | book

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