Michael Cunningham–FREE!; Edward Hirsch

Hello, writer friends! The podcast of Edward Hirsch’s talk at the Free Library of Philadelphia is below at the link. I was happy to introduce him when he visited the Library recently, and I am likewise excited to introduce Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham on May 22nd. The new novel tackles religion, drugs and politics and is called The Snow Queen. The event is free! Maybe you will join me there? Learn more at http://libwww.freelibrary.org/authorevents/index.cfm?ID=42446&type=2

Edward Hirsch on The Poet’s Glossary (podcast)

http://libwww.freelibrary.org/podcast/?podcastID=1222

“Your so cute I wanna wear you like a SUIT”

#boombappow @boombappow

20140404-021801.jpgOkay, I may have discovered it on an online furniture ad, but this song, “Suit” from the Perth pop group BOOM! BAP! POW! may be my new favorite song for spring. It’s a retro-esque number that makes me think of Nancy Sinatra, the B-52s, Oingo Boingo and Sweeney Todd–all rolled into one. Listen to it at the link here. I even went to Apple iTunes Store a couple weeks ago and bought the single, which I never do. If you like catchy guitar licks, check it out.

Now, when in the world will a Perth, Australia, pop group ever make it to Philadelphia???

Here are some screen snaps from the video link!

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Okay, time to go put together a new spring playlist!

It’s the year of the Queer Stamp!

#siblingrivalrypress #BLOOMLiteraryJournal #poetry #TomofFinland #HarveyMilTom-of-Finland-stamp-thumb-autox317-36710k

Does anybody know anyone in Finland? Maybe we can do a poetry postcard exchange–Harvey Milk stamped postcards sent to pen pals for postcards with this Tom of Finland stamp on them. Who’s in?

This summer, you can show your support of Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights by sending your bills and birthday cards with a Harvey Milk stamp. And, if you go to Finland, you can make my day by sending me a postcard that will shock my mail carrier.  Read more about each stamp at these links:

Tom of Finland

Harvey Milk.

 

 

HarveyMilkStamp

 

Attention Philatelists!

What other queer pioneers have appeared on stamps? Leave a comment!

NYC-Part 2: New BFFs & NEWSIES

[More from our trip to NYC back in March. Composed on the train ride back to Pennsylvania] Sunday John and I played typical New York tourists. We were staying at a new Marriott Courtyard near Times Square. Formerly a newspaper distribution center, the hotel made for easy walking as we spent our day dodging puddles and pedestrians on Broadway. On a whim we went to Madame Tussaud’s on 42nd Street, where we hobnobbed with the likes of James Bond, Dorothy Parker, the Dalai Lama and P. Diddy. (You’ll always remain Puff Daddy to me, Mr. Diddy). Marvel Comics characters had invaded the museum, making Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein seem like nostalgic relics. I barely survived a smash-em-up with the Incredible Hulk. I wore out John making him take pictures of me with all the people I’m certain would by my BFFs if only they were lucky enough to know me. Over drinks, say, with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker (both of who are there). We can put them on Leo DiCaprio’s tab.

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Hey Diddy Diddle.

Afterwards, we caught the matinee show of the musical Newsies. I really must commend the performance of recent Carnegie Mellon University grad Corey Cott in the male lead, Jack Kelly. Imagine a slimmed down, younger version of Hugh Jackman. Easy on the eyes, and with a tenor that is also easy on the ears. The musical debuted on Broadway in 2012 at the Nederlander Theatre and is based on the 1992 Disney film that helped launch Christian Bale’s career. It is but a tiny piece of Disney’s growing nine-billion dollar international musical theater portfolio. Alan Menken’s score was no shock, but I was surprised to find the book had been written by brass-throated Broadway vet Harvey Fierstein, an old favorite of mine, perhaps best known for playing Edna Turnblad in the movie-musical version of Hairspray (though to me it will always be his moving Torchsong Trilogy that anchors him to my memory).

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Corey Cott in the lead role.

The story of Newsies centers on an 1899 strike by newsboys who hawked papers for the media magnates of the era, bigwigs like Hearst and Pulitzer, and their actions helped shine a spotlight on unfair child labor practices, though significant reform would be slow to come. The newsboys have inspired fictional works before, like DC Comics’ Newsboy Legion in Star-Spangled Comics (1942), and they share a kinship with the likes of the Bowery Boys and the Our Gang serials in other media.

On one level, Newsies is the kind of feel-good do-it-by-the-numbers musical that Disney has become known for. On another level, it’s an unintentional ironic critique of today’s shifting media landscape. As I watched each song and dance number about the injustice of child labor practices, it wasn’t lost on me that today’s newspapers are, if not disappearing, evolving into hybrids that morph social media into their folds and redesign the means of distribution. It also wasn’t lost on me that a hundred years after the newsboys’ strike the kind of child labor practices they railed against may no longer occur here, but they have most definitely been outsourced overseas. Somewhere I’ll bet children are sitting in sweatshops so I can type on my iPad or the teenager sitting behind me at the show could talk on her phone during the final act.

Disney films and musicals don’t scratch very deep when it comes to their messages. With its theme of solidarity through brotherhood, Newsies is a pleasure to behold if you don’t mine it too hard. And the performances are top notch, especially the ensemble numbers that showcase the amazing acrobatic skills of its young cast, who tumble and dance and flip around with great zeal.

At times during the show, I wanted to flip something, too: namely the bird at the girl next to me who picked at her blond hair with all the fervor of an OCD spider monkey grooming its fur. At least she didn’t eat any nits. I also wanted to swat the young men in the a row behind me with a rolled up newspaper in hopes it would put an end to the loud conversation they were having in Farsi. Maybe if today’s kids had to sell newspapers for a dime they’d learn the value of the theater tickets their parents bought them. I may have left Madame Tussaud’s behind, but Hulk still wanted to smash.

Newsies Highlights

NYC-Part 1: Queer Poetry, Queer Art

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#RainbowBookFair #poetry #siblingrivalrypress

RAINBOW BOOK FAIR
With the rough winter we’ve had, teaching at my college has been a bit of a bear lately, and I also had to deal with some recent eye surgery. So it was nice to go to NYC for the Rainbow Book Fair with John the last weekend of March.

The Cornelia Street Reading on Friday night was a blast, hosted by Sibling Rivalry Press and the gracious Bryan and Seth who run it out of Arkansas. My fuzzy vision had cleared up well enough for me to read in the cozy basement, there amongst the fifty or so attendees packed in. I heard a lot of new voices, and especially enjoyed sharing a table with poet Charlie Broadus.

On Saturday afternoon, I read at the Rainbow Book Fair and heard even more new voices. The poems by Steve Cordova and Vinton Rafe McCabe were especially provocative–I didn’t know their work before–and it was great to reconnect however briefly with David Bergman and Charles Rice-Gonzalez, whom I’ve known for awhile. I also have a longer list of standouts to investigate in the coming months…. All in all, I enjoyed making new friends and hanging out with old ones.

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LESLIE-LOHMAN GALLERY
John and I also got to take a quick detour to the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, where the current installation depicts images of male beauty in popular culture over the last sixty years (http://leslielohman.org/). I quite enjoyed the sixty years of visual time travel from Tom of Finland drawings of the Fifties to contemporary artists working today. Those pioneers were working as illustrators for gay men’s magazines: pencil, watercolor and gouache, were chief among the media they used, and I always learn something new in examining such work in close detail.

Our day was capped with drinks with old friend Jeremiah, followed by dinner and more drinks with Eric, whose sharp wit and literary knowledge seem peerless. Who cares that it rained and rained and rained? Every time you get outside your regular life, you learn new things about yourself. You learn who your friends are and who are the fakers. You get to fall in love again with Indian food, new whisky cocktails, Ukrainian food, and the kind of unruly soul-revealing conversations one can only have over beer and wine. You find pleasure in the smiles of people that you’ve never had the pleasure of laughing with before. That’s what I’ll remember.

So what more could I ask for? How about a late-night ride in a NYC pedi-cab in the rain, weaving in and out of traffic up 8th Avenue. Think the pedaler will keep in the bike lane? Think again. If that wild ride wasn’t an adventure, I don’t know what is.

Read part 2 here.

Poem for the Boston Marathon Bombing Anniversary

#poetry #napomo #bostonmarathon Last April 15th I was at a work reception thanking the benefactors who funded a student trip to the AWP Conference in Boston for  which I served as the chaperone. At about the same time as the reception, the bombs were going off at the marathon, which I only learned about when I went home and turned on the news. This past weekend, I read a poem about one of the heroes and one of the survivors of that day. The reading was part of Philly Poetry Day and was held at Brickbat Books. Last night on the news, the police announced they had found the makings of another (unrelated) bomb just down the street from the bookstore. The irony wasn’t lost on me. Today, let’s celebrate heroes and hope–not bombs.  Here is the poem:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10152356218732767&set=vb.651257766&type=2&theater  

Here is the picture that inspired the poem:

Carlos with Jeff Bauman Jr 72.preview

What’s hard to imagine is how some people have since accused the bombing of being fake. Others have accused Carlos Arredondo (the man in the hat, above, and the subject of my poem) a fraud. Such accusations disgust me.

In better news, Jeff Bauman, the man who lost his legs in the photo, is now expecting his first child and he is engaged to be married.

#napomo2014 @phillypoetryday #phillypoeryday #poetdelphia #Apiary

Philadelphia as a World Heritage City?

#GlobalPhiladelphia #PhiladelphiaLiterature #poetry #PhillyPoetryDay

Good news for Philadelphia. The Global Philadelphia Association (GPA) is helping to sponsor Philadelphia as a World Heritage City, a UNESCO distinction.

I had the privilege of meeting Zabeth Teelucksingh, the GPA’s executive director, at Community College of Philadelphia last week when she was a guest speaker for International Festival, an annual spring event. I was there to accept an award for a poem for a contest among faculty, and even better was seeing that two of my students had been selected by the contest judges for the essays they wrote about their international journeys to come to this country. Teelucksingh gave the keynote address, and I was delighted to gain insight into the application process GPA is undertaking to make this designation a reality.

Philadelphia already has seen Independence Hall gain designation as a World Heritage Site. The city now wants that designation broadened. The World Heritage City designation is one of six designations overseen by UNESCO.

For a long time, I have told anyone who will listen that I’d like to find collaborators to help make Philadelphia a UNESCO City of World Literature, which is an additional distinction and part of its Creative Cities Network program. Currently, only Iowa City has this feather in its cap. Philadelphia should not only be a World Heritage Site, in my opinion, but it should also be honored for its ongoing contribution to the literary (and other arts) as a Creative City or City of World Literarure. The Global Philadelphia Association is taking the first step in making the former happen, and it just might some day lead to the latter opportunities at some point in the future.

Philadelphia not only holds special significance as the birthplace of America, it’s also a city that has been the stomping grounds for writers as diverse as Ben Franklin, Thomas Paine, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allen Poe –and, more recently– the likes of poets Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams and Edward Hirsch, each of whom studied here, as did novelist John Edgar Wideman. Pearl Buck lived for decades in Bucks County, and Sonja Sanchez, Eleanor Wilner, and Elaine Terranova have all been literary prize-winners who have made the city their permanent home. (And I haven’t even scratched the surface of Philly’s Language Poets.) It’s the way language arts thrive in Philadelphia academically and on the grass roots level that make me happy to live here, and we shouldn’t forget the city’s history as a major publishing hub, either.

Efforts by folks like the people at the Global Philadelphia Association are welcome, and this idea of becoming a World Heritage City is long overdue. I’m confident it will happen, and that it will lead to even greater things to come.

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