“Architect”: A new poem in the journal CODEX

CODEX has a new fall issue out. I have a poem about my father in it. It seems a fitting season for it to come out now that the leaves are starting to change. Loss has haunted me lately, and the rage that goes along with it. I lost my father to cancer a long time ago, and more recently I lost a college friend who leaves behind her husband and two boys. I dream of better days.

You can read “Architect” here if you like: http://codexjournal.com/kelly_mcquain/. 

Maybe I will read this poem at Tattooed Mom’s bar at the reading tonight. I’ll be there with friends, celebrating this journey and what time is allotted to us.

Sept. 28: Celebrating Small Presses: Heston, McQuain, Markovitz

WHAT: Poetry/Prose Reading — Markovitz, McQuain, Heston — celebrating works from The Head & The Hand, Bloom Books, and Finishing Line Press.
WHEN: Sunday, September 28th, 8 PM
WHERE: Tattooed Mom, 530 South Street, Philadelphia, PA


Jeffrey S. Markovitz is a Professor of English and Creative Writing and is the Director of the Creative Writing Certificate Program at the Community College of Philadelphia. His fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in a variety of print and online journals. His short-story chapbook, —for Olivia, was published by The Head and the Hand Press (2013) and can be ordered here: http://www.theheadandthehand.com/product/vending-machine-chapbook-collection/. His novel, Into the Everything was published by Punkin Books (2011) and can be ordered here: http://www.thebookpatch.com/BookStore/into-the-everything/042ed1c6-dc95-4add-a772-c1ad89682b3a. He lives in Philadelphia, an incredible place to write.

Kelly McQuain’s chapbook, Velvet Rodeo, was recently chosen by poet C. Dale Young for BLOOM magazine’s poetry prize. McQuain’s writing has appeared in such venues as Painted Bride Quarterly, Kestrel, The Pinch, Assaracus, The Harrington Gay Men’s Fiction Quarterly, and American Writing, as well as in numerous anthologies, including Best American Erotica, Men on Men, Between: New Gay Poetry, Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books, The Queer South and Skin & Ink. His book reviews and essays on city life appear in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Among his writing awards are two fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Visit him at http://www.kellymcquain.wordpress.com.

Brian Patrick Heston grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His first book, “If You Find Yourself,” won the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award and is available for preorder here: http://mainstreetrag.com/bookstore/product/if-you-find-yourself/. His poems have won awards from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation, the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation, and the Lanier Library Association. He is the author of the chapbook, “Latchkey Kids,” which is available from Finishing Line Press. His poetry and fiction have appeared in such publications as Many Mountains Moving, West Branch, Lost Coast Review, Rosebud, Harpur Palate, 5AM, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Poet Lore, South Carolina Review, and is upcoming in Tampa Review and Cider Press Review. Presently, he is a PhD candidate in Literature and Creative Writing at Georgia State University.

The Queer South

An anthology that I have two poems in is out now! THE QUEER SOUTH debuts officially Sept. 17th, and has essays, poems and stories that put a face on queer southernly concerns for the 21st century. I’m happy to be sharing space with the likes of Dorothy Allison, Richard Blanco, Brad Richard, Seth Pennington, D. Gilson, Stephen Mills, Jeff Mann, Matthew Hittinger, Shane Allison, Ed Madden, and the crazy Del Shores. Not to mention a bunch of other wonderful people. My poems are about the problematic reconciliation of queer, Euro and Native American identities. Included are “Spirit Animal Chant” and “Brave”.QS_Cover

Big shout out to editor Douglas Ray and the masterminds at Sibling Rivalry Press for making this book come true.

Velvet Rodeo reviewed by The Philadelphia Review of Books; Tattooed Mom Shenanigans

Very grateful for a recent review of my chapbook Velvet Rodeo on the blog site of The Philadelphia Review of Books. You can check out the review by poet Kris Bigalk at http://phillybooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/no-bull-a-review-of-velvet-rodeo-bloom-2014-a-chapbook-by-kelly-mcquain/.

Meanwhile, if you are interested in hearing some of these poems, I’ll be reading in a Night of Literary Shenanigans at Tattooed Mom’s Bar Sept. 28th at 8 pm in Philadelphia (530 South Street). I’ll be reading with fiction writer/poet Jeff Markovitz and Brian Heston, who has a new chapbook out and recently won the Main Street Rag prize for his full-length collection. Details are at https://www.facebook.com/events/341205289380138/342894605877873/?ref=notif&notif_t=plan_mall_activity.

The Poetry Problem


What to do with the white space? This is a good conversation to have, and I think I’ve probably had versions of this conversation with Cleaver Magazine, and other journals. I love, love, love playing with space in a poem because it’s another tool you can use to influence cadence, but I also know it’s risky to send these poems to online journals. I hate that journals might reject a poem just because of formatting, and I worry that if all poems are flush-left in a magazine it will be stultifying in the long run. Some poems just don’t sound their best unless you play with the white space. Still, editors have to respect the limits of their publishing programs. What do you think? Does the look of the poem influence where you send it online?

Originally posted on Editors' Blog!:

magnetic fridge poetryHEY POETS, did you know that your spacing decisions can affect your chances of being published successfully in online literary magazines?
Most writers, poets included, create and distribute their work on word processing software such as Microsoft Word or Google Docs. It’s what we’ve always done. These programs are great for viewing work on our computers and for making print-outs, but they don’t play well with online publishing platforms like WordPress (on which our site is built), Drupal, Joomla, and others.

This is a software and design problem that many poets are unaware of. And it could be the reason certain poems you submit to online publications are rejected or end up being published in a different-looking format from what you intended.

What’s this ‘white space a problem’? The word processing programs we writers use to create poems make it easy for us to spread text across a page, just as we used to do on a typewriter. Just tap the space…

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Because Their Eyes Were Kind

A new poem of mine is out today via Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed — live over at Upstart  (http://www.clemson.edu/upstart/Essays/sequence/sequence.xhtml).  D. Gilson is the editor on this project, which remixes Shakespearean sonnets into something new. My poem clocks in at the very auspicious number of 69, and is inspired (sadly) by all the crazy gun violence in schools we have to live through.  To read it, click on http://www.clemson.edu/upstart/Essays/sequence/69.xhtml. Other poets include Donna Vorreyor, Rj Gibson,Wayne Koestenbaum and many, many more.  A print version of this stand-alone volume of Upstart: A Journal of Renaissance Studies will be available soon in print.

OutofsequenceCover art for Out of Sequence

Reviews of Velvet Rodeo

A number of reviews of Velvet Rodeo have appeared over the summer, so I thought I would collate some excerpts here. The reviews have been generous with their discussion of the book’s narrative and formal elements. I hope you like what you read and will consider buying a copy at this link to support Bloom Books. The print run is limited, so get yours before they sell out.

What Reviewers Are Saying about VELVET RODEO

“Since 2010, Bloom, the first-rate national LGBT literary magazine has been holding competitions to find the community’s most exceptional writers of poetry and prose. Velvet Rodeo, the chapbook by last year’s poetry winner, Kelly McQuain, is a gem, worthy of attention even from readers who typically don’t read poetry (Bloom Books. $8. www.bloomliteraryjournal.org). Born in rural West Virginia, McQuain, now in his 40s and based in Philadelphia, beautifully reflects on the tension between the beloved natural landscape of his childhood and his need to escape those environs to express his own sexual nature in the standout opening piece, “Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers,” His cub scout troop’s day dressing up as Native Americans evolves into a personal experiment in drag amid the clever wordplay of “Brave.” The equally witty “Uncle” finds an adult McQuain fantasizing about a son when his estranged infertile married older brother asks if he’d be willing to make a sperm donation. These are indelibly tender snapshots of a gay life that straddles environments and eras.” –Jim Gladstone, “Travel Bound”, Passport Magazine, August 2014.


“Between a single dawn and dusk, I shadowed a speaker through adolescence and into adulthood, from young summers in West Virginia to liquored confessions in Mexico. Kelly McQuain’s Velvet Rodeo is a rare chapbook that spans such lengths—though, that is one of poetry’s potentials: every verse paragraph a vignette. And yet while McQuain’s poems are distinctively narrative, they are rife with imagery; from nature to anatomy, McQuain’s imagery evokes experience, from discovering one’s body to discovering parental fallibility. It is fitting then that Velvet Rodeo’s opening poem, “Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers,” begins spiraling outward, from pastoral aesthetics to something more existential….” — Matthew Girolami, Cleaver Magazine, July 2014. More at http://www.cleavermagazine.com/velvet-rodeo-by-kelly-mcquain-reviewed-by-matthew-girolami/


“Coming of age, finding identity, negotiating family relationships; these themes are all here, explored through Kelly McQuain’s characteristic precise description and formal attentiveness…. [T]he collection is thoughtful and deep. The lyrical and narrative modes are wonderfully blended….” –Poems for the Writing, July 2014. More at http://poemsforthewriting.com/2014/07/13/velvet-rodeo-by-kelly-mcquain/


“Velvet Rodeo, by Philadelphia poet Kelly McQuain is clearly a winner. These are well-crafted poems with surprises, narrative twists, and a rich use of vocabulary. Several themes predominate in McQuain’s work. The most important is his origins: growing up in rural West Virginia…. [T]he strongest of all the poems in the collection, called “Creation Myth”… describes the early lives of both his father and mother. Extraordinary philosophical questions are thrown at the image of the mother: ‘How to separate the cosmic egg? Separate the raw from the cooked?’ Like his son, the father in the poem was also an artist, if on the fringes of the creative world. In an almost rhythmical ending the poet recognizes the enormous debt to his parents, knowing he can never repay them.”– Dan Evans, “Gay Presses: Alive and Thriving”, The Fire Island Tide, May 23, 2014.


Velvet Rodeo “engender[s] camaraderie among individuals who love lauding language and its possibilities.” — Joseph Myers, “Poetic License” Profile/Interview, South Philly Review, June 5, 2014. http://www.southphillyreview.com/news/lifestyles/McQuain_touting_Velvet_Rodeo_poems-261974161.html

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