19 August 2007

Poetic License

They welcomed me in.
And we sat and sipped tea and coffee
And talked about my poetry,
And how I was educated in English,
But not too educated.
We talked about under-appreciation of the artist
And how modern television saps up too much modern time.
And they said they had read some of my “pieces”
(The one on Plath and the biblical one they loved),
And I felt like the long lost brother that they had found
And had accepted as if he never spent time feeding the pigs.

And then I made a mistake.
Like a belch during an important date with the lover you’ve wanted to impress,
I flatulated that I must be one of the few politically conservative poets in Atlanta
And I was impressed that they would rub elbows
With such a fundamentalist.

The round gay poet smiled nervously,
And the beautiful anti-war lesbian shifted until her back was toward me.
And I felt for not the first time how intolerant the tolerant can be.
And it felt wonderful.


Anonymous said...

As a faithful reader of your blog, I enjoy your poetry very much. You’ve written some truly moving, beautiful stuff, which explores the complexity of contemporary Christian life with a generous mix of confession, concession, and self-deprecation. Your latest irks me, however. Isn’t the speaker’s declaration of political and religious affiliation confrontational in a way that expects, and even solicits, a hostile response? Moreover, am I to assume that these affiliations were not common knowledge before the invitation was made? What can't be denied is that your speaker hauls out in response to the intolerance s/he experiences the tried-and-true stereotypes of “gay poet” and the “anti-war lesbian” – both figures frequently conjured and denounced in the most vitriolic, intolerant rhetoric of the Christian right-wing. The self-righteous martyrdom, the “wonderful” feeling of persecution, isn’t flattering, and the recourse to two familiar queer persecutors of Republican Christianity severely compromises whatever claim for “tolerance” the speaker might be trying to make own his or her own behalf. Perhaps it’s the very word “tolerance” that bothers me most, since it begs to be unpacked. But that’s another email.

A gay man, but not yet round, or a poet.

Jef Peeples said...

I think the speaker of the poem is indeed confrontational, and perhaps a bit arrogant, in labeling himself and the others present. I'm not sure, however, that the persona is hostile. The scenario which played out in mind is that the labeling was done by all--the round, the lesbian, and the speaker. Although the scene is fictional, and the persona is not me, the characters were based on two poets locally who, unfortunately, only identify themselves through their sexuality, much in the same way that the speaker seems to only identify himself by his politics. Neither side is quite tolerant of the other, but only one side claims to be tolerant of all. Bottom line it's a squaring off among three stereotypes.
Thanks for writing. I'm not sure my response is at all satisfying since it is 5:30 in the a.m. I do enjoy the fact that you read the stuff. I'm honored.

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