Back in March, I was supposed to read in San Antonio at Gertrude Press and the University of Texas Press‘ joint offsite AWP reading event. I was especially looking forward to sharing the bill with Sasha Geffen. After the event got cancelled (thanks pandemic), I got in touch with Sasha, who was kind enough to send me a copy of their book Glitter Up the Dark. My review of the book is live on Lambda Literary.
The book is very readable; Geffen’s love of music shines through every page. I was happy to have included a section about the late Richard Penniman in the review:
A raunchy anecdote about recently departed Little Richard telegraphs Geffen’s emphasis on voice. In its original version (Tutti Frutti / Good booty), his 1957 smash was the paean to butt sex you didn’t know you needed; even in the cleaned-up recorded version, an attuned listener can clock the libido in his wild singing. Vocal performance has a capacity to reach our inner selves; for queer people confronting a social order that excludes them, the effect can be cathartic as well as erotic.
Thanks to William Johnson for the thoughtful edit.
My feature on Chile’s queer performance artist/writer renegade voice, which he once characterized as “mariconaje guerrero” (“warrior faggotry”) appears in the May/June Gay & Lesbian Review, under the issue theme of “Unsung Heroes.”
The below excerpt describes a performance by Lemebel and collaborator Francisco Casas (as Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis entitled La Conquista de américa:
At the Chilean Human Rights Commission, Las Yeguas danced the cueca, Chile’s national dance, on a map of South America littered with broken Coca-Cola bottles, until their commingled blood stained the map in dance-step patterns. They each danced the female role alone, signaling the absence of the desaparecidos (political detainees who were “disappeared” by the state). It was a haunting appropriation of the symbolic dance as much as a rebuke of colonialist violence.
Many thanks to Chilean-American artist Ignacio Salas for his unwavering guidance and support, and to Richard Schneider Jr, for his scholarly edit.
I read from “Raunch Daddy,” an audience fave. A few words from my intro:
Hi from Manhattan West 30’s, or Lower Hell, as we say. I normally describe this neighborhood as “convenient, but noisy.” Not any more…
For the last year, I’ve been writing about artists: deejay Frankie Knuckles, whom I counted as a friend, photographer Alvin Baltrop, and Chilean writer/activist Pedro Lemebel. All queer people of color, who all showed us queer resilience as artists and people. We’re gonna need some of that power…
For this reading at San Francisco’s wonderful independent bookstore Dog-Eared Books Castro, I read from an excerpt for “Raunch Daddy”, story 2 of Worker Names. Also on the bill: Denise Conca, author of A Recursive Nature, Cass Sellers, author of the thriller Finding Sky, Wayne Goodman, and Rob Rosen. Thanks to Rick May for organizing a lively night of queer lit~
From Beny’s letter to Nick:
All is illusion except for your odor, gringuito. Let me also remind you that it is quite inconvenient–given my populist and anti-imperialist leanings–to be so enraptured by your capitalist body. You dominate me completely without raising a hand, yet here I am colonizing your pages. Sometimes when I grade my students’ compositions I hide lurid suggestions in the commentary…
The Gay & Lesbian Review‘s blog section posted my report from a recent visit to Santiago, Chile, in which I reflect on the work of writer and activist Pedro Lemebel:
Among the miles of graffiti I saw were many paste-ups devoted to Lemebel, and a line from “Manifiesto” repeatedly scrawled on city walls as an encouragement to the resisters: Soy más subversivo que usted (“I am more subversive than you”).
As Max passed between the stanchions he extended his hand to Rita. She strained to elongate her fingers while rotating her wrist, willing her rough hand to appear delicate. She then placed her hand atop his, as if he were about to escort her into a ballroom.
“Aren’t you a tall drink of water,” she said with theatrical, accented diction, then she drew close to his ear and mouthed an indecent sipping sound. Too embarrassed to reply, Max smiled awkwardly and entered the club.
Rita’s sharp allure on that night in 1986 would come back to Max decades later, opening more than a door.
ImageOutWrite is the companion volume to the ImageOut LGBTQ+ film festival in Rochester, NY. Volume 8 includes my short story, “Rita Dolores” (p. 75). It’s a little mystery set in NYC featuring a gay crime reporter, a drag performer, and a lesbian coroner. The book is a dense collection of short stories and poems by diverse LGBTQ+ voices.
Condragulations to my fellow contributing authors:
I enjoyed how Bondhus’ poem “My Brother Asks…”, (p. 173) invokes “the whole hotbox universe…” in answer to a flip question, and how Elaine Burnes’ short story “Life Time” (p. 39) about a time-traveling butch, queers the conceit.
“Raunch Daddy,” is story #2 from Worker Names, and I read it in its entirety for ASMQ. It’s epistolary in sections, with diary entries and chat room exchanges. Nick’s been kicked out by his lover for being ’emotionally unavailable’ and has lost his job in the recession. He sublets a studio around the corner from his now ex. Facing uncertainty and loneliness, he cruises AOL chat rooms on a pirated WIFI signal. He soon finds that there are men in the chat rooms eager to pay for his company, and embarks on a career as an escort. His friend Dean has also entered into sex work—after getting kicked out of nightlife by the Giuliani administration—and acts as his mentor. Earnest Nick is transformed by his encounters with the titular character, a Mexican novelist with a nose for pleasure & tragedy.
Thanks to Leah at Mischief Media for the production expertise. ***Hello adult content***
Writer and activist Elizabeth Koke and I shared the bill for the 9/17 Experiments & Disorders at Dixon Place.Read cuts from the following works-in-progress, and a cut from “Raunch Daddy,” the second story in the Gertrude Press chapbook Worker Names.
I Speak for my Difference, a new English translation of the poem Manifesto/Hablo Por Mi Diferencia by Pedro Lemebel, a queer Chilean writer and activist who resisted oppression, authoritarian rule, and the culture of machismo.
Michela Durand and Daniel Chew are filmmakers examining today’s virtualized spaces, the privately-controlled, pseudo-public platforms of our social media reality. In their short film Negative Two, the main character Devin is a young architect contemplating corporate plazas (analog pseudo-public spaces) while mediating Grindr exchanges. I play Devin’s older, somewhat inappropriate hook-up.
The film screened at the Shed (itself a corporatized endeavor on city-owned land) in July and has since screened at LA’s MOCA.
Last year, a fellow writer recommended Bruce’s workshop to me. I was familiar with his name but not his actual work. I started reading after joining the workshop, wondering how could I have missed out? I love the voices of the Times Square queer underworld he chronicles in User. His“erotic autobiography, ” The Romanian, is a fervent love letter to hustler Romulus. The tract he mentions, Against Marriage, was published by Semiotexte. In Benderson’s prose the erotic, the personal, and the political form a singular sweaty body.
In this interview for RFD Mag Stonewall Issue “Rebellion Feels Delicious.,”Benderson offers context to the Stonewall narrative. Whenqueer people were criminalized, we had common cause with other criminals. Like them, we sought to get away with our crimes, in our case, living our lives. Not to deny that we were exploited, demeaned, endangered in the process. Whatever current aspirations for bourgeois respectability, there are workers and outlaws among us, now as then. Our creative work should reflect these multitudes, not just this largely gentrified projection of today’s queer representation: