Archive for category Gay Poetry

“Getting Past Almost”– an erotic treasure

 

Lee, Donovan. “Getting Past Almost: Expanded Edition”, Writers Club Press, 2002.

An Erotic Treasure

Amos Lassen

Being from New Orleans, I gravitate toward books about the city and I don’t know how I could have missed this one. The author sent me a copy yesterday and I immediately sat down and read it and I was impressed. It is quite, to say the least, erotic. I often have wondered about books that have so much sex but this one is special—it has a great story as well. The sex is very hot but the plot of the book is so good that even though you are reading some of the hottest fiction I have ever read, there is that wonderful storyline that makes it all that much better.

From what I have read the book has been published twice. Donovan Lee, the author and also the name of the main character, decided that after it succeeded in its initial publication to pull it back and add some of what he had previously cut as well as add some new material. All in all, it is a wonderful read.

I do have the feeling that I have spoken to the author and I wonder if it is who I think it is. At any rate, let me write about the book.

As the narrator, Donovan Lee, tells a friend of his about his gay sexual experiences we are let into the life of a young man discovering and experimenting with his sexuality. He relates to a high school friend some of his escapades and another friend happened to see something he should not have causing some trouble for the two friends. Young Donovan is ostracized and as soon as he graduates from the high school in the small town in Louisiana where he lives, he heads for New Orleans in search of love and happiness. What he finds is sex, sex and more sex and ultimately falls in love with his dream man. However his happiness is threatened and this threat could ruin his happiness. What Donovan does learn is to accept himself and all those changes that come with living.

To tell you anymore would ruin a good read and I would not want to do that. This is one of those books that you will read and remember for a long time and not just because of the sex but because we learn about self acceptance and being ourselves. I tell you that is one book that you will enjoy from cover to cover.

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“Gay Haiku”–short and sweet

 

Derfner, Joel. “Gay Haiku”, Broadway Books, 2005.

Sweet and Sassy

Amos Lassen

Joel Derfner is my new hero. After reading his new book, “Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever”, I made my own quest to find his first book, “Gay Haiku”. It sounded like it would be great selection of short jokes but it is so much more than that. Yes, it is funny but it is also insightful and biting. It is a description of the crazy and maddening world of gay dating and it is very easy to relate to the haikus that he gives us. In seventeen syllables he catches each moment perfectly something that authors have written full books about and not managed to get.

The Haiku poem has long been part of the Japanese literary tradition. Usually a haiku expresses peace and contemplation as well as spiritual enlightenment with a balance of rhythm and rhyme. Rather than write about the changing of the seasons or the miracles of nature, Derfner writes haiku about the changing of boyfriends and the miracle of shopping. (How can one not love that?). Included are 110 irreverent and witty haiku poems and each is fresh and original. Topics of the poems include decorating, dating, shopping culture and politics, family and, of course, sex.

“Gay Haiku” is terrific and is a laugh a line. It will probably give you an impetus to write haiku of your own.

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“Another Word for Sky: Poems”–dreams

 

Michaelson, Jay. “Another Word for Sky: Poems”, Lethe Press, 2007.

Dreams

Amos Lassen

As most of you know I do not review poetry often probably because I rarely read something that can be reviewed. To me poetry is very personal and I find it very hard to put my emotions on the page. However, I am going to try to give an objective and sound review to Hay Michaelson’s “Another Word for Sky”. I am a faithful reader of Michaelson’s website and journal “Zeek’ and have read both his books as I am particularly interested in queer Jewish issues. Michaelson, like myself, is a queer Jew and a philosopher. Unlike Michaelson, I am a college professor and he is an intellectual that people listen to. He is a bit of a Renaissance Man with a quest for knowledge that seems to grow continuously. And Jay Michaelson is a poet and a damned good one. His passion shows through his poems and they speak on many levels. He flirts and plays and he is erotic and sublime. His poetry is tender and raw, satirical and devotional and he seems to be controlled by Eros. Writing about love he is passionate and naked as he is when he writes about G-d. Michaelson lets us into his magical and mystical mind through his lyricism and he inspires and infuriates. However if there is anything that characterizes the poet it is that he is himself, Jay Michaelson with his desires and yearnings, his sexuality and enlightenment, his joys and his miseries.

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A Note on Reviewing

A Note on Reviewing

Amos Lassen

Now that i have entered a new website, I thought I would share my thoughts on book reviewing and react to several comments I have received. I have been asked several times how I select the books I review. My selections are based on two sources. I have been reviewing for years now so publishers send me review copies. There is also the option that I use that if I see a book that I think looks interesting and I have not received a free review copy, then I buy it and if  it is worthy of a GOOD review, I report on it.

I have also been asked why I never give a bad review or if I do I balance it with good points. My purpose in reviewing is to incre4ase awareness of a larger world. If a book does not deserve a good review, I choose not to write about it. My ultimate purpose is to get people to read and if I write about book that has no redeeming value I defeat my purpose.

The other remark that I have received and I have expected it is “Why am I so “hung up” on the Jewish gay issue. There are several reasons for this but by and large it is because I am Jewish and gay and know what I went through reconciling that. It is not a question of being a Jewish issue, it is a religious issue and I have tried to make my reviews read so that any religion or minority group can be interchanged with the word “Jewish” and what the books that I review say can apply to any situation, any minority, and any religion. I am sure some think, “there he goes again with that Jewish business” and to some degree you are right. Just substitute yourself for the word “Jewish” and I think you will understand what I am trying to say. I have also been awarded a grant to write a book about growing up Jewish and gay in the South so quite naturally I spend a lot of time reading books about the subject. My reviews are an exercise for me to voice my opinion and if you feel they do not apply. Just skip over them.

Books for women? I know I have not written much here but I have finally begun to receive books on the subject, so stay tuned. I have a review I am working on now and hopefully there will be more in the future. In the meantime let me just say keep reading.

I have had one major disappointment. I am in contact with many authors and publishers and when I see raw talent, I will go above and beyond so that people are aware of the author. Recently I met a new vibrant young author, a poet who had just self-published his first book. I felt that people had to get to know him and I pushed that book like I have never done before and quite naturally the writer and I became good friends–or so I thought. I introduced him to many, many writers via facebook and other means. I wrote to people I know and told them that they had to read this book and I even went as far as to name it number one on a list I prepared for Lambda Literary Foundation. Shortly afterward my life hit a crisis with the infamous Amazon affair and I really needed a friend. Where was he? Nary a word from him yet his book continued to climb to the tops of many lists and he did so well that he opened his own press and managed to get a nice group of writers to publish with him. We are were scheduled to have lunch to discuss the rift between us when he decided that he had to go away for the weekend and was never heard from again. His poetry recently appeared in major publications and he won a place on the American Library list for which I nominated him and so on and so on. Am I bitter? I guess I am a bit but I learned that when someone writes a book and wants me to review it, I will but I will never go out of my way again and then get slapped for it. We all have our day and his will come.

On a positive note, I am currently moving over 5000 reviews of GLBT movies and books to this site so be patient. This will be the official archive of my reviews. Thanks for reading.

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“Shades of Love”–a beautiful book

Yeros, Dimitris, (photographer), Edward Albee (foreword), John Wood (introduction) and David Conolly (translations. “Shades of Love: Photographs Inspired by the Poems of C.P. Cavafy”. Insight Edition, 2011.

A Beautiful Book

Amos Lassen

C.P. Cavafy is a very special poet and he was one of the first openly gay writers long before we even knew the term coming out. His poems represent the height of man/man love and now Yeros Dimitris has added gorgeous sensual photographs to some of the poet’s works. The photos are basically homoerotic just as are the poems. The result is a book of beauty and a volume every man will be proud to own.

Cavafy wrote about the emotions that engulf man and the photos represent this perfectly. Just as Cavafy is difficult to translate, I imagine choosing photographs for the poems was also difficult. We are all aware of the problems with translating poetry and a translation never quite catches the nuances of the words the poet uses in his own language and I am very familiar with this as a colleague and I have been working on translating some of the poems of Chain Bachman Bialy, the once poet laureate of Israel.

The entire book does not succeed but when it does it is glorious. We clearly feel Cavafy’s rejection of the heterosexual life and his love and sexuality for the human male. I, personally, love the book but I can see where other people might find faults. That’s what taste is all about.

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“Vintage”–a gay ghost story

Berman, Steve. “Vintage: A Ghost Story”, Lethe Press, 2007.

A Gay Ghost Story

Amos Lassen

Steve Berman has written a very smart and a very stylish book, “Vintage: A Ghost Story”. It is a fantastic look at gay love with a gothic twist.

One night while walking down a deserted highway in September, our young gay goth hero comes upon a beautiful stranger who appears to have stepped out of imagination. However, the beautiful boy is not as beautiful as first perceived. It seems that he is a ghost, the ghost of an athlete who met his death years before. More important is that this ghost has a secret ad an obsession. Looking at the dark side of life in the city, the book shows that the dead ever really rest and they never find the peace that supposedly comes with death.

“Vintage” is full of power and emotion dealing with difference in the modern world. It is not ghosts that haunt us but the decisions we make are the issues we must deal with on a daily basis. “Vintage” is not just a ghost story but it is an honest story of coming-of-age. We get to look at youthful dreams as well as childish fears. In dealing with both this world and the one beyond, Berman writes beautifully and says things that we have never read before. His detail is lush and vivid as he writes about youthful lust and desire and happiness and the loss of joy. Ghost stories ever seem to go out of style and a really good one stays with us for a very long time.

Berman skillfully combines issues of importance to our lives today—alienation and love. As the ghost relives his past ad finally faces exorcism, we are brought face to face with the problems of growing up gay. The result is a beautiful love story—something that has been rare in gay literature of late.

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“Sweet Son of Pan”–erotic poetry

Healey, Trebor. “Sweet Son of Pan”, Suspect Thoughts Press, 2006.

Erotic Poetry

Amos Lassen

I first came into contact with the work of Trebor Healey by reading his first novel, “Through It Came Bright Colors”. I remarked then that his prose was poetic in quality and then sure enough he issues a volume of poetry, “Sweet Son of Pan”. This is a beautiful collection of erotic poems which are alive with feeling and emotion and they are raw and very hot. So much poetry has roots in eroticism that the amount of graphic images in Healey’s poem is not surprising. As Healey celebrates maleness and the magic of the male form, he expounds on the freedom to be who we want, sexually and otherwise.

This collection of erotic poems draws its being from the thoughts of gay men and is written as homage to sensuality. As we journey on the path we see our own selves, our unified own unified soul and we disregard time—time is eternal. The sanctity of peace brings about sexuality and to further enjoy that sexuality even more, Healey invites us to his sexual, poetic orgy where we lose ourselves in the beauty of words.

Pan, the demigod, born of a divine father and a mortal woman walks the line between the heavens and earth. If we give into him, we are raised to that place where the mundane and ugly and gross is separated from the aesthetic. It is our choice to beckon Pan and tell him that we are ready to join him and by doing so we “consummate our immortality”.

Healey obviously has surrendered to Pan and the results are these beautiful poems. When I say that the poems are erotic, I do not jest. Look at some of the titles, “The Star Spangled Boner”, “The Aristocracy of the Scrotum”, “Melchor’s Ass” and “Sex and Death”.

If you do not like poetry or you have never read poetry, Healey’s book is a great starting off place. The visions that are conjured by the poems are like photographs of the mind and the language wall linger on your heart and soul.

Check out Trebor’s poem in the new book about the Radical Faeries.

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