What It Means To Be Wilde

by Olivier Valsecchi

1. On Monday, February 8 at 6pm, I will walk into the Cornelia Street Cafe and compliment Alex Dimitrov on his newest pair of skinny jeans and the amazing poem that appears in the most recent issue of the Gay & Lesbian Review. I will ask Jason Schneiderman how his dissertation is going and try my best to keep up with the conversation. I will give Tom Healy a huge hug and explain why I think of him whenever I hear “Never Too Much” by Luther Vandross. I will make my way to Angelo Nikolopoulos and start quoting lines from Steel Magnolias because he was with me when I saw that movie for the first time (admittedly, a few weeks ago). I will try to be calm when I introduce myself to Mark Doty. I am so damn happy to be a part of the Wilde Boys Queer Poetry Salon and if you’re there on Monday, you will see why.

2. When I was 10 years old, I tied scarves around my wrists and did my version of the Dance of the Seven Veils for my aunt. We had just finished watching Cecille B. Demille’s “King of Kings” and the only part of the movie that caught my attention and kept it was Salome dancing in exchange for a man’s head on a platter. At the time, I didn’t know that Oscar Wilde made up the “Dance of the Seven Veils” to suit the play he was writing about Salome. Nonetheless, if Aunt Carolyn was still alive, she would tell you that at the age of 10, I did a dance that would make Salome put away her veils for good.

3. Alex Dimitrov founded the Wilde Boys Salon at the beginning of last Summer. At the Triangle Publishing Awards Reception, he walked up to me and said ” You remind me of Grace Jones. My name is Alex.” He then told me about his dream to have a salon where young gay poets from all over the City could get together and talk about poetics. I thought his dream was cute, but still just a dream. A month later, I was sitting in Mark Bibbins’s loft with 15 other Wilde Boys.

4. Being Wilde means that you crack a joke about Alex’s size 0 jeans and then launch into a fierce debate over Reginald Shepherd’s thoughts on identity politics. (What makes a poem gay? Is a poem gay because the poet is gay? Is a poem gay because of its content? Is gay even a necessary word? What does queer mean?) Being Wilde means that I can sit in Angelo’s apartment listening to him read a Ginsberg poem before we head over to Eastern Bloc for drinks.

5. I’m Wilde because I’m grateful to have friends who know what it means to do the Dance of the Seven Veils for people you love. I’m Wilde because I’m a gay poet who isn’t satisfied with simply being a gay poet. I’m Wilde because I know what it means to be young, queer, and lonely as well as what it means to be fierce, united, and in the company of fiercely beautiful minds.

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5 responses to “What It Means To Be Wilde

  1. extraordinary pictures.

  2. I can’t wait! It’s going to be so much fun!!

  3. sounds like a terrific group and the questions you raise: what is gay poetry? is it a gay poem just because the author is gay? are all very intriguing 🙂

  4. Saeed, I can’t believe you hadn’t seen Steel Magnolias until a few weeks ago! What kind of southern gay are you?!?!

    Wish I could be at the reading–I teach on Monday nights. 😦 Have a great time.

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