Regarding The Question

by Alex Welsh

For the last few weeks, I’ve been posting the responses of various gay poets of color to one  question: What makes a poem gay? I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and been pleasantly provoked by each of their answers. I hope you have as well.

In the end, I think the question of what makes a poem gay is really the mask for another question: what makes a poem yours? How do you know when you’ve brought yourself (or at least, a part of yourself) into this world dressed in words? What do you look like dressed in your poems? What are you doing there and how long do you plan to stay?

What makes a poem black? What makes a poem American? or masculine? or Southern? or twenty-something? or privileged?

Again and again, I find that the real question is: Where are you?

Point to the lines and images in your poem and show me where you are.

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3 responses to “Regarding The Question

  1. “Where are you?”

    This is a lot to consider, and I like the approach of this question being the answer to what we’ve been trying to determine all along through your interviewees.

    This answer, in fact, really resonates for me in two ways, both how you mean it, in the sense, I believe, of asking where we are on life’s road, and the actual connotation of “physical location.”

    Above all else, my poetry is anchored to “sense of place.” Camus said that “sense of place is not just something people know and feel. It’s something they do.” I want to spend some quality time deconstructing my poems and evaluating them to find why I am so inspired by place. Why are some of my poems Southern and others East-Coast/Mid-Atlantic? What is the spark? Where are these poems coming from inside me? Why do I feel the need to write about not just these places, but others, like Jamaica, New Orleans, Arizona. Where am I? I think answering this will give me the answers.

    Thanks for a provocative post, Saeed.

  2. Pingback: What makes a poem gay? « ] Outside The Lines [

  3. I like that answer, Saeed. Not only does it have a lovely symmetry, but I think it enjoys the virtue of being right.

    Successful poems (in whatever form) seem to derive their special power from the tension between the interior, private allegiances of the heart and exterior demands of the world. We creep along with our feelings in the dark. What the successful poem finds is the intersection between the two, where the flint strikes the steel.

    That is where the poet strikes a spark.

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