Monthly Archives: September 2011

What is Phillip Williams Reading & Why?

I am reading some of everything now. Without having the constraints of a particular guided program, I’ve had the freedom to really explore thins that I otherwise would have no time for. One of the books I started a while back and am just now revisiting is “On Black Men” by David Marriott, in particular the essay “‘Murderous Appetites’: Photography and Fantasy” as I re-explore my relationship to the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe in his book The Black Book (1986). Much like the book in its entirety, I want to explore how images of Black men, neither created nor curated by Black men, affect the way we treat each other as Black men regardless of orientation. It’s that gaze and, therein, the application of what Black and Male means by those who are not Black (are, sometimes, also not male) that interests me.

I am also reading more critical essays and craft essays on poetry: Pinsky, Gluck, Shepherd, Logenbach, and Dean Young.

Some poetry I’ve been reading: “Blue Smith” by Camille T. Dungy, “Notes On A Divided Country” by Suji Kwock Kim, “Colosseum” by Katie Ford, “The Orchard” by Brigit Pegeen Kelly. These books in particular are helping me to write about devastating events without making those subject to such violence, to such disaster, into stereotypes and identity-less cutouts of real people of went through real suffering.  It is one thing to have empathy, but these books show me how to be aware that rewriting history is not a part of that empathy. It’s a lesson that can be translated into real life, one that, strangely enough, fits into the rewriting of identity that David Marriott seems interested in. I’m reading to fulfill the circle that reading instigates and to interrogate what I find that seems cautionary, if not outright oppressive.


Phillip B. Williams is a Chicago, Illinois native. Recently, he won BLOOM’S inaugural chapbook competition in poetry for his manuscript BRUISED GOSPELS. He is a Cave Canem graduate and was awarded a Bread Loaf work-study scholarship. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Callaloo, Sou’wester,Painted Bride Quarterly , Boxcar Poetry Review and others. Phillip is currently poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl.

Addendum: Dante Micheaux on “Black Gay Poet, or Gay Black Poet, or Poet”

by Olaf Hajek

Dante Micheaux‘s response to “Black Gay Poet, or Gay Black Poet, or Poet” adds insight worth sharing:

I was an undergraduate when José Muñoz was just beginning to make a name for himself. His book DISIDENTIFICATIONS: QUEERS OF COLOR AND THE PERFORMANCE OF POLITICS was all the rage in my circle and off they went, my Queer friends, to put Muñoz’s theory into practice. I never could get behind disidentifying. I wanted all the identities at once. In some respects, I still do. I much enjoy telling the world, when it gets up in face, “Yes. I am that, too. And what?” When I think about being a poet, however, I have to question which aspect of my multidentity is responsible for that being. If I were not Black, I would still be a poet but I do not believe my being a poet would be possible if I were not a homosexual. My sexuality was the catalyst for childhood introspection and, having to keep a major part of myself hidden, forced me to hone my powers of observation. I had to be aware of everything around me, to protect myself when I thought no one else would. As the images and language began to commandeer the synapses, an outlet was needed. Poetry. I think all poets must have an experience that makes them see themselves outside the center of things. For me, it was the gift of homosexuality–for which I am eternally grateful.