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Our Deep Gossip

Conversations with Gay Writers on Poetry and Desire

Christopher Hennessy; Foreword by Christopher Bram

Publication Year: 2013

From Walt Whitman forward, a century and a half of radical experimentation and bold speech by gay and lesbian poets has deeply influenced the American poetic voice. In Our Deep Gossip, Christopher Hennessy interviews eight gay men who are celebrated American poets and writers: Edward Field, John Ashbery, Richard Howard, Aaron Shurin, Dennis Cooper, Cyrus Cassells, Wayne Koestenbaum, and Kazim Ali. The interviews showcase the complex ways art and life intertwine, as the poets speak about their early lives, the friends and communities that shaped their work, the histories of gay writers before them, how sex and desire connect with artistic production, what coming out means to a writer, and much more.
            While the conversations here cover almost every conceivable topic of interest to readers of poetry and poets themselves, the book is an especially important, poignant, far-reaching, and enduring document of what it means to be a gay artist in twentieth- and early twenty-first-century America.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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Foreword: The Company of Poets

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pp. ix-xii

I’ve never understood why more people don’t love poetry. The best poetry is short, succinct, highly quotable, and very portable. It can take five minutes to read a poem that you will ponder for the rest of your life. Poetry should be as popular as song lyrics or stand-up comedy. Nevertheless, I often hear otherwise well-read...

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pp. xiii-2

I would like to thank, first and foremost, all of the poets included here. This book would have been impossible without their generosity of time and energy, their spirited engagement with me as an interviewer and poet, their brilliant insights, and, perhaps most of all, the poetry that sparked it all. Thanks must also go to my...

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pp. 3-22

A beloved gay poet once wrote, “It is the law of my own voice I shall investigate.” The poem’s title, “Homosexuality,” is simple, declarative, and definitional. It is a poem more complex than its title may suggest. But I begin my remarks with it here because it is a line that resonates in many ways and does this so aptly that...

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An Interview with Edward Field

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pp. 23-52

For Edward Field, poet of the demotic and the intimate, one of the most “pernicious ideas about poetry” is what he sees as contemporary poetry’s “stricture against sentimentality.” As he goes on to exclaim in the interview, “That is so evil! Every feeling you have is, of course, sentimental. . . . And to say sentimentality...

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An Interview with John Ashbery

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pp. 53-78

Mallarmé said the poet should purify the language of the tribe. I don’t think it’s so much purification as it is putting [language] on display or illuminating it,” says John Ashbery in the following interview. Ashbery has done more to “illuminate” our language than perhaps any other living poet of the last century—arguably...

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An Interview with Richard Howard

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pp. 79-102

The multiplicity of the self is both a truth and a lie for me,” Richard Howard declares in the following interview. The issue is central to Howard’s award-winning poetry, an oeuvre whose poems “written in other voices” (dramatic monologues and “twopart inventions”) somehow seem as revealing as personal lyrics...

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An Interview with Aaron Shurin

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pp. 103-136

Love and language, sexuality and textuality, have been central themes and central modes in Aaron Shurin’s poetry since the beginning of his career, and for him these two things have been keys to liberation both personal and social,” writes poet and critic Reginald Shepherd. “His has never been a poetry of uncomplicated...

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An Interview with Dennis Cooper

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pp. 137-168

Readers may know Dennis Cooper for his wildly popular novels that explore the dark and transgressive themes of sex and violence, often through the lens of youth culture. Cooper is a writer whose highly stylized novels are complex confrontations with our most taboo subjects, texts that embrace moral ambiguity instead of...

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An Interview with Cyrus Cassells

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pp. 169-194

My impulse is to move to beauty as a healing approach for things that are really horrific or challenging,” says poet, translator, and actor Cyrus Cassells. “I don’t know if it’s a balancing act, or a need to ameliorate,” Cassells says, but he is clear that one of the goals is “beauty that is in some way not ornamental.” He goes on...

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An Interview with Wayne Koestenbaum

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pp. 195-226

It’s my duty as a poet to push my language and consciousness as far into the ‘forbidden’ as possible,” declares Wayne Koestenbaum in the following interview. A poet and writer of diverse talents, Koestenbaum’s poetry vibrantly illustrates this dictum. His strange and sensuous lyrics mine perversity, pleasure, queer desire, memory, the...

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An Interview with Kazim Ali

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pp. 227-260

Born in the United Kingdom to parents of Indian descent but raised in the United States, Kazim Ali is also one of our most prolific, daring, and respected younger writers. Ali is an award-winning poet, and a noted essayist, fiction writer, editor, and translator. Critic Lee Sharkey describes Ali’s poetry as founded in a “resistance...

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A Selected Bibliography of the Poets' Work

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pp. 261-266

Though what follows is not by any means a comprehensive bibliography of every book from the interviewed poets, this list includes every major book of poetry by each poet as well as other titles that are either mentioned in the interviews or would be of interest to readers of the interviews. For example, I’ve included Wayne Koestenbaum’s critical work and essays...

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A Generation of Diversity, Excellence, and Redefinition: Recommended Reading

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pp. 267-272

As I was contemplating a suitable way to end this book on gay poetry, I began to think about the dozens of gay male poets who are currently producing some of the most formally innovative and emotionally powerful work in contemporary poetry. I had encountered their work (as I read their poems, consulted lists and anthologies) as I considered...

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Anthologies and Journals: A Resource

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pp. 273-274

Readers may be interested in the following anthologies. Some of these titles include lesbian and transgendered writers, but for the most part this list reflects a gay male focus. (Contemporary gay poets can also be found in the journals Assaracus, Bloom, Chelsea Station, the Gay & Lesbian Review-Worldwide, and Gertrude, among others.) What follows is a list...

E-ISBN-13: 9780299295639
E-ISBN-10: 029929563X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299295646
Print-ISBN-10: 0299295648

Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 8 b/w photos
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 867741522
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Our Deep Gossip

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Subject Headings

  • Gay authors -- United States -- Interviews.
  • Poets, American -- 21st century -- Interviews
  • Gay men's writings, American -- History and criticism.
  • American poetry -- 21st century -- History and criticism.
  • Field, Edward, 1924- -- Interviews.
  • Ashbery, John, 1927- -- Interviews.
  • Howard, Richard, 1929- -- Interviews.
  • Shurin, Aaron, 1947- -- Interviews.
  • Cooper, Dennis, 1953- -- Interviews.
  • Cassells, Cyrus -- Interviews.
  • Koestenbaum, Wayne -- Interviews.
  • Ali, Kazim, 1971- -- Interviews.
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