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Outside the Lines

Talking with Contemporary Gay Poets

Christopher Hennessy, Editor

Publication Year: 2005

Outside the Lines explores the personal and historical forces that have shaped the work of a dozen gifted poets. The answers given to Hennessy's astute, perfectly tailored questions remind a reader how exciting poetry can be, and how writers create, through language, the world as we have never known it. These adventuresome interviews will stir anyone who cares about the making of art. ---Bernard Cooper, author of Maps to Anywhere Editor Christopher Hennessy gathers interviews with some of the most significant figures in contemporary American poetry. While each poet is gay, these encompassing, craft-centered interviews reflect the diversity of their respective arts and serve as a testament to the impact gay poets have had and will continue to have on contemporary poetics. The book includes twelve frank, intense interviews with some of America's best-known and loved poets, who have not only enjoyed wide critical acclaim but who have had lasting impact on both the gay tradition and the contemporary canon writ large, for example, Frank Bidart, the late Thom Gunn, and J. D. McClatchy. Some of the most honored and respected poets, still in the middle of their careers, are also included, for example, Mark Doty, Carl Phillips, and Reginald Shepherd. Each interview explores the poet's complete work to date, often illuminating the poet's technical evolution and emotional growth, probing shifts in theme, and even investigating links between verse and sexuality. In addition to a selected bibliography of works by established poets, the book also includes a list of works by newer and emerging poets who are well on their way to becoming important voices of the new millennium.

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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pp. 1-6

The list of twentieth-century American poets who happened to be gay or lesbian includes some of the most visionary, masterful writers of the past hundred years. Consider these contenders: W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Hart Crane, May Swenson, Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan, and James Merrill. Their successors...

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Thom Gunn

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pp. 7-20

Perhaps the best testament to poet Thom Gunn is not awards won or honors achieved or number of books published (though he scores on all accounts), but the number of poets who count him a major influence and cite his poems as models of excellence. If that’s what is valued, then Gunn’s body of work is truly one of our greatest treasures...

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Frank Bidart

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pp. 21-39

In Frank Bidart’s critically praised Desire (1997), he writes, “We fill pre-existing forms and when we fill them we change them and are changed” (“Borges and I”). Deceptively simple lines like these reveal the concerns of one of our most prominent contemporary poets. The philosophical fabric of Bidart’s poetry marks him as a poet...

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Alfred Corn

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pp. 40-56

“One thing that’s occurred to me about my work is that it has visited many of the giants of twentieth-century American poetry,” says the multifarious poet Alfred Corn. Paying homage to and drawing upon the influence of Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, T. S. Eliot, and Robert Frost, Corn has produced a corpus of work that...

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J. D. McClatchy

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pp. 57-73

“I write about desire and abandonment—each a long, empty corridor,” says poet J. D. McClatchy. In many respects, the intersection of these corridors is where his 2002 volume Hazmat finds itself. At turns brooding and soaring, Hazmat, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, investigates the hazardous materials of our lives, ourselves, and our world...

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Mark Doty

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pp. 74-91

Mark Doty understands paradox, the richness found, for example, in realizing that grief originates in love or that an end can be a beginning. One of the most successful poets of his generation, Doty writes poems that employ sumptuous detail and imagery and at the same time take an unflinching look at emotionally raw subjects like mortality and loss. Doty’s also widely known for poems that explore art; beauty...

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David Trinidad

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pp. 92-109

David Trinidad is the kind of poet who relishes the perspective afforded him as an outsider: “What does Patti Smith say?” he asks in the following interview. “ ‘Outside of society, that’s where I want to be.’ ” As a poet well-known for crafting poems that are a collage of pop culture and the ephemera of a communal childhood, Trinidad sees...

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Henri Cole

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pp. 110-123

“I think a poem is not just a response to the external world,” says poet Henri Cole. “It should also present the reader with a mind in action, a self in dialogue with itself.” It’s that self (and the persistence of abnegation)— represented in the mask, the veil, the mirror, the self-portrait— that so greatly informs Cole’s work and marks his unique contribution...

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Carl Phillips

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pp. 124-141

Carl Phillips, who has quickly risen within the literary ranks to become one of America’s most prominent poets, conducts a vigorous search in his poetry. A poet of both intense lyric muscle and dense meditative impulse, Phillips seeks to understand desire, faith, the body’s erotic potential, the limits of language, and how two people negotiate a life...

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D. A. Powell

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pp. 142-158

D. A. Powell’s poetry is visceral, often sexual, sometimes disturbing, unacademic, and irreverent, but formal in its own way—and more human than autobiographical. Over the course of three books—Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails—Powell has developed a voice like few others, at turns brazen and sensitive. And with his signature titles...

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Reginald Shepherd

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pp. 159-176

Reginald Shepherd writes poems that are thick, often opaque—a lexical swamp where fractured syntax, myth, and history form a hypermusical lyric. And somewhere below the surface is “meaning.” But more than anything else, perhaps, Shepherd wants the reader to dive deep, to encounter resistance, and to find sheer engagement in words...

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Rafael Campo

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pp. 177-193

“I think of the human voice, with its register of inflections and intonations, as the true medium for empathy, with the poem serving as a kind of shaping instrument,” says poet-doctor Rafael Campo. Campo may be one of the most skilled formal poets of the younger generation, but he’s also one of the most persuasive voices for empathy in a culture that...

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Timothy Liu

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pp. 194-212

Timothy Liu is arguably one of the nation’s most prolific lyric poets under the age of forty. He’s the author of six books and editor of the seminal Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry (2000). Liu’s recent books include Of Thee I Sing (2004)...

Books Mentioned

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pp. 213-214

Looking to the Future: A Bibliography of Emerging Gay Poets

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pp. 215-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780472026326
E-ISBN-10: 0472026321
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472068739
Print-ISBN-10: 0472068733

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 12 B&W photographs
Publication Year: 2005

OCLC Number: 645830907
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Outside the Lines

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Subject Headings

  • American poetry -- 20th century -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
  • Homosexuality and literature -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • Poets, American -- 20th century -- Interviews
  • Gay men's writings, American -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
  • Gay men -- United States -- Interviews.
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