Who’s Yer Daddy?
Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners
Publication Year: 2012
Some writers chronicle an entire tribal council of mentors; others describe a transformative encounter with a particular individual, including teachers and friends whose guidance or example cracked open their artistic selves. Perhaps most moving are the handful of writers who answered the question literally, writing intimately of their own fathers and their literary inheritance. This rich volume presents intriguing insights into the contemporary gay literary aesthetic.
Published by: University of Wisconsin Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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The editors of this volume thank the editors of the journals listed on the copyright page for their permission to reprint essays that initially appeared in their pages. At the University of Wisconsin Press, we thank our editor, Raphael Kadushin, for his early and enthusiastic support...
Introduction: All Our Daddies—and Then Some
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Most books, even anthologies, grow out of an individual’s private concerns or interests, loves or hates, typically from something that has “moved” the writer or editor into action. In that regard, this book is totally different. Who’s Yer Daddy? Gay Writers Celebrate Their Mentors and Forerunners grew out of a panel...
Culture Club in Space: An Anecdotal Poetics
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When I was twelve or thirteen or fourteen, I dressed up as Boy George for Halloween. It was 1983 or ’84 or ’85. “Karma Chameleon” was on the radio, and I was ready for drag. I had gathered pieces over a series of weeks, and my oldest brother’s girlfriend, Fran, helped me assemble the costume in his bedroom. She and I sat on his bed...
Walt Whitman: Glow on the Extremest Verge
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Sunday morning in Mendocino, the driving rain off the Pacific’s been scouring the bluffs all night, cascading wildly over the band of moorland before the dreamy little town begins. We’re in a coffee shop reading e- mail when a homeless man enters— or so I’d assume, anyway, a late middle- aged...
Latin Moon Daddy
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I’ve had many daddies. I used to pick them up at the Barnes & Noble on Eighteenth Street and Fifth Avenue on my lunch break from my first job after I’d graduated from college. I’d give them ten to fifteen minutes before deciding whether I’d take them home. I always did. I was easy. Edmund White...
Making a Man Out of Me
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I’m six or seven years old, riding back home with my grandfather and my Cuban grandmother from my tía Onelia’s house. Her son Juan Alberto is effeminate, “un afeminado,” my grandmother says with disgust. “¿Por qué? He’s so handsome. Where did she go wrong with dat niño?” she continues, and then turns to me in...
Under the Influence
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I’ve come to consider myself a fifth- generation off- shoot of the New York School poets, and I count a couple of gay writers from earlier generations of that “school” among my primary influences and encouragers. It’s impossible to even broach the subject without beginning with Kenward...
My Mother’s Grave Is Yellow
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I first discovered Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle in my high school library. “Discovered” seems a grand word for the experience: the library in Buhler High School was hardly a place where one “discovered” anything. It was a single, brightly lit, drop-ceilinged room lined with...
Some Notes, Thoughts, Recollections, Revisions, and Corrections Regarding Becoming, Being, and Remaining a Gay Writer
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These days, it’s difficult to imagine a time before the Internet and its easy anytime access to porn. But for me as a wee pup, growing up in a seemingly sterile place like Singapore in the early ’80s, where even Cosmo was banned, finding a Playboy or Playgirl was nearly impossible. No, what pubescent boys—gay or not—had to settle for were “dirty” novels...
My Three Dads
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I took writing workshops in college, although I decided early on I would not major in English. In one of those early workshops, my teacher brought in Frank O’Hara’s poem “The Day Lady Died” as a means of getting us to write out of the everyday, the mundane, but to focus on meaningful...
Orpheus in Texas
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Perhaps I am being presumptuous when I assume that every gay man has a complicated relationship with the idea of fatherhood. The word makes me look over my shoulder, expecting my father to be there, arms crossed and waiting for a good answer. He’s probably smiling, knowing exactly...
“It does not have to be yours”
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When I first heard from Jim Elledge what this project was to be called, I thought, well, Gertrude Stein of course. Mine is Stein. The Invert( ed) Past. Mount Fattie is my daddy. Easy. She’s a battering ram made of truffles; she’s an iron feather duster; or, as Lynn Emanuel put it, “a huge typewriter...
A Hidden Life (On Joy Williams)
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There was no shattering realization, no originating moment in which I knew her work would change my life. I’m sure the first story I read of hers didn’t look that much different from the others in the anthology. I’m sure it was an anthology. I didn’t yet have the eyes to see how her work was different...
Positively Not: A Talk about Poetries and Traditions
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I’d like to offer you a question: is there a difference between hegemony and poetic tradition? Suppose by hegemony we mean the dominance of one social group over another, dominance maintained by “a ruling class . . . [that creates] cultural and political consensus through unions...
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My father turned ninety in March 2011. On the way home from an Appalachian Studies conference in Kentucky, where I’d read some poems and spoken on LGBT life in the Mountain South, my partner John and I swung through Summers County, West Virginia, for an afternoon of birthday celebration...
The Tallahatchie Meets the Arve, or Unexpected Gay Confluences in the ’70s
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It was a time before library books had anti- theft magnetic strips, when you showed the librarian your borrower’s card, then signed duplicate book cards right below the name of the previous borrower. One card she would place in a pocket pasted inside the back cover of the book, the other she would keep...
How I Learned to Drive: The Education of a Gay Disabled Writer
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When I was in high school, all of my friends took driver’s education. It was 1976, fourteen years before the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) would require public schools to provide full access to disabled and nondisabled alike. I was sixteen, many years before my awareness of myself as a disabled...
How to Skin a Deer
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I usually don’t admit it. But sometimes I miss him. Sometimes I really miss my father. I don’t know why I feel embarrassed to say that. Maybe because I’ve always pretended that it has not mattered to me that I didn’t have him for long. And that it never mattered to me that even when he was here...
The Little Girls with Penises
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Years ago, I had coffee with a friend of mine who, during our chit- chat, mentioned an exhibit he’d attended a few days earlier at the American Folk Art Museum, a major show by Henry Darger (1892– 1973). I’d never heard of Darger, but my friend piqued my interest when he mentioned that Darger painted...
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My father died when I was a teenager, and still pretty kidlike at that. I went to sleep for days. The sleep of grief resembled ordinary adolescent sleep, luxuriously prolonged, almost malingering, so deeply groggy that thought stuck to flesh and rumpled sheets printed red runes on my cheek...
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I will refer to my literary forefathers as antepasados, acknowledging the cultural connection of our shared Mexican (south of the border) and Chicano (north of the border) heritage. But I’d like to take it a step further, and recognize another important commonality: our queer identity. I will refer to my literary...
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I was still living in Berlin then, in the midst of a bad run of events, when I got the news that my friend Joyce was dead—killed in a head- on collision with a semitrailer rig, a hundred or so miles east of Albuquerque. It was an unusually bright day for September, five years ago, and I had spent the hours before hearing...
Teenage Riot: Notes on Some Books That Guided Me through a Profoundly Hormonal Time
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I turned thirteen at the end of 1984. By then I’d already figured out two things: that I was gay and that I wanted to be a writer. Growing up in a Catholic household in Perth, Western Australia, I kept both things to myself for a few more years. But as I figured things out by myself, secretly, slowly, I read. Compulsively...
My Radical Dads
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Yeah, Walt Whitman. Yeah, W. H. Auden. Yeah, Frank O’Hara. Yeah: great granddaddy, granddaddy, daddy, along with a bunch of other sperm donors gay and straight. But as a queer poet, I think my true daddy is Bette Midler. I confess that my knowledge of the Midler oeuvre...
The Mentor I Never Met: Janet Frame
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I learned about Janet Frame’s death in the New York Times during my morning subway ride to work. Since her passing in 2004, her reputation has spread somewhat, though she’s still relatively unknown outside her beloved New Zealand. I might never have discovered her if not for Jane Campion’s film...
The Case of the Undone Novel
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Sometimes, but not often, he would work on his novel, my now long- dead father. Those evenings, he set up a wooden step stool in the living room of our small suburban ranch house and then placed his battered Underwood atop it, so he could watch his favorite TV shows as he typed...
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My first semester of college in a sun- drenched town, half an hour from Daytona Beach: I spent all the time I could in the dusty sunless expanse of the library. Maybe I was martyring myself, but for the first time in my life, I felt like I had access to information that could save my life. It was dark and cold and I was utterly...
Some Notes on Influences or Why I Am Not Objective
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I recently did an interview with Edward Albee, who insisted that writing about oneself is boring because one can’t be objective about oneself. You write through yourself, he said. Because he never courted subjectivity, he called himself a writer before he called himself a playwright, because he couldn’t find any...
I Will Tell This Story the Way I Choose
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It’s a puzzle to me, considering where I come from, how I got to be where I am now, here in London, living as a writer, getting books published, knowing all sorts of poets and authors, some in real life, some through letters, some—admit it!—through Facebook, all of us recognizable to each other...
Thom Gunn: A Memoir of Reading
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At seventeen years old, in Orlando, Florida, I found, in my Language Arts textbook, my first Thom Gunn poem, “On the Move.” (And lucky me, because I had something of a Keats hangover, which is to say that I was writing unromantic Romantic lyrics with titles like “Conversations with the Wind.”) Though I didn’t have...
Queering an Italian American Poetic Legacy
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I intend to highlight a trajectory of a personal queer and marginalized poetic practice that looks at language as predominantly and perpetually unstable, reconstituted, and at times even sculpted into meaning. I’ve been drawn quite literally by the provocative title of this volume (Who’s Yer Daddy) in thinking about the development...
Vanity Fairey Interviews Writer Noël Alumit
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"God fucking dammit,” yells Noël Alumit, waving around a letter from his doctor. “I have to go on cholesterol medication.” He crumples up the letter and throws it across the room. “I lost fifteen pounds and gave up sugar so I wouldn’t have to go on medication. After all that work, I still have to go on...
The Four of Them
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But then once upon a time, in that beleaguered and ancient corner of the world, the brave white woman who loved language and stories and true things (and who in that place where blacks were so loathed never forgot the truth that she was white) decided not to leave. Decided not to leave the country where the blacks were loathed...
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I think a lot about where I come from as a gay man. In fact, thousands of times I have performed a piece about the crucial moment of queer conception, that essential moment when that dyke egg and faggot sperm made moi! (Buttplugs, Sappho, and Vaslav Nijinski are naturally also involved!) Leaving that delicious dream...
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Gay-boy friendship, pre- gay: what curious magnetism draws us to each other, even before we’ve acknowledged the sex? Recalling the little coterie that orbited my friend D in those years, I think of dancing in our dorm rooms. I think of learning the lyrics to No, No, Nanette and performing “I Want to Be Happy” impromptu...
My First Poetic Mentor Was a Welshman Named Leslie
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Leslie Norris was my first mentor. Fresh off of my mission, I came to BYU with a passion for poetry without actually having read much of it, only Sylvia Plath’s posthumous volume Ariel and a handful of poems I’d encountered as a high school senior— Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s “Constantly Risking...
The World Is Full of Orphans
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It’s taken me years to articulate the defining fact of my childhood: I was an orphan. Growing up, I was shuttled between my biological family in Ironwood, Michigan, where there weren’t educational facilities for deaf children like me, and Houghton, Michigan, a university town two hours away. Over the years...
The Seismology of Love and Letters
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I felt my first significant earthquake long before I fell in love or knew I would someday become a writer. I was eleven and had grown up in San Diego County, all sage, no sand. The same way I understood that water flows down hill, I also implicitly knew that the ground shook from time to time. I hadn’t yet, however...
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Here are two images of influence. In the first, picture someone walking in the galleries of a museum in a European city. He is feeling what the other tourists in the museum are feeling: just a bit bored, but also anticipating a moment of revelatory sight. Ornate religious scenes, classical scenes on canvases the size of the sides of houses...
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Miss Thing and I were introduced properly at drama school in the early 1980s. I cannot remember when exactly, or under what circumstances, only that it was done and I knew her, and I found her daunting. She was played in real life by Robert, who was older than most of us and from El Paso. Robert was...
Thirteen Ways of Looking at My Father
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Six feet tall, 190 pounds, brown hair that had been blond when he was a boy, glasses with a strong prescription, a mustache for as long as I can remember, a strong physique from years spent running, inevitably thicker now around the middle— I look at him and see how I’m going...
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Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2012