I’m thrilled to report that poet Betsy Andrews will be the featured author at Lit Lit next month, Friday, November 4! Betsy’s poetry is fierce and lyrical at once, all about the climate, the family, and the Anthropocene, edgy, political, and freaking gorgeous all at once.
Her latest, Crowded, is just out from Nauset Press, and Betsy will read from it and sign books at the November 4 Lit Lit at the Howland Cultural Center, 477 Main Street in Beacon, 7-9 PM. As Susan Tichy writes, “Private and planetary angers twist together in Betsy Andrews’ Crowded, rising and falling together in the drunken winds of violence we have come to recognize as home.”
Come hear Betsy — followed by our usual kickass Lit Lit writers. Betsy is the winner of the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and the 42 Miles Press Prize in Poetry, and also one of the best food writers around.
You can sign up at the door to read one of your own pieces of writing, up to 5 minutes in length! We will take all comers till we run out of time 😄
This is a brief talk I gave at the First Presbyterian Church of Beacon as part of their first Pride Service, June 26, 2022.
By Donna Minkowitz
Since I first felt the power of queerness in my life when I was 14, it has seemed to me like a kind of fierceness, a kind of fire, the sensation that radical joy is worth fighting for, that sex is worth fighting for, that the funky beautiful intoxicating overflowing life force inside yourself is a thing to defend, a thing to show, a thing to love, a thing to refuse to squash or strangle or imprison within gates of adamantine iron.
I’m here to speak on behalf of of that life force.
As a young adult in the 80s, I was part of the first generation of activists to reclaim the word QUEER for ourselves. Some of the stronghearted holy power of queerness comes across in these lines that the gay singing group The Flirtations used to sing, which were written by a black gay British man named Labi Siffre:
the higher you build your barriers
the taller I become
the more you refuse to hear my voice
the louder I will sing
“When they insist we’re just not good enough,” the song says, “just look em in the eye and say/We’re gonna do it anyway! We’re gonna do it anyway!
And that my friends, is the buoyant, ever-defiant power of queerness.
This fiery joy is also what our queer brother the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins had in mind when he spoke of Jesus metaphorically as a falcon:
“I caught this morning morning’s minion,
kingdom of daylight’s dauphin,
dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding of the rolling level underneath him steady air
, and striding high there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing in his ecstasy!
Then off, off forth on swing, as a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding/ Rebuffed the big wind…
Brute beauty and valor and act, oh air, pride, plume here/ Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion times told lovelier, more dangerous. Oh my chevalier!”
For that is queerness too, the wild life force that refuses to give in to narrow demands of propriety. Queerness is also the ecstasy Hopkins is invoking in this poem, and the willingness to embrace wild, unchained beauty even when it might be socially or politically dangerous, because all beauty and pleasure comes from God, in fact, as Hopkins is suggesting in this poem, it IS God.
Beyond this, queerness is the radical belief in the goodness and innocence of pleasure, and I am thinking of myself at 14, discovering kisses and affectionate touch, discovering hands shoulders long hair and bellybuttons in all their sweetness and goofiness.
The queer life force within me has saved me so many times, it saved me as a teenager when the enlivening, flowering beauty of puberty gave me a power to stand fast against the violence I was experiencing at home, as a young and as an older adult when the sunny queer force in my blood gave me hope and creative power that always let me sail past depression and obstacles.
Thank you very much for inviting me here today to your beautiful congregation to speak about the connection between queerness and holiness.
And thanks to the supremely alive, defiant queer life force inside me that keeps my blood flowing. Thank you.
NEXT LIT LIT: chef/writer Shaina Loew-Banayan, who just got a glowing review in @newyorkermag, is our featured author Fri. June 3, reading from their tough, tender, lyrical memoir Elegy for an Appetite. I’m so excited about this! It’s a memoir about, among other things, being a chef and someone who is crazy about food who also has an eating disorder. 7PM @howland_cultural_center in Beacon, followed by our regular awesome literary open mic. 477 Main St. in Beacon NY.
All of the advance signup slots to read in the open mic are full, but if you arrive by 6:30 you have a good chance of getting a spot! See you there! #beaconny #beaconnewyork #openmic #foodwriting #hudsonvalley #literature @cafemutton #hudsonny
Update: the next Lit Lit will be Friday, June 3 at 7 PM, at our regular location, the Howland Cultural Center. We are thrilled that Shaina Loew, author of Elegy for an Appetite and chef/owner of Café Mutton in Hudson, will be our featured reader this month and sign books!! Advance open mic signups are now closed. Proof of vaccination is required at the door.
The Bellingham Review has also just published the following short essay by me (published under the title “Tender”) in their fall special issue of creative nonfiction about disability.
I’m on Facebook. Some of my friends are posting their fury, as artists and radicals, about something that’s just happened: A few art students have complained to college administrators about their professor. He’s made them watch, as part of a regular class session, an experimental film he made. It shows, among other things, his erect red penis again and again, at one point going into a woman’s mouth and later, her vagina.
These friends of mine are furious the students have interfered with their professor’s work by complaining. On their pages, commenters condemn students for their “fragile sensibilities” and “fragile feelings,” for how “delicate” they surely are.
Oh reader, I am fragile, I am delicate, in fact I’ve often wanted to write a book entitled Sensitive. Because spectacularly, insatiably, annoyingly, unbearably, I am.
I am not saying that everyone who doesn’t want to have to watch their professor fucking a woman on camera is someone who is Delicate, like me. But I thought I would tell about my own experience.
I am sensitive in almost every way a person can be. And most of my sensitivities come from disabilities. I have a couple different ones of those (physical, psychic), but the disability that has made me the most sensitive of all, the tenderest, perhaps the choicest meat to the touch, is the abuse and neglect I experienced as a child.
But the tender meat is tickled all day, and sometimes it’s// unbearable
“Grow up,” says one Friend of a Friend, and others echo, “Yup, they should grow up.” A woman comments, “One would hope that they’re mature enough to care of themselves and leave.”
None of us has read the students’ complaints because they are not public, so we don’t know what they told administrators about being made to watch the film. But a man mocks them for having what he writes in capitals as “Triggers. Oof.”
Oof. I am able to be triggered, yes indeed, and definitely not always able to take care of myself in a situation of harm and just leave.
About that last bit, no human being is in fact so powerful that we are always able to remove ourselves from what we can’t endure.
My friends’ 5000 fans condemn the students’ “latent puritanism,” their “learned helplessness,” their “censorship, punishment, and scapegoating.” Says a man, “The conflation of discomfort and harm is a truly bizarre phenomenon that I believe can be attributed to a vocal minority of bourgeois, sheltered millennials.”
To read the piece on their site and see the other work in their special issue on disability, click here.