We got a lot going on in January here In Donnaville:
On Thursday evening, January 12, I will teach A FREE MEMOIR WRITING WORKSHOP at the Howland Public Library, 313 Main Street in Beacon, 6 PM- 7:15 PM. Please register here.
My next 8-week memoir workshop starts Wednesday, January 25 at 7 PM. It goes for eight Wednesday nights, from 7-9 PM, and the cost is $325. See here for more info.
The next LIT LIT is Friday, January 20 at the Howland Cultural Center at 7 PM, 477 Main St. in Beacon. If you’re interested, come on down! Some reading slots will be available at the door, or just come and listen 😎
Hey, I’m going to get to do something fun at the Beacon Arts members show on Saturday, November 5! I’m going to read “Parker House Loaf,” a piece about food, class, status, luxury, and art. A few of you will remember my food writing from a few years back, so here’s the place to hear some more! Along with a performance by the great Donna Mikkelsen, and of course the fabulous art of the Beacon Arts members on the walls! At KuBe Art Center, 211 Fishkill Ave. in the old high school, 4-6 PM. See you then.
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.
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.
Hey everybody! I’ve been having some exciting stuff go on, but I haven’t updated here for a while!
First, I’ve been thrilled to start doing Moth-style, personal storytelling without notes, at The Artichoke’s sold-out stage in Beacon and Beacon’s wonderful other venue, Adult Stories with John Blesso! One of my stories was about being at close quarters with some very scary people, and the other was about the very first time I went in disguise to a Christian right conference.
I am so excited to be pursuing this new art form. I’ll be doing more of it Saturday, June 29 at Pros(e) of Pie’s LGBTQ Pride Show at Philipsburg Manor and Saturday, September 14 back at The Artichoke, where the story will involve parents and porn.
Other stuff going on: I’ve been touring local Ethical Culture humanist congregations, speaking on “Atheism and the Alt-Right: A Horrible Confluence,” about the weird and disturbing fact that alt-right politics have been permeating atheist subcultures for the past several years. Next up is Sunday, June 9 at the New York Society for Ethical Culture!
Stay tuned for a project I will launch soon that combines lyrical, sensual writing with service journalism! (Bet you don’t hear that a lot! 🙂 )
I’ll be featured speaking about my career and reading my work at Julie Chibbaro’s amazing series Get Lit Beacon Sunday, July 14 at 5 PM! I will read from my memoir Growing Up Golem and read/tell some harrowing and funny personal stories about hanging with the far right.
Also, my fall memoir workshop starts Wednesday, September 25, and goes for eight weeks (we skip October 9). Let me know if you’re interested.
Meanwhile, I’ll be teaching a one-day summer memoir writing intensive in Beacon Sunday, July 28.
Do you ever wonder why there are so many stories about things that want to be human (or real), but aren’t? Pinocchio, the Velveteen Rabbit, Data on Star Trek? Caliban in The Tempest, who to my mind IS human, but has been told so often he’s a monster that he believes it?
African-American slaves were told they weren’t persons, and Jews in the Nazi camps were told that they were “vermin.” My recent book, Growing Up Golem, is very much about this dynamic, and I spoke about this curious confluence of fantasy, bigotry, and the psychology of survivors of exploitation and abuse in a recent talk at the New York Society for Ethical Culture.
Ever wonder what golems and physical abuse have to do with Hegel, Marx, robots and racism? I lay it all out here! 🙂 Hope you enjoy.