A Queer Time

by on Oct.13, 2010

Yesterday and today D.A. Powell visited my MFA program.  Powell—who I think goes by Doug—and his white, pretty beard.  I don’t know if he learned any of our names, but there he was, eager to fill the day.  He didn’t look at the clock once, and stayed in our seminar much longer than he was supposed to.  Instead of imagining the manuscripts to come as straight pathways, Doug talked about the airy architecture of the book.  He opened the door and led us through rooms until we reached the garden.  The outdoor light recast things.

Over lunch, we discussed Wojnarowicz, the pharmaceutical industry, and the mainstreaming of queer culture.  Doug used the word “gaybies” instead of “babies.”  I laughed.  Though, in theory, I’m kind of into the idea of a gayby.

We also talked about birds, their spatiotemporal reach between lines.  Or do I mean lives:  when “dead boys make the sweetest lovers.”

I told Doug I feel more freedom* writing about birds than other species.

He seemed to understand.  He mentioned staying up at night.

(*I think, in queer time, freedom is also risk.)

6 comments for this entry:
  1. Carina Finn

    He came to my undergrad last year to give a reading, and by some incredible stroke of luck I ended up sitting next to him at a fairly intimate dinner. It was one of the best conversations about poetry/literature in general I have ever been a part of; he is truly one of the greatest living poets in America.

  2. Sarah Fox

    Powell is a remarkably elegant, gifted conversationalist to be sure so I’m not surprised, Carina, how fondly you remember your dinner with him. He provided Lucas and I with a terrific interview which we will link to here once it’s available.

    One of my favorite things he said in what essentially was a poetic monologue–one thought or image leading to the next in an almost Fred Astaire-like progression, in fact Powell seemed even to delight himself with his own spiraling analogies–was, in contemplating the utility of a “poetry degree”:

    “I like what Martin Luther said: ‘have faith and sin bravely.’ It works just as well for poetry as it does for sinning. And if you believe in it, you will be saved.”

    Was his tongue in his cheek? I would say yes, and no. He also said, “getting a degree in poetry is like being on vacation. Italy’s nice, but you don’t get to live there forever.”

    His take on the MFA debate, in other words, was utterly nonchalant, if not altogether dismissive. Who really cares, he seemed to suggest, about the intended (or unintended) outcomes (neutralized poetries, a dearth of compatible employment opportunities, financial debt, even the imposition of capitalist structures on creative endeavors in the MFA’s trajectory toward a final, quasi-marketable “product” in the thesis/book, etc.) Why not just take pleasure in poetry–the writing of it, the reading of it, the conversations about it, the natural curiosities it engenders in imaginative life? “Don’t worry about the future,” he said, after almost everyone in the room confessed to being worried about the future. “It turns out the future’s a lot like the present.”

    Very refreshing. It was indeed a pleasure to simply witness his spontaneous eloquence, and his beautiful personage.

  3. Joyelle McSweeney

    And it seems that D.A. Powell overtly marks time against fatality, each of his volumes given a title that mark off an hour in the ‘day’ of AIDS, talk about queer time… a day that’s growing longer, thank god…

  4. Joyelle McSweeney

    I should’ve suggested in my comment above that I’m talking about his poetry, as I encounter it– a marking of time as set against the diurnal clock, at the same time an attenuation of that clock via ritual (meals of hte title), art/artifice (of the lines and the titles that become lines and vice versa), and illness. But maybe I’m just too literal!

  5. Danielle

    Oh! And when we add Chronic to the discussion–it gets really fascinating. Because Chronic simultaneously considers the little time left (environmental degradation / autoimmune degradation / degradation of the heart), and about how interminable that time can be.

    This is a big juicy topic I want to sink teeth into later!

    Thanks for sharing Powell’s visit, Lucas.

  6. Monica Mody

    Some more brainfeed. Robert Hassan’s book “Empires of Speed.” A book on temporal empires and if “time and temporality can be reclaimed by people and cultures as social creations and not as a force that need to be linked indissolubly with profit and acceleration and an anti-democratic capitalism.”