Tuesday, April 8, 2008

YOUR favorite Queer Poems: Mark Doty's "TIARA" and CP Cavafy's "THE GOD ABANDONS ANTONY"

Continuing the exchange of favorite poems to celebrate the Queer in National Poetry Month, today's post is a GUEST contribution by the extravagant Bennett Madison, who shares with us his two favorite poems...

mine is TIARA by Mark Doty. I don't know if it exactly qualifies as a GLBTQ poem, but I think it's beautiful...

Peter died in a paper tiara
cut from a book of princess paper dolls;
he loved royalty, sashes

and jewels. I don't know,
he said, when he woke in the hospice,
I was watching the Bette Davis film festival

on Channel 57 and then—
At the wake, the tension broke
when someone guessed

the casket closed because
he was in there in a big wig
and heels, and someone said,

You know he's always late,
he probably isn't here yet—
he's still fixing his makeup.

And someone said he asked for it.
Asked for it—
when all he did was go down

into the salt tide
of wanting as much as he wanted,
giving himself over so drunk

or stoned it almost didn't matter who,
though they were beautiful,
stampeding into him in the simple,

ravishing music of their hurry.
I think heaven is perfect stasis
poised over the realms of desire,

where dreaming and waking men lie
on the grass while wet horses
roam among them, huge fragments

of the music we die into
in the body's paradise.
Sometimes we wake not knowing

how we came to lie here,
or who has crowned us with these temporary,
precious stones. And given

the world's perfectly turned shoulders,
the deep hollows blued by longing,
given the irreplaceable silk

of horses rippling in orchards,
fruit thundering and chiming down,
given the ordinary marvels of form

and gravity, what could he do,
what could any of us ever do
but ask for it.


I also really like THE GOD ABANDONS ANTONY by CP Cavafy. It's not explicitly a gay poem, but Cavafy was totally gay, and is a major influence on Doty. (Not sure who this translation is by...)

The God Abandons Antony

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don't mourn your luck that's failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive — don't mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don't fool yourself, don't say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don't degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who were given this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
And listen with deep emotion, but not
with whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen — your final delectation — to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

C. P. Cavafy

Thanks, Bennett - those are deep and lovely. I didn't know either of them, so it was great to experience reading them for the first time!

What amazing imagery in "TIARA!" I keep reading the last three stanzas over and over - they're gorgeous.

And just a thought: For the second poem, "The God Abandons Antony," if you think about how Alexandria was the city named after Alexander the Great, and how his gay love Hephaestion died and then Alexander named a city after him, it reads (at least to me) much more as a poem of gay love lost.

How about YOU? Share with us all one (or two) of YOUR favorite GLBTQ poems!



ps: find out more about the poet Mark Doty at this link to glbtq.com, and check out this one on C.P. Cavafy!

1 comment:

Rita said...

These are absolutely gorgeous. Thanks, Lee, and thank you, Bennett!