Before the reading the nominees lined up against the mural in the library basement:
Here's the readers, their books and categories they were nominated in; from left to right we have:
JL Meyer, Hotel Liaison, Lesbian RomanceThe evening's host, novelist Christopher Rice, son of Anne Rice, is so suave he's uncanny. This photo doesn't do him justice. He was so poised, so comfortable with being in the spotlight and so handsome, it was like meeting Prince William or Harry. He gave a moving speech about how the recent Amazon "glitch" in deleting thousands of gay and lesbian books from their search engine had inspired Lambda to become more of an activist organization, like the GLAAD of the art world, monitoring the machinations of those who would suppress queer voices. We all clapped and cheered.
Elizabeth Bradfield, Interpretive Work, Lesbian Poetry
Judy Grahn, love belongs to those who do the feeling, Lesbian Poetry
Kevin Killian, Collected Poems of Jack Spicer, Gay Poetry
Daphne Gottlieb, Kissing Dead Girls, Lesbian Poetry
Marcus Ewert, 10,000 Dresses, Transgender
Thea Hillman, Intersex (for lack of a better word), Transgender
Annie Sprinkle, Live Through This, LGBT Anthology
Christopher Rice, M.C., president of the Lambda board
Missing is Rex Ray, illustrator for 10,000 Dresses. Handsome and popular Rex showed up after the photo op.
I went to the reading to support Kevin and Marcus, "my boys," and I hadn't really paid attention to who else was reading, so what a pleasant surprise to sit through an amazing group of writers. Elizabeth Bradfield, from Alaska, whose book was published by Eloise Klein Healy in her Red Hen series, took the stage in a very reserved manner and then shocked us all with her hilarious and biting bawdiness. She and Kevin swapped stories about their respective poetry anthology projects and promised to brainstorm with each other in the future.
Annie Sprinkle then presented a slide show to accompany her reading. Veteran artist and activist and former porn star, Sprinkle has been around a long time, and she told the story of her bout with breast cancer and how it affected her ongoing relationship with the academic Elizabeth Stephens. The couple made a series of art projects centering on the cancer. In one series they dressed in extravagant costumes each time Annie went in for chemo therapy and had the doctor, nurses, or other patients photograph them. The photos were hilarious, almost denying the gravity of the experience, yet hurling it at you at the same time. I loved them.
A photo of Annie Sprinkle Kevin snapped with my iPhone. Master photographer Rink in the background. On the screen, the image is of Beth Stephens.
Next came Marcus and Rex. Rex said he was the hand model for the evening, and he held up 10,000 Dresses as Marcus read the entire text. Oddly, even though the book is a brightly colored children's book, it's not nominated in the children's category, but in the transgendered category. I reminded Marcus that Anna Paquin won the Oscar for best supporting actress for The Piano when she was still in grade school, so he shouldn't discount the power of childness to win awards. 10,000 Dresses is already a classic. I tried to imagine I was a child hearing it for the first time. What would I make out of it? A dress!!!
Daphne Gottlieb, exotic and beautiful in black bangs and knee-length black cotton dress, moved away from a squeaky microphone and just tore up the room with poems from her Kissing Dead Girls book. With her extensive background in the spoken word scene, she knows just what to do to present what is actually very sophisticated and nuanced work and grab you by the gut with it. I will never forget her final piece where she spoke from the voice of a young lesbian girl brutally murdered by other girls in her school (based on a true story), incorporating lines from the girl's real letters to the girl who betrayed her. "Can you give me something to remember you by." Watching Daphne act this all out was riveting, scary.
Next a legend took the stage, also abjuring the microphone. I read Judy Grahn in the 1970s, in Indiana, which to me is a indication of a very influential and powerful voice. I kept wanting to yell out, like a fan at a rock concert, "Read Edward the Dyke!" Grahn's new collection spans decades of her career, and she started with a poem written in 1975. She is still a force to be conjured with, and as she spoke I remembered interviewing her in the early 80s, with the late Steve Abbott, like we were Diane Sawyer and Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes—interviewing her at her house, when she was still living in San Francisco with the late Paula Gunn Allen. I'm going to have to dig out the old gay literary journal it was printed in and take a look at it again. Steve acted like he was good buddies with her, whereas I felt like a babbling groupie.
Like Marcus Ewert, Thea Hillman is also nominated in the transgender category, and she pointed out how perfect it is that her Intersex book is in a category in which it doesn't really belong. Thea, astonishingly and beamingly eight months pregnant, read two essays from her book, brief and impressionistic pieces that capture as no other kind of testimony can, the ways in which "intersex" is dismissed and pathologized. As she read, I kept wishing that my friend Christopher Breu was there—a scholar who put aside his academic rigors last summer to write a guide for high school teachers on how to teach and handle intersex issues in the classroom. Top on Chris' list was Jeffrey Eugenides' novel Middlesex, and it's a shame Thea's book appeared too late to make it into this article.
Kevin read next—perfectly, of course, but how are you going to top a brief reading that begins with the opening of "Thing Language"—the famous poem about "This ocean, humiliating in its disguises"? Then he read the early "Homosexuality" and the late 1950s "Dignity." Halfway through, he confessed that some have asked him what "Dignity" was about, and he said he didn't know. After the reading, Annie Sprinkle told us that she didn't understand anything about experimental poetry, but she enjoyed the Spicer. "You said you didn't know what it was all about," she reminded Kevin. "Well, that's how I feel all the time."
Lastly we heard a lesbian romance novelist, Joanne Meyer, reading from the kind of story I never actually read, about a hotel for women going up in San Francisco and our heroine, Stephanie, annoyed beyond endurance, by her sexy new female hard-hat, "Jock Reynolds" (you got to love the names)... Kevin said they were meeting cute, but in any case the whole audience gasped when defiant Jock swings her sledgehammer into a wall in the decaying hotel, again and again, while Stephanie huffs, and lo and behold, inside the wall someone sees—what is it? I can't make it out—oh my God, it's a coffin! At that dramatic point in her novel, Meyer stopped reading and shut the book knowing many of us would rush out to buy a copy to find out what happened. "Coffin?" I glanced at Christopher Rice, who must have grown up in a home filled with coffins, where coffins were used as coffee tables. But Rice only leapt to his feet and thanked us all for coming.