Lambda Lit Brings Queerness to National Poetry Month

Photo: Joshua Benny.

In celebration of National Poetry Month, the monthly Lambda Lit Book Club will read and discuss Midnight in a Perfect World by Collin Kelley on April 30. The Pride L.A. spoke with event moderator Steven Reigns. Check it out:  

Tell us about the event on April 30.

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The Lambda Lit Book Club will be discussing a poetry collection Midnight in a Perfect World by Collin Kelley

Why discuss Midnight in a Perfect World by Collin Kelley?

Collin Kelley’s poetry is incredibly relatable and has a smooth narrative to it.  He writes the kind of poetry even poetry haters can appreciate.  When I became the facilitator three years ago, I decided that April books should be collections of poetry in honor of National Poetry Month. The book club is comprised of such a smart, sophisticated, and insightful group of readers though they’re not all poetry fans.  I didn’t want to take risks in this month’s selection and chose something I’m sure they’ll love.

Collin Kelley is a well recognized poet, having been Georgia Author of the Year Award-winner, finalist for the Townsend Prize in fiction and his poetry collection Render was honored by the American Library Association.

When I became the inaugural poet laureate of West Hollywood, I came up with the idea of the lamppost banners in West Hollywood.  New York has poetry posted on buses and subway cars. LA is car-centric and I wanted to share poetry and poets with as many commuters as possible.  I thought displaying them on lamppost banners was the solution.  I love that this became an annual project where poets are added each year.

The West Hollywood Gateway, at the intersection of LaBrea & Santa Monica, liked the idea of promoting poetry for National Poetry Month and for the past three years has devoted thousands of dollars in prime advertising space to showcase poetry.  My image and an excerpt from a poem are featured throughout the month of April.

What is it about? How is it relatable/interesting to the local queer poetry scene? 

As queer people we’ve become accustom to changing the pronouns in popular songs or poetry. What’s great about queer writing is the immediate connection we can feel, without having to do the work of changing pronouns to relate.

What is the local queer poetry scene like? 

We understand the struggles of writing poetry, of being a part of this under-appreciated art form, and also being a person who is under-appreciated, sometimes hated, for who we are.  

I have taught writing workshops around the country to LGBT youth groups and people living with HIV.  For close to 15 years, I have taught an autobiographical poetry workshop to LGBTQ seniors.  I connect them with the pleasure of writing poetry and give encouragement and a platform for them to share their stories.  This is one of the greatest joys of my life. In all of my workshops I’ve witnessed the power of writing poetry but find it especially important to this group of people who have been muted by our youth idolizing culture.

What is its importance in the art/literary world? 

I have a bias towards autobiographical poetry.  Even if I don’t personally relate, there is a power in witnessing the struggle, strength, and specifics of another person’s life. When queer poets write autobiographically, we are creating a document of our lives but also creating a wayfinder for others

What should people know about queer poetry?

One poet doesn’t represent the entire community.  I bristle when I’m told someone doesn’t like poetry, to me that’s like discrediting an entire food group. It’s also important to remember one poem doesn’t represent all of a poet’s work.

What else is happening for National Poetry Month? Any projects you’re involved in?

I have a long list of activities that can be found on my website: www.stevenreigns.com 

Lambda Lit book club is moderated by Steven Reigns, inaugural City of West Hollywood Poet Laureate. Admission is free. For more information please visit www.lambdaliterary.org/book-clubs/lambda-lit-book-club. The reading will be held Tuesday, April 30, 2019 at 7 p.m. at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard.