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Lonely Christopher reads from The Resignation

Lonely Christopher has had a robust publication history, but The Resignation, his fourth full-length book, has been a long time in coming. He was working on it since 2007, but various health related tribulations, including alcoholism and major depression, challenged his creativity and will to publish for several years. The manuscript was eventually stuck on a broken computer on which he had spilled beer and it took a long time to rescue it. Finally, Roof Books took up the task of getting these poems together; and Lonely says it was a great experience working with them. This makes perfect sense because The Resignation is a book I like to look at and hold even before I read; there is a good feel about it. I’ve wanted to video Lonely, so the appearance of The Resignation was the perfect opportunity. Now, here he is, apocalyptic and ready to change identity and language in the best of ways.






The Resignation is published by Roof Books. You can check them out here:

http://www.seguefoundation.com/roofbooks/index.html




I attended the launch of The Resignation by Roof Books (James Sherry, editor) last Saturday night at Zinc Bar. One of the hosts, Becca Teich, introduced the poet. The full text of her introduction follows:

Lonely Christopher’s poetry is driving “a car across the eclipsed face of the thespian deserts,” it is “getting super nasty,” it is “jumping for joy like we are all kind of animals,” it is “loving into the blood,” it is the “bottom pocket of our appetite,” it is “the relation between cultural demands and social realities,” it is “the essential question.”

The urgency of his poetics traverses form, function, with agility and deft magnetism, a sculpture of language, a master at his craft who resists masters, who seeks to poke, prod, repurpose, explore, expand, and explode the guiding gods (both text and people) of our cultural world. His procedural poetics redirects language toward the revelatory. The title poem of the collection, The Resignation, repeats with modification through translations using Babelfish, the resignation speech of Eliot Spitzer. This toil in language epitomizes the forceful dynamism of his work’s textuality and texture. Through repetition and its translational undoing, we see the inner workings of the disciplining social norms of US government come to the fore as they partly-parodically detonate—the vocabularies that at first may seem mundane, regular, are revealed in their ridiculous and regulatory truth—where absurdity and trappings of our social world meet, “Because I leave the life of public civil worker, I help and the I which makes with the same with messenger the article of charm that and they acquire my family and form.”

Intimately attuned to the violence of and possible queerings of family and form alike, his work reveals and enacts. He offers something more than explanation because “magnetic fields of explanation are nervously masturbating in public and she is weeping loudly in her car and the whole goddamn United States is sick.” Daring to live with his poems swiftly becomes a transformative experience. The seams of our political situation reveal and unfurl, the edges fray and he pulls the stands. We are surrounded by the chaotic threads that instruct our being; the governing, disciplining forces that we are ought to passively accept and abide. The governor resigns, while his poems refuse to resign to the world, examining the perversity within which we live and torqueing it.

Yet there is more rustling in the language. His work constructs linguistic domains that inundate us at our meeting. The fiercely critical eye meets the incantatory—Lonely’s poetry holds the two in tandem without giving one dominion over the other, a rich poetry and poetics within which we may live. He washes over us, allowing us space for delight and breath under his written spell— “I found you there in love. I found you there in my arms. I found you there at sea. I found you there with the jar. I found you there in love.” And so on, the poem repeats these findings, losses, and findings again around which some “you” is held, a salve like chant, he casts himself over us.

The language bucks up against itself, its holding, it means and then means again, dripping with the muck of our situation, nonetheless reveling in the delicious capacities of poetry. He speaks toward a complex network of sexuality and resignification. The collection traipses through the queer cannon, suturing together texts through redirected language and formal technique, timber, contouring, where Mrs. Whitman suddenly speaks through the language of Eve Sedgwick and Michael Moon, where Bert and Ernie’s perverse reanimations dramatize the cultural imaginary’s horror at two men’s cohabitation, where “Bert is the top—no duh, power top” and together they “slaughter his innocence and cum on the gore.” Textual and lived histories of sexual repression become the domain for expression anew, taking to task such experiences and inheritances to open up far and vast domains within which pleasure, perversity, selfhood, intimacy and violence swirl. “Homosexuality is quite obvious, homosexuals are not comprehensive, reasons called homosexuality may arise.” Normative sexual mores, the scandal of the queer emerges alongside the struggle for connection, for love, for the beloved, for safety. It is within Lonely’s unique polyvocality that politics, pleasure and pain, and poetics play out across the page, where language is invigorated anew.




The first time I heard Lonely Christopher read was at The Reading Room Bryant Park on February 16, 2016 that featured HIV Here and Now, an online poetry project curated by Michael Broder:

http://www.hivhereandnow.com/poems/

One of the poems he read was a found poem, the speech of New York state senator Tom Duane, a politician with HIV, who spoke at three in the morning on the senate floor in Albany in defense of a bill to cap rent and utilities costs for people living with AIDS. “You’re not killing my bill—You’re killing people!” Duane shouted about sixteen minutes into his twenty minute speech; the bill did pass. Lonely crystallized Duane’s speech into a poem he called His Lips Were On That Glass. We live in depressing times, and I often worry about the future, but as I listened to Lonely read his found poem, I found optimism in his creative spirit; and he’s a playwright too finishing up a play about Hart Crane as we speak, and the movie director of a film he wrote called Mom with outstanding actors—Jason Huffman, Gore Abrams, Mink Stole, Janet Hubert, Michael Potts, and Paul Lazar—a beautifully shot movie everyone should see; and importantly he is a social worker for HIV+ LGBT homeless youth. If there is a future, one reason will be that Lonely Christopher is and was and will be there in it working furiously.

His Lips Were on That Glass

I don’t think you know
what I’m doing here.

Let me take
you back
the early eighties
visiting friends
in hospitals
we’d go in
we’d go in one night
in the morning they’d be
dead.
I’d bring them
food my family
bring them food my
friends bring someone
food but
whoever was in the
bed would be
dead
before they could
eat it.
We’d leave it
maybe the
nurses will take it
home no
they wouldn’t eat it
cause it’s

contaminated
contaminated

wouldn’t touch it wouldn’t
go into the room
wearing masks
gloves gowns.
Somebody’d
get sick
in the afternoon
they’d be
dead
the next day
dead
and that went on
for months and
then years
dead
dead.
You think if you
got sick
and your friends
were dying
that I would
sit there
and do
nothing no
but that’s
what happened
that’s
what happened.

Every cold every
virus every
temperature
I thought I’d be
dead
and so did so many
people that
I knew
dead.
You think you
scare me
you think you
can make
me back off
nothing
scares me.
There were
gurneys backed
up into
the avenues
because they
wouldn’t let
people in the
emergency
rooms the public
hospitals
they had to
they tried not to but
they had to
you know what
the Catholic hospitals
the only ones
the only ones.
Scared that
was scared.
Eventually
people they could
people could stay alive
a few days
a few days
people thrown out of
their homes
people evicted from
their apartments families
didn’t want to know
who their kids were.

Oh.
Oh.
His lips were on that glass
don’t touch it
sterilize that plate.

Every cold every
fever every
virus I’m gonna
die that’s
what it was
like. Scared
no. Mad
you bet.
Then they were
oh you know
this this uh
you know we could
put you on this
antibiotic for a
while it will wreck
your lungs
but we’ll we’ll
we’ll give you a
few more weeks here
try this try this uh
additive maybe
this’ll help.
Nothing helped.
Hundreds hundreds
of my friends
died and
every day I
thought that I
could be
the next one.

I wish I
could say
things are
different now
but they’re
not not much
different at all.



Death & Disaster Series is published by Monk Books. You can check it out here:

http://monk-books.com/deathanddisasterseries/



Lonely Christopher


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