M.J. Arcangelini: “A Few Random Thoughts”

 

 

A FEW RANDOM THOUGHTS
 (after “My Favorite Houseguest” by Mike James)

Gertrude Stein
In Paris I ate in a restaurant where she and Alice took Samuel
Steward when he would visit them. A wall of mirrors, echoes.
Small stones cover her grave at Pere Lachaise and a jar of pens. 

Bette Davis
She brought a dignity to Baby Jane that Joan Crawford could never
muster, though she might have thought she could. I love her best
when she is being bad, but still keep watching All About Eve

Self-Portrait, In Movies
They’re all Swedish. 

Andy Kaufman
Fascinated me, but never sure why. I watched him whenever the
chance arose. He was hairy, which always gets my attention, but I
would not have had a beer with him. He’d have squished this bug.

Marilyn Monroe
She died just before I turned 10 but even I knew about the pills. I 
loved her from Monkey Business and River of No Return. My Diva,
her sadness kisses the world. Bright red lipstick.

Orson Welles
Brilliance is not enough. One is required by success to learn
compromise, absent which creation becomes difficult. Not
impossible, but difficult and costly to both body and soul

J.R. Ewing
I could never get over expecting Jeannie to appear at some
inconvenient time in the drama. Or thinking about his mother
flying around a stage on wires, pretending to be a young boy.

Billy Strayhorn
Always in shadow, that is where his type had to live then. The
shadow beneath Duke’s piano, the shadows of alleys and bushes
after closing time. Today he’d be a star casting his own shadows.

Steve McQueen
Sullen and sexy. Eventually sullen won out. Whether riding a
motorcycle or a horse he always seemed in cold control. In the
living room he feels impatient, not really wanting to be there.

Sal Mineo
I knew he had the hots for Dean, everyone knew that, but I
couldn’t say it. Dean knew too, and didn’t send him away.
Somehow that made it OK for me to feel it, but still not say it.

John Wayne
(for Jason Baldinger)
He had his shtick, repeating it in nearly every film. John Ford
knew what to do with him the same way he knew how to use
Monument Valley. Marion was always watching, just off-camera.

Nixon
Throwing Agnew under the wheels didn’t help. Nor the secret plan
to end the war. Nor did China. Checkers. Sweltering under studio
lights. From out of his ashes emerged government as a business.

Warren Zevon
The world twists in ways we seldom anticipate but with which he
seemed intimate. His songs charted for other people, which kept
checks coming in until his shit got fucked up and he checked out.

John Ritter
I had a crush on him but hated that sitcom character: straight actor
playing a straight man mincing around as gay for cheap rent. I’d
watch occasionally, hoping he’d take his shirt off. Never saw it.

David Wojnarowicz
Played rough along the edges of American culture and America
played back, rougher. Waterfronts, alleys, aging sleazy movie
houses, backrooms. Broken streetlights in the urban world night.

Lou Reed
A belligerent interviewee, he took no prisoners. Knew Delmore
Schwartz. Married Laurie Anderson and started meditating. Died
when even his transplanted liver gave up. The music. The music.

 

About the Author: M.J. (Michael Joseph) Arcangelini was born 1952 in western Pennsylvania, grew up there & in Cleveland, Ohio.  He’s resided in northern California since 1979. He began writing poetry at age 11. His work has been published in magazines, online journals, over a dozen anthologies, & four books: “With Fingers at the Tips of My Words” 2002, Beautiful Dreamer Press; the chapbooks “Room Enough” 2016, and “Waiting for the Wind to Rise” 2018, both from NightBallet Press; & “What the Night Keeps” 2019, Stubborn Mule Press. In 2018 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

 

Image Credit: Collage of Gertrude Stein based off the photo “Gertrude Stein sitting on a sofa in her Paris studio”

“Different From the Others: LGBT History Month and the Century-Old Legacy of an Early Gay Rights Film” By Chase Dimock

A still from Anders Als die Andern (1919)

 

 

Different From the Others:

LGBT History Month and the Century-Old Legacy

of an Early Gay Rights Film

By Chase Dimock

 

October is LGBT History Month, and this year it is as important as ever to study our past. With all of our recently won civil rights and our dramatically increased visibility in society, the LGBT community sometimes assumes that the features of our culture and the values of our politics are recent inventions. Conversely, sometimes we make the opposite mistake and assume that LGBT people of the past (even before the terms gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender first came about) thought of themselves and the community exactly as we do today.

These misconceptions are primarily due to the fact that American culture has closeted LGBT history for so long. We learned little to nothing about the history of the LGBT community in school and have thus been denied the benefit that comes with studying history or even being aware that we have a history. I remember, as a teenager, reading gay poet A E Housman in my English textbook, not knowing that his poems written about his male “friends” were actually addressed to the men he loved romantically. It was more important for those who created the curriculum and standards for our education to lead us into misunderstanding the material than to risk admitting to young people that men could love other men in the 19th century or today for that matter.

Having a history is an essential part of having a cultural identity. A history explains where we are in the present and allows us greater insight into the direction in which we are heading. It reminds us that ideas, values, and expressions do not materialize out of nothing; they are the product of the collective communal action of the people over time. This history is always evolving and our story is never finished being told because we are constantly discovering more about it. Finally, knowing our history cautions us against the uncritical belief in a progress narrative. It is easy to assume that we live in the most civilized and enlightened of times and that progress inevitably arcs toward justice. In reality, civil rights are often a cycle of advancement and blow back. Social action is usually greeted by an even greater and opposite repressive reaction. We cannot afford to presume that our current social standing is permanent or that it will naturally improve in the future.

This insight that studying LGBT History grants us is featured in the first film to seriously discuss LGBT identity, Anders Als die Andern(Different From the Others) made in Germany in 1919. Directed by Richard Oswald and co-written by and co-starring legendary sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, the silent film tells the story of a music teacher in love with an adult student. He falls victim to blackmail and in despair, he looks for answers. A quack offers a cure through hypnotherapy, but when that fails, he seeks out Dr. Hirschfeld’s advice. Hirschfeld assures him that his inclinations are normal and that it is not homosexuality that is shameful, but rather, it is our intolerant society that deserves scrutiny. I don’t want to go too far into the plot because I would rather you watch it for yourself. 

 

One reason why this film is an important part of our cultural legacy is that it reminds us that many of the same basic issues we confront today were part of the same struggle 100 years ago. Grappling with a culturally enforced notion of “difference,” dealing with the disproportionate rate of depression and suicide among LGBT people, and finding access to queer friendly counsel and health care are still difficult parts of the coming out process. Yet, much has changed since Hirschfeld’s time. The idea of sexuality as distinct from gender identity was still evolving. Most psychologists still subscribed to the inversion model of the homosexual man as “a woman on the inside” and a homosexual woman as a “man on the inside.” Hirschfeld himself proposed the idea of the homosexual as a “third sex,” though he later revised that idea after further work with his associates. Continue reading ““Different From the Others: LGBT History Month and the Century-Old Legacy of an Early Gay Rights Film” By Chase Dimock”

Two Prose Poems

Marlene Dietrich in Der Blaue Engel (1930)

Two Prose Poems

By Mike James

.

Oh Daddy, Give Me A Quarter For The Time Machine

I want to go to Berlin! Back before reunifications or walled up divisions, back before that
screaming little man with his silly mustache.Yes, I want to go to the Weimar Republic
and catch, just one, cabaret. See Marlene sulk sexy onto the stage in black top hat, tux
(with white gloves, of course.) I want to see the scribblers making napkin notes for later.
Hello, Walter Benjamin with your weak tea and indigestion. Good evening to you, Mr.
Brecht, with your new girlfriend and old, out of tune guitar. Kurt Weill at the piano
smoking his black, extra-long filter. Some unknown Sally at a barstool listening to other
people’s dreams.

.

Rebel, Rebel

for David Bowie

Once he took off his dress, he didn’t know what to wear. He tried walking around, naked
as sunlight. Despite summer days, that became quite drafty. And nothing held in place.
Appendages sagged, this way and that. So he put on a blue suit, same color blue Candy
Darling used for lipstick. The color looked more natural romantic on her. He wore the
suit to walk the dog, shop for scarves, take out the trash, order delivery cheese pizza.
Despite adjustments from a sensible tailor, the suit was never a perfect fit. In stilettos he
no longer liked the click heels made for his ears.

 

About the Author: Mike James is the author of eleven poetry collections. His most recent books include: Crows in the Jukebox (Bottom Dog), My Favorite Houseguest (FutureCycle), and Peddler’s Blues (Main Street Rag.) He has previously served as associate editor for both The Kentucky Review and Autumn House Press. After years spent in South Carolina, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Georgia, he now makes his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his large family and a large assortment of cats.