GLR September-October 2022

W. Wong was instrumental in assembling this volume.) Nawrocki’s stories are gentle and erudite explorations of loss and change, many of them set in the Bay Area. Stories like “Brava, Cassiopeia” and “City of Memory” explore the healing power of art and adapt ing to an ever-changing world as one ages. Another especially affecting story, “Room 410,” tells the tale of an alienated person so troubled by grief that he takes his own life. A few stories fail to ground themselves and establish a tone, and one wonders how Nawrocki might have tinkered with them if given more time. Many of the poems are both strong and lovely, addressing themes of loneliness and loss. Writes Nawrocki in “Infusion”: “the wet leaves [are] collaged on the infinity of dull pavement, each one/ a fiery senescence,/ a last page.” A manuscript of his poetry was selected as the winner of the 2009 James White Po etry Prize, but for some reason it was never published. It is good to have that manu script, as well as the stories, available at last. House Fire is a fitting title for the en tire collection. After witnessing such a fire, Nawrocki imagines his own reaction if some day he found himself walking into his own “black canvas of loss.” His own disappearance at age 54 is a profound loss for the rest of us. D ALE B OYER QUEER NATURE: A Poetry Anthology Edited by Michael Walsh Autumn House. 320 pages, $24.95 From the elliptical probings of Carl Phillips to Amy Lowell wrestling with nasty plants, this collection from over 200 contributors provides a broad overview of the work of LGBT poets past and present, including many well-known poets. However, with only a single offering from each, some authentic nature poets, such as Mary Oliver, seem un derrepresented, while some of those included wrote only incidentally about “nature.” While the meaning of “nature” is stretched rather thin at times, this volume includes some splendid work. Some is tra ditional American fare (Edna St. Vincent Millay, Emily Dickinson), some from the transitional mid-20th century (H.D., Hart Crane), and some modern poets who don’t hold back when describing the ins and outs of sex. One of the best poems is Julie R. Enszer’s “Pervert,” in which a lesbian imagines how her sexual experience with a particular woman would go, with a wrenching change of subject in the second half. This is hardly a traditional nature poem—it contains no leaves of grass nor anything green—but it’s so erotic in the best sense and so impeccably constructed that it deserves inclusion. Gerry Gomez Pearlberg’s painfully realistic “Thrush” at

keeps trying to get them to move to a “55 or better” community. Ralfie must take a desk job after years of work on a Boston city truck. Life is changing and they’re scram bling to keep up. Their journey is often a humorous one that deals with serious real-life issues. Most older lesbians don’t have children. Who will take care of them in their dotage? Lower paying jobs mean retirement savings aren’t what they should be. How can they ever stop working? Their financial situation lim its where they can live. These concerns are woven into a simple but engaging plot that includes wonderful details about lesbians who came of age in the ’70s and ’80s. Flan nel shirts were not a joke but a clothing choice that represented independence from the straight world’s demands. It was the heyday of lesbian bars, where strong com munities of dykes were formed. Hoffman is a writer fully in command of her material, and her prose is clear and straightforward. The book’s brevity left me wanting more complexity and more adven tures for the pair. A sequel would be most welcome. A NNE L AUGHLIN IMMORAL, INDECENT & SCURRILOUS The Making of an Unrepentant Sex Radical by Gerald Hannon Cormorant Books. 318 pages, $24.95 A founding member of the landmark gay and lesbian magazine The Body Politic (1971-87), journalist and activist Gerald Hannon left an epic body of work behind. He wrote an especially controversial 1977 article—which landed him and The Body Politic in a costly court battle—titled “Men Loving Boys Loving Men,” in which he drew a sympathetic portrait of pedophilia. Years later (in 1996), he would lose his teaching position at Ryerson University (now called Toronto Metropolitan Univer sity) after the homophobic daily Toronto Sun blared the headline “Ryerson Prof: I’m a Hooker” on its front page. Hannon would go on to much main stream success, winning numerous awards for his work in the Canadian national daily Globe & Mail and the magazine Toronto Life . He recounts all of these trials and tribulations in this memoir, in which he is entirely unapologetic and still armed with a razor-sharp wit. But the book is capped by a sad postscript: Hannon took his own life last May (with the help of a physician, as doctor-assisted sui cide is now legal in Canada) after a struggle with Parkinson’s disease. This memoir allows him to live on in his own words, a vibrant queer voice that remains as radical and transgressive as it was in the ’70s. M ATTHEW H AYS

least mentions birds and trees, but does so by blending the fate of her friend into her knowledge of the natural world. There are so many people publishing largely unread poetry these days that a cu rated collection like this allows us to dis cover modern poets whose voices we might not otherwise have heard. Think of it as a tease, and follow where it leads you. A LAN C ONTRERAS VERDANT Jeffery Beam Kin Press. 64 pages, $17.95 Part epic love poem, part essay, Jeffery Beam’s Verdant is colored by the recollec tion of an idealized affair. In the series of poems, the peacefulness of the unnamed speaker’s comfortable country life is shat tered by the “audible” absence of his lover. It was a relationship that even nature seemed to smile upon: blackberries “withdrew small/ daggers when we kissed near them.” As the seasons advance, he relishes the natural beauty all around him, yet registers each change in relation to his grief. When summer comes around again, his obsessive devotion bursts forth renewed (“I overwhelm the flowers as well”). Nature continues its ever lasting cycle, but the speaker seems pre served in the amber of memory: “suffering alone possesses me.” Beam’s essay reflects on his poetry’s themes and his key influences, which in clude Millay, Rilke, Anna Akhmatova, and Rumi. He traces a feeling of longing to what he claims is his earliest memory (nursing at his mother’s breast) and calls it “the one persistent passion that has inhab ited my life.” Most interestingly, we get scraps of biographical detail that affect our reading of the poetry: In 1995, at the age of 42, Beam upended his then fifteen-year re lationship by falling in love with a younger man. Although Beam dismisses it as “a long story, not worth telling here,” the men tion of it suggests a need to unburden him self of something. Looking at the poetry through this lens, one catches the shadow of guilt compounding the desperation that he frequently expresses. M ICHAEL Q UINN In Amy Hoffman’s Dot & Ralfie , we spend some delightful time with a group of aging lesbians, perhaps the most invisible of any demographic grouping. The two main char acters are a long-term lesbian couple who must face the fact they’re getting older. Dot’s heart trouble and Ralfie’s destroyed knees mean they can’t easily get to and from their third floor apartment. Dot’s sister DOT & RALFIE by Amy Hoffman Univ. of Wisconsin. 160 pages, 16.95

September–October 2022


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