In the heart of sleeping cities and skyscrapers,
Undercurrents of travelers traverse every night.

Through fluorescent fixtures and pan-handlers,
Carrying paperbacks and broken hearts.

4 AM layovers, slumping over luggage,
Folded up amid their maps.


Just passing T

 Got a dollar?
Got time?
Got a 4 AM story?

No time.

So it goes, my friend.


Spring Update


Happy NATIONAL POETRY MONTH! Make poetry a part of your life every day!
Spring is finally here after a seemingly endless winter, POLAR VORTEX repeat anyone? I have updated The Literary Party blog with new content, curating a mix of Amish, LGBT, literary content.

2014 will be an 'in transit' period for me. I have been promoting my poetry, books since 2011 so I am overdue for a hiatus. Since the publication of THE LITERARY PARTY: GROWING UP GAY AND AMISH IN AMERICA I have jumped from one project to the next as well as focusing on writing a memoir as several essays.Being an indie writer means it is up to me to keep my readers updated so expect several projects this year.

 First up: I hope to see you Friday April 4th at THIS IS FIRE! for an open mic reading as part of the first KALAMAZOO POETRY FESTIVAL!
 I will also have a forthcoming interview / essay on growing up gay and Amish (details TBA!) and chapbook of topical and travel themed poetry out later this year or next via WRITING KNIGHTS!
UPDATE: I am expanding my original manuscript with new material this year so check back for updates!


"Coffee Soup" by James Schwartz


Pour mug of freshly brewed coffee into bowl.
Add creamer / sugar to taste.
Saltines optional.
Side of cheddar optional.
Served since my childhood.
Amish kitchen optional.


For the latest see the Author News Page

All book ordering info on Book Page


Poetry24: Piano / Peninsula


My new topical short on the Ukraine crisis has been published by Poetry24. I am also hoping to include PIANO / PENINSULA in my forthcoming WRITING KNIGHTS chapbook of travel / topical poetry.

Revolutionary piano notes,
protestors in Kiev.

Can be heard in Crimea,
Georgia repeating.

Breaking sovereign song:
Helicopters on the horizon.

Mr. Piano Extremist:
Play on... 




What Do Amish Think About Gays?

 Due largely to the homogenous culture many Old Order Amish have a hard time accepting people who are different one way or another including LGBT. In the Amish community one gains acceptance through assimilation and conformity. Gay? See Leviticus!
If you are an Amish parent and your son or daughter comes out as gay you will be expected to shun and cut ties with him or her until they repent for the sin of being true to their nature and go back in the closet.


 I have a very large, extended family with "English" (non-Amish), Mennonite, ex Amish and Amish. Recently an extended family member contacted me to say they did not agree with my lifestyle plus a lot of hateful things. I never pay attention to haters but will say please get a life. I may not have full family support but my parents loved me and that's good enough for me!
Now as it happens I hate the word "lifestyle." I do not have a "gay lifestyle" I am gay. I am also left handed, obsessed with literature, poetry and am currently single. I spent most of my 20s at clubs and bars, meeting a broad spectrum of people I would never have met if I was Amish. There were many gay nights out to be sure, I performed in several cabaret shows as well but I really wanted to write.

 To be an "English" LGBT activist is one thing, asking the Amish to reconsider its anti-gay attitudes quite another. Changes within the community may happen slowly over time but in the meantime families of gay Amish are forced to shun them. As society has moved forward so have some Amish attitudes on the issue. Some. Family is important to Amish but hate is never a family value. I am cool with my family as long as they don't vote Republican ha ha.
LGBT Amish should not have to be excommunicated and excluded from their families because of their sexuality. Even the more liberal Mennonites are on their game.


 Our local LGBTQ community is family which we create over time. Today I am not in contact with many of the large extended Schwartz family and others I knew growing up. I was touched to learn of several cousins' support but many Amish are not even that lucky. They have to leave everyone they know behind if they do come out. I have little patience for people that hide their hate behind religion and politics but I do look for the best in people.



My Dad was Old Order Amish, never shunned me, loved me unconditionally and lead by example. Whenever I sailed out the door for an open mic night Dad would yell "go get 'em!" Thanks Dad.
 I lived with him on the farm until his passing in 2010, out to all ten years earlier, my local gay community being a great support system.
Today I am once again living the country life with my (very) gay BFF, writing and simply enjoying the literary life...style.


Menthol Slim One-Twenty Blues: A Review

 I love WALTER BECK: poet, POLARI writer, LGBT activist. Part Hunter S. Thompson, part rock and rolla in Amish country and all around literary revolutionary. Indiana: be proud. We need him.

 Readers of the AMONG THE LEAVES: QUEER MALE POETS ON THE MIDWESTERN EXPERIENCE anthology will undoubtedly remember his provocative work as well as WRITING KNIGHTS PRESS' readers. I recently spent my birthday catching up with some reading including Beck's new poetry chapbook

 Of course it's brilliant and even, at times, funny (Customer Portraits) take on American life and politics loaded with razor sharp observations. America: be proud.

We are forgetting how to live
And slouching towards existence.

he warns in How the Story Ends. I really enjoyed his Old Skin Transformation:

I miss the guys,
The bars, the protests, 
The pickets, the press,
The booze and the action,


I miss this storied past,
Only because it used to be
The present.

This is blue collar life skewered with relish and on the front lines. 

Is it worth it
To watch your world close in? 

He asks in Sales Floor Killing Blues. And in The Register's Shadow, movingly:

Would they believe
That I used to walk tall and proud
In the wilderness?

We Americans cherish our freedom fighters and activist - artists and in these revolutionary days it is good to hear Beck's voice, on the front lines. Where else? Thanks Walter.

Check out more of his work here and here.


150 Mennonite Leaders Call for Change in Policies Toward Gay Christians

“It’s time the church formally recognizes that whatever consensus once existed around its teaching positions on same-sex relationships is gone,” said Shelly. “The longer we fail to do so, the more the church will stay embroiled in conflict, decrease its relevancy to younger generations, and continue to inflict harm on LGBTQ Christians and itself.”

via Pink Menno
via Mennonite World Review
Marginal Mennonite Society

Way to go Mennonites! Now can someone send a memo to the Amish?


"The Literary Party" Review Round-up

 Beautifully constructed poetry and poignant essays... 
Do yourself a favor and get your hands on a copy.  It gives you a unique insight into a person breaking free from a suffocating and restrictive environment to discover who he is and provides a sense of optimism that maybe one day the Amish community will become more enlightened and accepting of LGBT people in their community.

I am not a poetry reader.  I do not seek out sonnets, couplets or prose.  I do not swoon at the mention of Shakespeare or Thomas-and the idea of attending a poetry reading makes me squirm.  I am the seeker of long and tedious novels that take me weeks to slog through.  But today-I am a poetry convert.  James Schwartz has delivered a book so moving, so ‘dead on’ it’s hard to ignore.  His poems unfurl before you like gorgeous flowers you itch to pick.  Interjected three times throughout the book are strong short stories that give deeper insight to what it’s like to grow up gay and Amish.  Yet they read like longer poems.  James Schwartz takes you up the hill of measured language and then gives you a hard push to the bottom.  His poems span a life unknown to most of us, born into a culture that has room for Rumspringa but not for homosexuality.  We follow James as he encounters the usual passionate yens of youth;  sneaking off with a cute boy, getting caught out in a club by other gay youth, to his adult life as an out gay man dabbling in cabaret and drag.  We watch as he flexes the muscles of his identity with a sharp clarifying eye on those around him.
 Scattered throughout the book are photos of a young James and his family.  These photos lead the reader to believe that they are still close, exploding the myth that after an Amish gay youth comes out their family refuses contact with them.  In the book are two moving elegys to his mother and father that are almost hard to get through.
 The book is short and leaves you wanting more.  Eighty-four pages (including a forward and afterward) read easily in a night or two on a Nook for $3.95. Well worth it, since you will return to it again to memorize the pieces that are so smart and pithy you feel compelled to quote them.
 Here is a small part (smacking of Dorothy Parker) that has become one of my favorites from “Midnight”:

 I loathe the hours after dawn.
Before he’s out the door,
Having put on again,
 What he was before.

 Other poems read like chants and raps- to be read at a slam (something the author does).  But they all have one thing in common, a heat of brilliance that is not too bright to stare at, but way too hot to stand next to.



 James Schwartz captures readers with his honest emotions and raw poetic truths.  From heartbreak to comedy, with actual photos throughout the book, this touching collection portrays the struggles of ‘coming out’ in a close-minded environment.   I especially enjoyed the humor AND thought it to be touching that Schwartz dedicated the book in memory of Matthew Shepard.


 With apologies to Max Weber and Margaret Mead, any armchair anthropologist or sociologist in North America worthy of cocktail party chatter will be able to explain the propensity of sub-groups and clans and tribes to gather into ever-tighter circles as the onslaught of cultural evolution broaches their sacred world-view. The Mormons did it in their westward trek in the 1840’s, the Quakers, the Mennonites and the Jim Jones Temple folks and of course the Amish as well, all have their stories of hiding from the realities of the then-perceived world and its evils. The difficulty lays in the troubling fringe of each of these groups, how to control, guide, indoctrinate, and sublimate their individual members into compliance with group norms and expectations; Ross Douthat of the New York Times calls it the paranoia of the six-degrees of separation game. 

 "The Literary Party: Growing up Gay and Amish in America" helps us to see into one of these uniquely American groups and the ways in which it builds tight walls of protection around their world-view by destroying the internally unacceptable. James Schwartz shares with us a view point that is at the same time unique, fascinating, real, and also horrifying, as a young gay man growing up in a traditional Amish farm family. His voice, and his story, which we are allowed to glimpse through his poetry, helps us to understand what it may be like for such a cloistered view of the world from the inside out.
 Certainly every such group in American history has similarities, familiar trajectories, and expected time sequences: a coming-of-age story in any other setting, East Los Angeles, for example, or Bedford-Stuyvesant, or Salt Lake City, may stand on similar ground. What helps us appreciate the struggle of Schwartz’ "Literary Party" is the rare insight that is current, fresh, and authentic. I am still upset at Tim Allen and Kirstie Allie for that horrible "For Richer or Poorer" (1997), and I also have to suggest that all of hip-hop and rap combined may not be as authentic as we wish it to be, at least in an anthropological sense. I am still waiting for the Langston Hughes of the twenty-first century, and I am not at all sure that even Martha Beck, with her brilliance, is an authentic Mormon voice either.

 Conversely, Schwartz seems to have made the transition to the mainstream American cultural highway fairly easily: "In this time and at this rate/ the world prefers its assassins str8./ Heros for heteros to relate/ comfort for their grieving mate." Poetry is elastic, no matter which culture upon which it focuses nor from which it may be derived, and as a reader, my experience, world view, politics, religion, sexuality, age, and ethnicity all come to bear upon the machinations of my interpretation of any poetry, and in Schwartz’ work I can reflect on not simply what he meant to say, but what the poetry is saying to me right now and right here. The inferred message is, an Amish gay man can speak to me and we can share some universality of human emotion and cross-cultural meaning, and succeed in making the world a little easier to deal with and a little easier to negotiate.
I am eager to see the maturation of this poet; in "The Pale City" ("From the pale city/ beside the sea/ I traveled once more home/ to the fields in hues of tea") helps us see the future of James Schwartz, an authentic American voice, and that uniquely individual voice as well.

 Young poet and slam performer James Schwartz combines smart, passionate, refreshingly unpretentious poetry and short stories in this staggering illustration of his family problems, love, heartbreak, gay nightlife, gay politics, and the lasting effects of his famously intolerant religion and culture. - Brandon Voss

James Schwartz’s collection of poetry and short stories
about being “gaymish” is emotional, compelling, sometime devastating but always
accessible even to those who don’t care for poetry (read: most Americans). The
ultimate upshot: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America (InGroup Press, $12.95) is probably the only book in
America that’ll tell you what it’s like to take a horse and buggy to a gay
nightclub. — Diane Anderson-Minshall

An extraordinary collection of poetry. The poems are about love, rejection and awareness. Although these are topics long written about, the poems crafted by Schwartz are very different. They are raw, honest and unpretentious with an underlying struggle to be Amish or understand his childhood faith as an LGBTQ child of God. Each poem is a gem demonstrating spiritual depth and awareness.



Amish Memoir-ies


My baby blanket, cap, sweater & booties

 Looking through old photos recently, I decided to share a few favorites. Many Amish forbid all photos but Dad allowed me to have my class photo taken. Nice bowl haircut, James!

Tourist photo, Washington DC July 4th, 1991

 B & W:



Spasibo by James Schwartz

Dedicated to LGBT Russia

HuffPost: From Russia With Love


Poetry Party: Calligrams

I am now the happy author of a micro-chap collection of poetry including several calligrams in Writing Knights Press' FourPlay series, Alpine Suite!

Guillaume Apollinaire was an obvious inspiration but there are numerous poets that have written calligrams and concrete poetry including Eugen Gomringer.

Check out fantastic poetry @cerculpoetilor

Look Up At The Sky: Calligrams

FourPlay #12: Alpine Suite




Out and Amish Update

"As the Amish community grows, the need for dialogue on LGBT issues is vital. Lives are at risk and too many families have been divided." 
I wrote in the essay Out & Amish included in The Literary Party. Written in 2010 and published in 2011.
 A few years later, I have to ask myself if that was not unrealistic optimism?

"I maintain the new LGBT civil rights movement be all-inclusive. The Mennonites -or 'Amish lite'- are thought of as a more liberal offshoot of the Old Order, when in fact the Mennonite Church was founded first. It is my hope the Mennonite Brethren Council can bridge the divide along with other resources, including The Trevor Project.
"Today, an Amish teen coming out within his community faces the complete loss of family and friends. He also faces the loss of his faith community... should they have joined the church, they would be ex-communicated and shunned.
"All gay Amish must make a choice: live a lie, marry and sire, or literally be written out of their family tree."

 Last year the Mennonite Church  severed ties with GMC likely for its progressive, LGBT-friendly stance. I was happy to read about the GMC's acceptance in this Taboo Jive.com article and wish them the best. They are a beacon of hope for LGBT Mennonites and  ex-Amish. Even ex Amish outreach ministries hold anti-gay fundamentalist views. 
While society is coming around on LGBT rights i.e. marriage equality the Amish and apparently many Mennonites will not. 

"If an Amish youth comes out to his parents and says 'I'm gay', then they really don't have any choice... They're going to have to leave. Unless they choose, of course, to stay in the closet."
I stated on HuffPost Live and that sums up the matter. Do the Amish want to shun their own children? No, but they will continue to do so. Will they ever come around on LGBT issues? Not in the near future however there is an LGBT Amish online support group, an important step.
While I personally am not religious, most ex-Amish, ex-Mennonites are and find another church (for a Christian gay perspective see Der Reggeboge Freindschaft blog). The Amish, Mennonites are descendants of European Anabaptists who immigrated to America for its freedom of worship in a time when gays were oppressed and persecuted alongside them. 
Today they do the persecuting there is room for progress!


2012 Recap

Amish: Out of Order, Breaking Amish, Amish Mafia... 2012 was certainly the year of ex Amish stars. I've been approached about several Amish reality TV projects this year and happy to be considered however my answer is no. I didn't spend my life writing to become a television star. Not that I don't consider offers but my heart belongs to literature and writing. 

I am currently working on a memoir and look forward to sharing my life story with you.

2012 RECAP

Poetry 24: Alpine Stars

6 new poems in the anthology Among the Leaves.

Many thanks to all my readers and happy holidays!



Literary Parties

 I love meeting other poets on the slam circuit (Buddy Wakefield! Wow!) and have been lucky enough to meet some great writers!


WATCH: Convenience Stores 






Spring Update

 Thank you readers -- The Literary Party charted on Amazon.com Gay Poetry at #1!

My new literary tattoo!




The Amish farm in SW MI. "river country" I grew up at.