Eris: "Secular, Satirical & Sacred Meditations" Excerpt

Say hello to the newest writer at Eris Magazine! Read a book excerpt from Secular, Satirical & Sacred Meditations here and more of my work in the future!

TBT: Closet Ball 2000

Just for fun: photos from my drag debut at Brothers Beta Club Closet Ball Aug. 2000


FLAME GLBTQ Arts & Literary Project: #theseahorsemovie

Posted by FLAME GLBTQ Arts & Literary Project on Thursday, January 21, 2016


Flint: A Brief Meditation

Some years ago (2008?)  I visit Flint, Michigan with a friend. I am struck by all the boarded up houses, churches and Coney Island stands that line the streets. Prostitutes are everywhere, bumming cigarettes. I walk to the gay bar and spend the evening -- don't bring up unions the bartender warns.
He drives us around the next morning, showing off the city sights including the Flint river. I remark the drinking water tastes terrible.



Ironically, as I've been promoting my new poetry collection Secular, Satirical & Sacred Meditations (Writing Knights Press) featuring A Drop of Water, my response to the Detroit water shortage, the #FlintWaterCrisis begins. If you are interested in helping the citizens of Flint, please visit Hope4Flint.

A Drop of Water

Land of lapping lakes,

Alexis de Tocqueville,

Detroit flood,
Detroit debt,
Our kingdom for a drop of water.

Washington Post: In Flint...
Michigan Radio: Not Safe to Drink



2016 Update

Wishing all my readers a Happy 2016! This year you can expect my latest poetry collection Secular, Satirical & Sacred Meditations via Writing Knights Press as well as my appearance in the documentary film The Seahorse!
I am also considering working on new essays and / or short stories this year. I have numerous books on my must read list but, as always, will update this blog when I can.  

East/West Symphony via The Good Men Project

QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology

Follow me on FB and Twitter!


"Amish Christmas Tree" by James Schwartz

RERUN: Amish Christmas Tree

Why can’t we have a Christmas tree?
 That is not for Our People, Mom explains.

I beg until she cuts a tree from cardboard,
 Spray painting it gold.

We cut up Hallmark cards,
Decorating its boughs. Together.


Title Reveal + Poem

Happy Winter Solstice and assorted holidays! I'm happy to reveal Writing Knights founder / editor / visionary Azriel Johnson and I have come up with the title Secular, Satirical & Sacred Meditations for my next Writing Knights release, due 2016! I still have a few last minute updates to finish on the manuscript. Here's to a new year ahead and new poetry!

Sacred Geometry


ICYMI: Read selections from my next collection in The Squire: Page-A-Day Poetry Anthology 2015

Here are 2 excerpts (love poems):
The Good Men Project: "East/West Symphony"

We Wanted To Be Writers: "Sleeping With Keats"


2 "Rainbow Gazzette" Poems

Early (queer) poetry via Michiana's Rainbow Gazzette (2008). ‪#‎theseahorsemovie


QDA Excerpt: "Fellowship" by James Schwartz

by James Schwartz

Before every other Sunday service,
The Amish men shake my hand.

I offer them my left limply,
One nice fellow always smiles.

Reaching for, engulfing my right,
His hand and smile warm.

Sometimes he slips me chewing gum,
Or pieces of hard candy.

I offer my left hand,
To the next in line.

We stand around by the barn,
Until it is time to go inside.

via QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology  (Squares & Rebels, 2015)  

The Struggle of Being Gay in Albania

Wordgathering Book Review

Wordgathering reviews QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology (now available via Amazon in paperback and eBook). 



QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology is now available from Squares and Rebels Press and on Amazon in paperback and eBook formats!

ICYMI: Huff Post: Disability and LGBTQ Intersectionality 

Washington Blade Review

Windy City Review  

The Bay Area Reporter Review 

Omnibus Journal Review by Walter Beck 



#theseahorsemovie selfie

filming on set of The Seahorse documentary 10/25 (discussing LGBT Amish, "rumspringa" at The Seahorse and read a poem). Selfie via @katiemadonnalee w/ Daddy Kash.


QDA: A Review

Happy Labor Day from a working poet. I will be blogging forthcoming book reviews and news about my next poetry collection when I can. Next year my readers may be in for a few surprises!

Take a break and check out a new QDA book review!


Amish Longreads

A few recent Amish / LGBT Amish longreads:

The Atlantic: Schisms...

Al Jazeera: Increasing Tensions...

Mennonites Struggle...

WYSO: Ohio's Amish Country...

LGBT Amish: Our Stories

Je Suis Charlie & QDA

My next poetry chapbook Je Suis Charlie: queer ex-amish prose & meditations is forthcoming from Writing Knights Press (details TBA - possibly in 2016) collecting new and recent poetry and prose.

"Je Suis Charlie mixes political and personal meditations, from secular to satirical to sacred."
To obtain an advance copy for review / media queries please e-mail.

ICYMI: I have 4 poems included in QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology (Squares and Rebels Press) edited by Raymond Luczak. Raymond also edited Among the Leaves and Jonathan.

Featuring fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and comics by 48 writers from around the world, QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology proves that intersectionality isn’t just a buzzword.

It’s a penetrating and unforgettable look into the hearts and souls of those defiant enough to explore their own vulnerabilities and demonstrate their own strengths.


Preorder "QDA" Anthology!

Preorder QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology here! Out in November!


Anthology Announcement

Summer is flying by in Michigan "river country" as I'm finishing up my next poetry collection which I hope to see published next year. A quick blog post to announce new poetry forthcoming in QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology (Squares & Rebels Press, November 2015)!

You can purchase my poetry in the previous Squares & Rebels Press anthology Among the Leaves (2012) here.


River Country Ramblings

Summer is beginning in southwest "river country" MI. (a few recent photos below). I will mainly be offline this summer but hope to revive this blog at the end of the year, along with new poetry. At the moment my life consists of work, work, work but looking forward to new projects!
My latest poetry release Arrival and Departure is available via Writing Knights Press and Amazon.

You can also follow me on FB and Twitter.


A Poem by James Schwartz

National Poetry Month continues! Check out my poem Sleeping With Keats via WW2BW!


The Writing Life 9

I have settled on writing a full length collection this year and the poem-a-day challenge for April. When I write I don't spend much time online so expect the usual lull in blogging / social media. Do you have a favorite poetry anthology?
As it's National Poetry Month, check out the acclaimed 2012 compilation Among the Leaves which includes six of my poems and some of my own favorite poets today: Raymond Luczak, Stephen S. Mills and Walter Beck to name just three. An in-depth of the book review below:

"Among the Leaves: Queer Male Poets on the Midwestern Experience" (Squares and Rebels Press)

Goodreads Book Review by T.S.
5 of 5 stars

What does it mean to be a Midwesterner? This is the question Raymond Luczak poses in the foreword. If the collection of poetry included within its 126 pages tell us anything, Among the Leaves indicates the Midwest to be a place where conformity and niceties reign, but where sentiments of feeling trapped, suppressed, and unwelcome are just as prevalent. It is safe and austere, where strong work ethic and the normalcy and simplicity of every day life is celebrated.
When I read and reread these poems, it was the theme of conformity that seemed to stay front and center. Of course, you cannot talk about conformity without thinking about those who resist conforming, those despite feeling trapped or suppressed refuse to be stifled. Certainly, there are foreboding poems that warn us of the dangers of not confirming, such as Scott Wiggerman's "Hate Crime." There are others, though, that seeks out places of sanctuary in the Midwest. In Ahisma Timoteo Bodhrán's "Repatriation," two Native Americans find such a place:

Your're gonna say something to two queer Native boyz in a
Native museum, really?"

It is here in this museum, Bodhrán writes earlier, that it is...

Interesting to think we are protected. Our art and
bodies, for once, protected. People need to go through
security to get to us.

While Bodhrán finds his safe place, there are other who do not. Others for whom life in the Midwest seems hopeless. In Malcolm Stuhlmiller's "Piano Teacher," a piano teacher's "great amber ashtray / already overflowing" and "stinking the whole world / with stale butts" is strangulation. Stuhlmiller vividly captures how the "whole world" consists of the confines of two hopeless lives that are bound to exchange places. The student's future, it seems, is the teacher's present. In "Married," Stuhlmiller refers to being "mummified alive on the North Dakota prairie," a vivid image for the closeted or down low life that an older man, a mortician nonetheless, recommends to a nineteen year old man contemplating the freedom to love openly in the Midwest. In his final poem, Stuhlmiller rocks against conventionality, declaring that he is permitted to hate work, allowed to despite power tools, and concede to being passive-aggressive. Despite these acknowledgments, "Tequila" ends with the observation that he is nonetheless "soberly tethered" to the sour, / dry, scratchy circumstances" of the Midwest.

Where Stuhlmiller leaves off, Wiggerman picks up. Stuhlmiller's permission to "despite power tools" blends well with Wiggerman's "Plays Like a Girl," which hints at the pressure and inability to live up to gender roles and masculinity as defined by the Midwest. It is interesting to contrast Wiggerman's self-deprecating lines "I still flounce like a seal in an empty field, / my arms flapping in the air, / but I'll never catch if you don't let go" with those of George Klawitter's "Toward Valhalla," in which the narrator uses Greek and Roman mythology to recast his own history of clarinet player to that of celebratory high school football athlete. John Medeiros' "Camaraderie at the Super Bowl, 2005" is another football poem that fetes nonconformity. Here, the narrator confesses to never being a Patriots fan, though he's from New England, until he stands next to a man at a Midwestern urinal, "His head bowed in a combination / of shame and curiosity / as one eye moves its way / from his to my penis." The disdain for this man's oppressed curiosity, or perhaps his ability to conform, allows the narrator to, for the first time in his life, boast, "proud & erect, satisfied" to finally "be on the winning team." I found myself wondering if the Midwest is so oppressive, and you come from a place like New England, wouldn't you find it rather hard to root for the "home" team? At some point, place becomes personified and takes on a life of its own. In Madeiros' poem, there is still an element of feeling trapped, bound to the land.

I think James Cihlar's "The Eighth Wonder of the World" best sums up that sentiment of being trapped or stuck. In pleading to be taken to Manhattan, Cihlar declares, "One island is the same as another." The Midwest, in fact, seems very much like an island, at once both welcoming and uninviting. One of my favorite poets in the collection is James Schwartz, whose poems describe his decision to leave the, arguably, seclusive Amish order for the lonely nightlife of the Midwest. In "Bad Behavior," he writes about exchanging the Amish island "for sin and gin and metro charm," describing himself as a "A lonely warrior on my own. / Clubs close, no going home." Jack Fritscher and Christopher Hennessy use the oft described Midwestern winters, in this case a blizzard and an ice storm, respectively, to capture what it means to be isolated in "Transistor Clock Radio (The Snows of 1969)" and "Dreaming Through the Fifth Day Without Power The Great Ice Storm of 1976, Mid-Michigan."

For all the poems that speak of conformity, feeling trapped, being oppressed, suppression of dreams and desires, there are also those that celebrate the Midwest, be it family, the natural environment, or the quirks of the Midwest, even if through the tricky slipknot of memory. In fact, I felt that the end of "Among the Leaves" take on a more hopeful tone.
There's a duality in Hennessy's "Sleeping Bear Dunes" that, despite it's haunting tone, is one of the best tributes to the scenic Great Lakes that I have read. Hennessy's sensually erotic "Strawberries" is also another uplifting piece.
In Raymond Luczak's "Bile," I found a man working through memories of his tough childhood and finally deciding to fight back, even without a gallbladder to create the bile necessary to "to master the recipe of rage." Whether or not there will be a fight is uncertain, but the way "Bile" stacks up against other poems that shatter the shallowness of what it means to be Midwestern nice, such as Brent Goodman's "How'd You Like It If I Called You A Jew?" and "Most of the Time," Walter Beck's "Hoosier Swinging Both Way Blues," or Whittier Strong's "Minnesota/Indiana," certainly is rewarding -- and the sucker punch to the Midwest for which I yearned while turning pages. "The Birch Tree," "Lakewood Cemetery," and "On the Corner of Oak and Spruce" share a theme of reflective longing for things, people, and places, each reading like an oblique homage.

My favorite poem, though, is the last one: "What to Pray For." In his closing poem, Michael Kiesow Moore presents us with a hopeful acknowledgment that, though difficult, we can get "it" right, it being ourselves and the places that are personified based on our behaviors and attitudes. It's the final note on the Midwest in "Among the Leaves" and a hopeful one at that.

So, what does it mean to be a Midwestern, especially if you do not fit in or cannot conform with the larger culture or population? Perhaps being Midwestern just means bearing it. Bearing the harsh winters, not begrudging the false niceties, continuing to fight against conformity, and seeking out your own sanctuaries among oppression, be they patches of strawberries, strong willed aunts, continuing to dream, or museums. If the strong will to survive regardless of the people, culture, places, and seasons is what it means to be a Midwesterner, then the esprit de corps of "Among the Leaves" is summed up best by Walter Beck's closing stanzas in "Hoosier Swinging Both Ways Blues:"

I don't let it get me down,
I don't let it break me;
As long as I have a song to sing,
I'm doing alright.

Congratulations to Raymond Luczak and his team of poets in sharing the songs of survival they sing "Among the Leaves."


Happy #NPM15!


April is National Poetry Month! To celebrate, my poem Sleeping with Keats (from PAGE-A-DAY POETRY ANTHOLOGY 2015) is forthcoming via We Wanted To Be Writers.

You can also now follow me on AEON IDEAS!  


The Writing Life 8

What short story writers inspire you? I could list many but one of my favorites would be
W. Somerset Maugham. I hope to re-read his brilliant stories and travel essays this year.

 "It has been argued that in the short story he reached the pinnacle of his art. These expertly told tales, with their addictive plot twists and vividly drawn characters, are both galvanizing as literature and wonderfully entertaining. In the adventures of his alter ego Ashenden, a writer who (like Maugham himself) turned secret agent in World War I, as well as in stories set in such far-flung locales as South Pacific islands and colonial outposts in Southeast Asia, Maugham brings his characters vividly to life, and their humanity is more convincing for the author’s merciless exposure of their flaws and failures. Whether the chasms of misunderstanding he plumbs are those between colonizers and natives, between a missionary and a prostitute, or between a poetry-writing woman and her uncomprehending husband, Maugham brilliantly displays his irony, his wit, and his genius in the art of storytelling."


Spring Update


Spring is on the way after a seemingly endless Michigan winter! Five years ago I begin The Literary Party blog to promote my Literary Party debut and have accumulated a sizeable collection of poetry, literary posts as well as various LGBT / Amish / LGBT Amish content. A heartfelt thank you to my readers, book reviewers, fellow poets / writers for your support!
Looking back over five years of posts I realize this has certainly been a productive period for me. Since 2011 my poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, chapbooks and I even found time for several open-mic readings, essays and a short story. Currently I am writing poems exploring the queer Amish identity and hope to have enough material for a Writing Knights collection later this year. (stay tuned).
I was recently honored to receive a shout out from my East / West Symphony muse, the brilliant artist Tareq Sayed Rajab de Montfort! Thank you!

East / West Symphony appears in the recent Writing Knights Press Page-A-Day Poetry Anthology, along with five other new poems. You can purchase a copy via Amazon.

Lastly, my villanelle Northern Skies has been included in the new 2014 Poetry Anthology from Writing Knights Press! 



The Writing Life 7

I'm spending all of my free time this winter writing new poetry, stay tuned!