Poetry Reading @ Kukuau Studio πŸŽ™πŸ”₯

Thank you Hilo for a lovely night! Read from The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America - Photos @ Kukuau Studio!


Hessler Street Fair anthology

My poem Sunshine On My Straw Hat will be available soon in the Hessler Street Fair anthology 2017!
Paperback available via above link above and Mac's Backs-Books on Coventry, an eBook edition also forthcoming!



Coming Soon!

Coming soon via Writing Knights Press: Hessler Street Anthology 2017 featuring my poem Sunshine On My Straw Hat!

Also: my poem A Drop of Water will be published in the forthcoming Thoughtcrime Press anthology Not My President, slated for a 4th of July release!

I will be reading poetry from QDA: A Queer Disability Anthology on an upcoming episode of Turning Tragedies into Triumphs: Stories and Conversations with Torah Bontrager! (Season 2 - Summer 2017) iTunes link

ICYMI: Secret of the Masters: An Interview with Poet Edward Field 


A New Chapter! πŸ˜πŸ‘πŸ“š

A heartfelt thank you to my Readers, to begin. I've maintained The Literary Party blog for 5 years+ mainly posting book news, reviews, travel photos etc. When I was putting The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America together I was still living in the Amish farmhouse and used the local library to access the Internet. I meet my first book editor on Twitter and the rest is (literary) history!

Since then I've thrown myself into working on one book or project after another, although I don't feel like I've written enough. I want to take my time over the next year to write without a direction, and on essays, ideally.

Keep your eye out for the forthcoming anthology Our Happy Hours: LGBT Voices From the Gay Bars feat. my new non-fiction essay on Kalamazoo's legendary Zoo Bar.

I am going to take some down time from social media, blogging and do me, political snark on Twitter will have to go on without me! I'm ready for  new chapters!

This Poetry Month I've been reading the Beats, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Walt Whitman and beautifully crafted short stories by W. Somerset Maugham and Willa Cather. Stirring that desire to write! On the farm I did so nightly after work, burning the midnight oil with Byron, Cavafy, Thom Gunn, Hart Crane etc.
I am old school, I like to hibernate with my writing and editing takes time as well.
I will update this blog when I can (a few projects in the works) thank you again everyone for reading. Spring is here at last in Michigan - snow tomorrow!

THE LITERARY PARTY FB PAGE Twitter: @queeraspoetry 


#NPM17: "Coffee Soup" 🍡

Greetings on a blustery, rainy day in "river country" Michigan! National Poetry Month continues... warm up with my Amish "recipe poem" that was originally published in Poetry 4 Food 2 fourplay (Writing Knights Press)!


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.

* Note: my poem Sunshine On My Straw Hat will be reprinted in the 2017 Hessler Street anthology from Writing Knights Press which will be made available later this year.
Author photo for Poetry 4 Food 2 


Diversity Rules Magazine: Pete Buttigieg Was the Real DNC Winner

I've been working on several political essays, namely on the future of the Democratic Party. Here is my latest via Diversity Rules Magazine blog: The Happy Warrior, Pete Buttigieg Was the Real DNC Winner


S1Ep4: James Schwartz on the Burning Question Every Amish Person Faces and the Need for an Amish Underground Railroad

ICYMI: Part 1
Happy (BELATED!) International Women's Day!
Via Torah Bontrager:

An Amish Girl in Manhattan: A Memoir (3 New Podcast Episodes going LIVE on iTunes & website tonight 9-10pm ET). In honor of International Women's Day, a special shoutout to the remarkable, strong women featured in our first season who've kicked ass to take back their freedom and evolve themselves into better beings. And to the women kicking ass behind the scenes to produce this weekly.
A special call to all Amish women: Be Bold For Change!#AmishWomenBoldForChange We need to empower ourselves, steal back the freedom that was stolen from us at birth and say "no more". No more rape, no more abuse, no more less-than-second-class citizenry within our own community/nation. We have rights and we need to demand--and ensure--that those rights are honored. Find that voice deep down inside you that got destroyed on the day you were born, simply just because you happened to have the "wrong" body.
NOTE: This is not an anti-male message and it should not be misconstrued to be that. Males were the ones who helped me the most in starting my trauma healing work. I am forever grateful to those men who came into my life and played pivotal roles throughout my long journey. My call in this post is for the women to STEP UP, SPEAK OUT and NEVER BACK DOWN from your truth. Find that fire inside you, those embers that you thought died out long ago.

"Turning Tragedies into Triumphs: Stories & Conversations with Torah Bontrager"
Here's how you can find them:
iTunes: Do a search for “Torah Bontrager”. Alternatively: Open iTunes, choose File > Subscribe to Podcast, type http://torahbontrager.libsyn.com/rss in the text box, then click OK. It should pop right up.
Website: http://www.torahbontrager.libsyn.com
If you can’t find it on iTunes, consult these FAQs:

S1Ep4: James Schwartz on the Burning Question Every Amish Person Faces and the Need for an Amish Underground Railroad 


@ Coldwater Cabaret πŸΈπŸŽ‚πŸ’‹πŸŽ©⛼

Rang in my birthday with Michigan cabaret legend Miss Chelsea Del Ray at Coldwater Cabaret! Thank you for the bday wishes on social media!

ICYMI, In literary news, I have a poem in the latest issue of Writers Resist and Writing Knights Press litmag Issue 01 DANGEROUS SUBMISSIONS (THE WAYWARD SWORD)

Below VIDEO Chelsea Del Ray @ Coldwater Cabaret: 

A post shared by James Schwartz (@queeraspoetry) on



Fun fact: My book The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America and a poem are housed at Obermutten International Museum of Friendship! 🌍❤



1000+ days and counting since the Flint Water crisis begin. My poem A Drop of Water is featured in the latest issue of Writers Resist.

Throwback: On the Line with VICE News 


Happy Hours πŸΈπŸ’‹πŸŽ©❤πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œ

Contract signed! My essay on The Zoo Bar will be published in the forthcoming anthology  Our Happy Hours: LGBT Voices From the Gay Bars co-edited by the amazing Lee Lynch and Renee Bess! Proceeds will benefit several LGBT charities including the Ali Forney Center!

ICYMI: The Amazon Trail: Hero Worship



Below: JR / Inside Out Project 
Thank you to one of my favorite artists, JR & Inside Out Project for including my portrait at the March

A photo posted by The Inside Out Project (@insideoutproject) on


Media / Interviews πŸ’»πŸ”ŠπŸŽ¬πŸ—ž

TORAH BONTRAGER: S1Ep1: James Schwartz on Growing up Gay and Amish in America, Unconventional Schooling and Trump Politics  

S1Ep4: James Schwartz on the Burning Question Every Amish Person Faces and the Need for an Amish Underground Railroad  

iTunes link

Eris Magazine (2016 - 2017) 


#NoSochi Campaign 


With Miss LaDonna Divine, Lansing Pride 2014 



As a country boy in Kentucky, I’m acquainted with the Amish. Not well acquainted, but acquainted. I remember going with my grandfather to visit Amish farms and purchase produce during the summer months. I remember stopping by the stores to buy foodstuffs and other goods when passing through western Kentucky. Once, while en route to New York City, my parents decided it would be “fun” to take a detour through Pennsylvanian Amish country. The people were nice and provided tours, but I was young and, to this day, am not sure whether or not they were really Amish. I’ve often thought they were isolationists when it came to tourism but not commerce. Then, of course, there was the movie “Witness” that came out in the 80s, shedding a little more insight, albeit with questionable accuracy, into the Amish life. Perhaps one of my most vivid, but horrific memories with the Amish, was when my parents decided to venture into Indiana and purchase Amish furniture or woodwork or something. They drove around from town to town complaining that the stores were closed. Finally, my dad spotted an Amish family walking down the road and pulled up next to them. He rolled the window down and asked, “What in the hell is going on here? Why isn’t anything open?” One of them look horrified — and I was absolutely mortified as a teen experiencing father-induced embarrassment in the backseat. That’s when the lady said, “Today’s the Sabbath, sir.”
Of course. How could any of us forget?
Such is it when two cultures collide.  In hindsight, it seems like such a blatant faux pas. On the other hand, when I look back on all this, my whole Amish experience just seems wrong. It seems like a series of being on the outside looking in, as if a trip to Marion, Kentucky, was nothing more than a field trip to the zoo.
So, when James Schwartz sent me his collection of poetry about growing up gay and Amish, I had a feeling of angst and trepidation because of my own experiences. My fears were nearly solidified with the first poem, Answer to the Amish by John Updike:
Selling their wares to the tourist pack
Who gaze wonderingly upon the sect
As I moved forward, though, I found myself being put at ease with the other themes of faith, community, and exile, like in The Beginning:
I am but a child yet I know
What today I am to miss
And how far I have to go,
To find redemption at the border
Maybe it’s because of the Amish theme in the book, but reading lines like this struck up images of Christ entering the wilderness and self-exploration through exile.  Samuel, of course, is a blatant reference to Biblical Old Testament, complete with referenced scripture.  In Book of James, we’re told that “In life the lover begs only for bread. / His contentment found in relief and rhyme. / The role of the Muse is a role for the stage. / An epic arc of pathos and pure lust.”  There’s a hint here of desiring the basics, like “our daily bread,” that, in this case, feels unattainable.  Desire in itself should not be problematic since we are made in God’s image, at least the presumed take with the beautiful line “Human existence is not sacrilege.”

Perhaps its the connotation of reading poetry from a former Amish man (or is it once Amish always Amish, whether the community acknowledges you or not?) that conjures up these images and stirs the spiritual imagination, in which case my interpretations and impressions might be off base.  However, there’s also a sincere universality in the shared experience that shines through Schwartz’s poetry-in-exile.  True, homosexuality in and of itself can become a barrier between the communities and people we love.  Think of the gay Jamaicans, Russians, and Ugandans who are now “in exile.”  Of course, American readers of this blog needn’t travel that far.  There have been so many recent studies released lately that talk about the epidemic of homeless youth who have have been kicked out of their homes because of their sexual orientation.  However, Schwartz’s work is not just about being LGBT.  Some of his poems actually reminded me of post-colonial and ethnic lit I read way back in undergrad.
Take Something Forgotten (For Haiti).  When I read the lines “Inspiring a quaking folklore. / Something was forgotten” I felt the displacement Edwidge Danticat discusses in Breath, Eyes, Memory through Haitian-American storytelling.  Being Amish and being gay is unto itself a displacement, so there’s no wonder that, like in the previous poem, the narrator would consider entering the wilderness “to find redemption at the border,” outside an otherwise suffocating, to say the least, community, at least as it is tragically portrayed in the short story, “Gaymish.”  As with most survivors of “colonialism,” there’s the sense of being pulled in two different directions, although in Schwartz’ case it is a different experience since there’s a religious overtone, as in PUZZLES (PRIDE 2009 REMIX):
Through our carnage and through our calm,
I hear one voice in storm and Psalm.
At times cryptic and at others flamboyantly on-point, The Literary Party is a journey into what it means to attempt to assimilate in a new world.  “Today,” Schwartz writes in OUT & AMISH: an essay, “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, which is literally their entire world [emphasis mine].”
Think about that.  The average (whatever that is) American teen comes out and is disowned by his family.  Perhaps they live in homelessness, are taken in by another family member, or pick up with a supportive network that was already in place.  Assume this teen is Catholic, Pentecostal, or Baptist.  I don’t know a lot about every religion, but I know enough about some religions to know an individual could still, for all intents and purposes, attend a church of their choosing and, if it was important enough for them, “fly under the radar” or “blend in the with the crowd” while dealing with whatever guilt their faith might be peddling — or not.  Heck, they could be completely reconciled with it all and not care what other people say.  Religion, I’ve found, is a great deal of interpretation when you’re taking your cues from of religious text.  What choice, though, does an Amish teen have in such a cloistered community after being excommunicated?  It’s a total loss of “their entire world” that results in being “very tortured.”  Schwartz declares in Colors in Cabaret that “Hate is a serpent spawned by men, / Only slain by the poet’s pen.”  He does his slaying by putting his experiences in verse and giving voice to other LGBT Amish folks.  There is encouragement and new found liberation and sense of community outside the community that shines through in Last Night a Drag Queen Saved My Life and Formidable.  Perhaps none say it best as these vivid lines from Colors in Cabaret:
I danced a decade away,
With the queens of the cabaret,
Because they painted it,
Beautiful colors.
It seems fitting that through self journey the poet revisits his roots and dares to reinterpret what he has learned through “remixed” poems, such as one of my favorites, Samuel (Remix).  Through the shadow of the poem, the poet applies a different interpretation to 2 Samuel 1:26.  There’s also a hint of retelling Leviticus in the lines from Labor of Beast:  A Sonnet:
To sodomize, sonnetize foe or friend.
Breeding and brooding we take to our den.
In the final sections of the poem, entitled “Love” and “Home,” I feel like we see Schwartz’ homecoming through an acknowledgment of what, here, ultimately keeps us anchored:  Our roots.  It’s here that I found some of the most in depth writing.  The poems are clearly personal, but do not feel of stale, regurgitated biography.  The Ninth Garden is a sorrowful calling out for a deceased mother.  I do not know the personal story of strife, other than from what is alluded to in the poems, of what it meant for him to leave his community, but the are clear that it was not easy.  There is little insight as to what it meant to his mother (who may have already been deceased at this time).  The poem, though, serves as a beautiful elegy to her and a tribute to the struggling and strife of missing someone, yet another acknowledgment of that shadowy displacement each of us must someday face.  Grief is personal, but its story is relevant to all of us, and one that is woefully visited in The Pale City:  ”I left behind abandoned lovers, / They did not see me go, / I keep my silence still, / I have nothing left to show.”  The theme shows up again in Winter Hawk, which pays homage to winter while also serving as an elegy for Schwartz’s father:

Far from elegy,
speckled hawk soars the sea.
The winter sun as blinding,
As a father’s love is binding.

Here, there is no outside looking in because Schwartz is “one of us.  We know, or will someday know, what it means to lose something or someone close to us.  With The Literary Party, Schwartz us how common we all are and how we are all a part of this party called life.
  I thank him for sharing his life experience and reminding me of our universality through his beautiful, dizzying, blinding, laughing, and grieving poetry.



★★★★★ This book is amazing. The poetry is beautifully written, precise and to the point but full of vivid imagery so real you can touch it. I highly recommend this book. - AMAZON 

James Schwartz’s collection of poetry and short stories about being “gaymish” is emotional, compelling, sometime devastating but always accessible. - THE ADVOCATE 

Raw, sexual, emotional and above all else it's very relatable. - QUEER DIRTY LAUNDRY BLOG 

An authentic American voice, and that uniquely individual voice as well. - EDGE 

 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.
Favorite Contemporary Poet James Schwartz   

  I grew up in suburban Pennsylvania, and throughout my youth my parents would sometimes take me into Lancaster County for shopping. On long, windy roads next to farms and cornfields we’d pass horses and buggies. I’d ask my parents about the people who drove them. Why weren’t they in cars? Why did they dress so funny? What do you mean they don’t use electricity?

The beautiful thing about The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America is that it sheds light on the Amish experience in a way that is both deep and touching. The author, James Schwartz, was born gay in an Amish community, and struggled with his faith and sexuality. Most of his book is a compilation of poetry, but he also weaves some short stories throughout. Every passage—poetry or prose—tells a story about love, family, religion, or his unique life.

Back during my many trips to Lancaster, I never thought about how complex the Amish life could be, but Schwartz’s experience is eye-opening. He recounts his experimental gay childhood, and getting caught messing around with another Amish boy. He writes about going to nightclubs in his horse and buggy, and the feelings of rejection by his family and kin.

For someone who doesn’t normally read poetry books, I was touched by Schwartz’s collection. Not only is the poetry absorbing, but the content is unique and fascinating. If not for this book, how would I ever know about the experiences of the gay Amish? Schwartz has done a service to all the boys who are growing up in the same shoes as he, and I hope that he continues to write more about his unique life.