The truth is I’m not sure how queer lineage functions directly in my work. Sure, I can speak of direct or indirect influence upon my poetry by those persons who, today, we’d call queer: Wilde’s strident, if exaggerated, flamboyance sat next to Whitman’s bawdiness; the careful attention to sound and community as seen in Hughes; Woolf’s experiments with narrative; Ma Rainey’s confidence with voice; Frank Bidart’s deep, if painful introspection come up to Carl Phillips’s ever-restless moral and sexual contemplation; Hayden’s polyphony; Baldwin’s prophecy, Lorde’s correction, Dixon’s refusal—the list could go on forever. But when I think directly of an idea of “queer lineage,” my mind immediately considers no such thing can exist. Is that right? If everything I’ve come to know about queerness bears truth—that it’s function is to destabilize, if not oppose, normative discourses, or the idea of the straight line—how can anything as legible as “queer lineage” stand trial? Maybe I’m overthinking the notion. I know as I consider queer strategies, as I consider what we today call queer literatures (literatures of the invert, pervert, gothic, abnormal, fugitive, etc), I find myself in welcomed company. I find in my work the insistence on disclosure, on uncloseting, and troubling the line. I find not a dismissal of, but a given attention to, all those “dark processes” of the body—sexual, erotic, abject, dirty, bloody. Mostly, I find myself wanting to celebrate that which has been coded, under a prescription of decency, obscene: the black, the femme, the penetrated, the sick, the irreverent. Now that I consider it, I know all those people I before named and still more I haven’t, on some level, share these same interests, these same tactics, this same way of screaming out our survival. I can’t say if this effort produces a discernible lineage, but certainly what it makes available to me is a language I might find—if all too briefly, because happily it’s always moving—a home in.
But maybe the trouble with queer, the promise of it, is that it means to break the home.
The Making of the Complete Lover