This spring both James Allen Hall and Aaron Smith published new poetry books. James Allen Hall’s Romantic Comedy (Four Way Books, chosen by Diane Seuss for the Levis Prize) is an ingenious look at the erasure of queerness in film. He writes “Is it any wonder / I have failed to imagine my life won’t end / in autopsy?’” Then Hall goes and offers such redemption from the violent world. Hall’s poems chronicle sexual assault and his father’s death with the attention and passion of the Romantic poets. Aaron Smith’s Stop Lying (University of Pittsburgh Press) is a stunning series of complicated elegies for his mother and a celebration of life, his gay life, in particular. The “lying” to ourselves and each other becomes a rich metaphor throughout the book—lying to ourselves through humor, lying to another to protect them, the mini-lies we tell in poems to make a narrative move along. From the heartbreaking title poem:…. Is this a dream, or am I really dying? She asked/my father for a kiss, said: tell me the truth, stop lying.
You can hear this dynamic duo, along with Diane Seuss, read here in the Wild and Precious Life Reading Series hosted by Dustin Brookshire.