Poets Resist: Christopher Gudgeon

April 10, 2017

As a screenwriter, essayist, biographer, and poet, Christopher Gudgeon writes poetry that pulls at you. Today's poem, "Future Tops of America" (from his latest collection  Assdeep in Wonder from Anvil Press), paints a near-wholesome picture of a future where those in the LGBTQ+ community are embraced in America like baseball and fireworks are, defiant to present-day homophobia. March on with "Future Tops" and our interview with Christopher, below.

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This year we feel everyone could see a little more solidarity and community, so we're getting poetically political with Poets Resist, a series dedicated to poetry as a form of resistance. Every day on the blog we will feature a poet whose work explores one of these topics: colonialism and violence, homophobia and transphobia, environmental destruction, and/or the !@#$% patriarchy. 

 

As a screenwriter, essayist, biographer, and poet, Christopher Gudgeon writes poetry that pulls at you. Today's poem, "Future Tops of America" (from his latest collection  Assdeep in Wonder from Anvil Press), paints a near-wholesome picture of a future where those in the LGBTQ+ community are embraced in America like baseball and fireworks are, defiant to present-day homophobia. March on with "Future Tops" and our interview with Christopher, below.

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ALU: What are some books that inspired or informed Assdeep in Wonder?

CG: Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass (especially “Song of Myself”), Alan Ginsberg’s “Wichita Vortex Sutra”, and to a lesser degree “Howl” (Ginsberg wrote a whole lotta shit, so none of his books are really worth reading in their entirety), a lot of Spanish love poetry (especially Neruda and Paz), Shakespeare’s gayer sonnets, James Baldwin’s Jimmy’s Blues, the Bhāgavata, Phillip Larkin’s collected works, and, of course a whack of Canadian old-school Canadians (Purdy, Acorn, Pat Lane, bpNichol, Ondaatje, etc.) and lesser-known (at least here at home) poets like Christian Bok and Anne Carson (especially, “Beauty of the Husband”) – plus a passel of contemporary queer-friendly poets (esp. great young Canadians like Ben Ladouceur, Vivek Shraya, Billeh Nickerson, Daniel Zomparelli, Vincent Pagè). And – oh yea – a shitload of Ted Hughes . . . and everything by Paul Celan (including “Todesfuge”, over and over again).

 

ALU: If you were protesting homophobia and/or transphobia, what would your protest sign read?

CG: Love Thy LBGTQ Neighbour! (I should explain. In my capacity as Executive Director of It Gets Better Canada, I recently raised a fuss after Calgary’s newly appointed Catholic bishop William McGrattan called the transgender experience “theory…not truth” and accused gay-straight alliances of promoting “a certain lifestyle.” My point was that McGrattan and other religious leaders across the country need to understand that these kinds of comments hurt LGBTQ+ kids, making them feel more isolated and putting them at greater risk for depression and suicide. It’s not a question of being able to express your faith; it’s a question of being a responsible citizen. Suicides rates for LGBTQ+ youth across Canada are seven times higher than those of their straight peers. I would hope that in the age of Donald Trump and the open season on transgender rights in the U.S., the McGrattons of this country would choose their words more carefully. If people like him want to be helpful – dare I say, “Christian” – they should put out clear messages of support and acceptance. This is my personal protest sign, specially made for you, Bishop McGrattan.)

 

ALU: Why did you write this collection?

CG: Honestly? I had a few poems and I felt like writing a few more. To me, poems are a very intimate form of expression, so in this collection I really tried to peel back the layers and be as raw as possible. But beyond the fact that my ADHD mind got very focused on reading and writing poetry for a year or two, there’s not a lot of intent behind the collection. Eventually, I had four clumps of poems – kinda gay poems, ranging from political expressions to very personal love poems; a suite of CanLit tributes called Conversations with the Dead; intense, personal experience/love poems; and these weird rambling almost-spoken-word visionary poems like the “Revelations of Donald Trump” and “Canadian Tourister,” that encompassed most of the other themes in the book but took them to the Nth and most non-linear degree. Ultimately, I realized I had enough good poems to fill the requisite number of book pages . . . plus a great-looking cover by Mark Uhre, which is always a plus.

 

ALU: What does poetry as resistance mean to you? 

CG: The creation of poetry is a process and that’s what engages me as a writer. Ideally, I can submerge myself in a piece while I’m working on it, get lost in it, obsess about it. For a time, this process, when it’s really happening, infuses my life with meaning. So, I’m always less concerned about the product produced – the book, the poem, the short story – then by the process itself. To answer your question, then, genuine poetry of resistance can only come from a genuine life of resistance, a life that questions the underlying assumptions we all carry – personal, political, emotional, artistic, sexual – challenging ourselves as much as we might challenge a politician or public figure. If you are brave and brutally honest with yourself – give yourself over to the process – you will produce brave and brutally honest poetry. That is all the resistance you need.

 

ALU: Why "Future Tops of America"?

CG: "Future Tops" is probably the most overtly political piece I’ve ever written. It’s both a tribute to men and women – and children – who have been killed in homophobic attacks in America AND a cautionary song for those of us still marching and all those LGBTQ soldiers yet to come. We’ve won a lot of ground in the last thirty years, but don’t kid yourselves; there are organized and sustained efforts out there waiting to undermine these advances. Homophobia, like racism, is stitched into the fabric of America; it doesn’t go away just because Ellen has a talk show. The fact that we are accepted by mainstream culture is in itself a defeat – or at least, a battle yet to be won. Acceptance is a kind of tolerance, and not only is tolerance a manifestation of power imbalance, it’s also nothing more than intolerance dressed up in its Sunday best. The day we are completely ignored – that’s when we’ll have arrived. Till then: march on, brothers and sisters, but be very, very careful.

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Chris Gudgeon -- pierce photo -- feb 2017_sm

Chris Gudgeon is an author and poet and screenwriter. He's contributed to dozens of periodicals, including Playboy, MAD, National Lampoon, Geist, Event, and Malahat Review. He's written seventeen books, from critically acclaimed fiction like Song of Kosovo and Greetings from the Vodka Sea to celebrated biographies of Stan Rogers and Milton Acorn, to a range of popular history on subjects as varied as sex, sexuality, fishing, and lotteries. Gudgeon has more than 150 professional TV and film credits including creating, writing, and producing Gemini-award-winning series Ghost Trackers and the documentary, The Trick with the Gun. In his varied and spotty career, Gudgeon has worked a variety of jobs across Canada, the United States, and Europe including psychiatric orderly, rent boy, bartender, rock musician, rodeo clown, TV weatherman, and youth outreach worker Gudgeon, who is bisexual, has been in an open relationship with author/self-help guru Jasper Vander Voorde since 2009. He lives in Los Angeles and British Columbia.

 

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Buy  Assdeep in Wonder or any of our other  featured poetry month collections and get your own Poets Resist pack of a patch and buttons to wear to your next protest. And if you need some more resistance poetry inspiration,  check out our poetry bot!

Keep up with us all month on   Twitter,   Instagram, and   Facebook with the hashtag #poetsresist.


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