Featured Poet: Gabrielle Grace Hogan
Forget cuffing season: for issue 10's featured poem, love becomes an embodied dance, feinting deftly between loneliness and a desire for more. Join us as we talk to Gabrielle Grace Hogan about Love Poem With Piss In It, the excavation of identity through language, and why every poem is a love poem.
Jacqueline Boucher: “Love Poem With Piss In It” is remarkable for the way it folds and unfolds syntactically. It seems to reflect the moments where the speaker nudges toward saying something blisteringly sincere, only to pivot away with a clever turn of phrase or glib remark. Can you speak to the way you approached language in the piece?
Gabrielle Grace Hogan: Firstly, thank you for such kind words about the poem. Often in my poems, whether consciously or subconsciously I’ve yet to determine, my sincerity ebbs and flows. I prefer to imbue the speaker with a pendulum of vulnerability—she will reveal some, but not all of herself, but in what she hides she reveals more than she thinks. It reminds me of a trick my professor Joanna Klink taught us—you put something in a poem just to take it away, so that its absence is felt that much more powerfully. The speaker is intent on keeping the reader at a distance, making a joke for levity’s sake, but the damage is done, the heart has been opened, and it can’t be shut. She doesn’t know that, but the reader does, and her futile efforts to close that portal reveal more about her and the themes of the poems than if she just said what she felt.
JB: Every poet has a unique relationship to the love poem, both as readers and as writers. What is your relationship to love poetry as a writer? What draws you to (or repels you from) a love poem as a reader?
GGH: I’m interested in excavating my lesbian identity in virtually all my writing, and therefore romance and sex become necessary characters to involve. I think the love poem can get a
bad rap, as cheesy or corny or sappy, whether it’s happy or sad. But in reality, every poem is a love poem—why write about anything if it doesn’t evoke a strong reaction in us? In terms of why I personally gravitate to the traditional love poem—one of romantic love—again, it has to do with me discovering my personal relationship to love as a queer person, a lesbian specifically, and how that inevitably colors the experience of love because it becomes so ingrained with a concept of identity and society’s reception/perception of that identity. Romantic love can tell us, too, so much about ourselves—who we think we are, who we actually are, who we want to be. When we are in love with another person to the point that we must write about it, we are writing it because we have something to discover in ourselves, in the way we love. I believe that the love poem is a coin—one side is the beloved, and the other is the poet.
JB: Which poets or writers working today have leveled you with their depictions of queer love?
GGH: I mean, the name must be on everyone’s mind—Richard Siken’s Crush is a revelation. I was surprised by and fell in love with, though, Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem—the collection’s queer love poems are so startlingly vivid and beautiful. Another favorite is Marilyn Hacker’s Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons—a 200-page novel-in-verse, it’s gorgeous and crushing and everything you could ask for.
JB: What are you reading right now that excites you?
GGH: I’m currently working on a (hopefully) book-length lyric essay that deals with questions of lesbian desire, the performativity of desire and sex, the way sex is a microcosm for society, and of course my own personal narrative woven throughout. So my reading focus has been trying to veer towards books that will help me on that track. I just finished Melissa Febos’ Abandon Me, the majority of which I read in two plane rides, and before that spent a lovely time with Eileen Myles’ Chelsea Girls. I did the Sealey Challenge for the first time this August so I’ll speed-run my favorites by you: Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Diane Seuss’ frank: sonnets, Matt Rasmussen’s Black Aperture, and June Jordan’s Kissing God Goodbye.
JB: What’s your favorite bone?
GGH: My favorite bone is the claw of a blue crab I have on my windowsill that I found while hiking the Barton Creek Greenbelt here in Austin. Are crab claws considered bones? If not, then “Ribs” by Lorde.