Louie Crew’s Comments
I have written much of my prose to demystify sexuality, especially as the founder of Integrity, the organization of lesbigay Anglicans, and long-time member of the governing board of the Episcopal Church. I have written much of my poetry to get back in touch with the mystery, freed from bigoted stigmas.
Nursery rhymes are part of the heritage of children in every culture. When I taught in Beijing and Hong Kong, I learned much when I asked students to analyze nursery rhymes, especially as they often preserve parts of the culture that otherwise we would not know or talk about. In the West most of us have never seen a farmer’s wife chase rats with a carving knife, but she would have been a ready folk hero for children for centuries.
My Chinese students shared numerous rhymes written for small children (often only five and six years old) already married to help their family’s economy. Some of those rhymes prepared the girls not to be devastated by their new mother-in-law and her demands on them.
I feel it’s about time for lesbians and gays to have our own nursery rhymes, and with my attempts, I parody familiar rhymes of the West to reveal some of the more poignant specifics of LBGT life.
I have been privileged to teach and live out of my culture for much of my life. In “Paradise in the Hood” I try to explore the only “paradise” we offer many of our bright neighborsthe illusion of paradise which drugs offer.
I wrote “At the 25-cent Movies” (1976) and “Calling All Epic Seers” (1980) as appeals to come out of the traps of anonymity, whether the anonymity of a drunken stupor to allow oneself to be sexually active, or the closet of pretending to be straight to have one’s work noticed and valued. I remember speaking at a panel of the Modern Language Association in 1976 on the work of Christopher Isherwood. I was relatively new to MLA panels; others on the panel were seasoned scholars reading very safe papers on Isherwood’s gay fiction. I spoke as openly gay and made a lavender pants suit for the occasion, intent on being as tacky and outrageous as I could be. In my talk I praised Isherwood for his boldness at an earlier time to be honest with the details of our lives.
My colleagues almost visibly edged farther away from me. But to the surprise of many, Isherwood was in our audience, and stood up in the Q&A to say how much he appreciated the gay guy in lavender. “You keep writers honest.”
It turned out all the others on the panel were gay too and trying hard to speak on a gay writer without letting anyone know, as they did not want to jeopardize their positions back home.
Most on that panel never wrote from the closet again, but blessed us with many honest insights of the decades. That’s what I rather grandiosely hope to effect in “Calling All Epic Seers.”