Randall Mann won the 2003 Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry, no small feat, for his first book, Complaint in the Garden (book jacket, left). In an interview with the review, he talks about growing up gay in Florida, inspiration for poems like Rain. Here's an excerpt from that interview:
Kenyon Review: Let’s talk about another poem, Eros, set in a sex club. One might find the homoeroticism shocking. How much is shock value part of your poetry?
Randall Mann: I have no use for shock value. Eros is not really about the act of sex, which I do not in fact discuss in detail in the poem, but about the longing for it, the actual and emotional currency of sex in this context, the accessories of sex. Sex is almost an afterthought.
KR: Have you ever found it uncomfortable publishing such sexually charged, personal poems? Do you consider what it means to put them out to the general public? Have you been concerned what your family might think?
RM: I hope never to be America’s feel-good gay spokes-poet, and I think this line of questioning is code for “gay shame,” which I don’t feel too terribly much of. I have written my scandalous little poems and placed them in good magazines; I was fortunate enough to win a prize. And when I sent Complaint in the Garden to my parents, my mother phoned me and very sweetly said, “Well, there are some things about you which I may not have needed to know, just as there some things about me that you don’t need to know.” And then she told me how much she liked the poems about birds and the plants.
[Photo: MIPOesias Magazine]