Bryan Borland of Sibling Rivalry Press has made a name for himself publishing LGBTQ poetry. I caught up with him for an interview.
J.B.: What sort of writers does your press cater to?
B.B.: As publisher, I'm interested in writers who have something to say that hasn't been said yet, or something to say that needs to be said again, only louder, and on the platform I can provide. I'm also interested in writers whose writing challenges the status quo or attempts to dismantle barriers, such as Paul Mariah, whose body of work we've just acquired permission to reprint. Paul was an advocate for both the gay and the incarcerated, and I couldn't be more excited to have access to his poetry.
J.B.: What do you think of the theme of "misery?"
B.B.: I've written poems when I've been miserable, and I've written poems when I've been happy. Misery, I think, produces quality work more easily. On the other hand, it's damn hard to write a good love poem.
J.B.: Is your press open to submissions from all?
B.B.: Absolutely. While we've attained some degree of success and validation through publishing LGBT-identified authors, we don't vet our authors on their sexual identities. If a poet or writer thinks he or she belongs in one of our journals, that's good enough for us, and at that point, the quality of the work is what becomes important. As for full-length collections, our Spring 2014 lineup, due in March, includes two lesbians, a heterosexual woman, and a heterosexual man. It wasn't those labels that influenced our selection of their work; it was their poetry.
J.B.: Poetry is admittedly a marginal endeavor. What made you go into it?
B.B.: Poetry saved my life. Ginsberg, who died the year I discovered him. And Gavin Dillard, who is still very much alive and annoying the establishment. His anthology "A Day for a Lay: A Century of Gay Poetry" reached into rural Arkansas and provided a lifeline. I used to steal poetry books from our small-town university library before I graduated high school. It's a voice. And lots of times, it's our voice, whoever we are. James Baldwin said, "You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive." That's what poetry did for me. And so that's what I wanted to do for other people.
J.B.: What best advice would you give to a struggling gay student?
B.B.: I won't quote poetry for this response. I'll quote a country song. "Have no fear; these are nowhere near the best years of your life" ("Letter to Me," Mr. Brad Paisley). Seriously. Hang on. You have no idea what's around the corner. The whole world is waiting on you.
J.B.: Short and simple sentence on politics?
B.B.: I'll quote a line from a new poem I wrote called "Adrienne Responds": "Listen, the personal is always political."
J.B.: What of the Southern man?
B.B.: I love the South. I'm reading for the first time – though I've seen the movie a dozen or so times – "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." And it makes me miss my maternal grandmother, a wonderful Southern woman who was full of life and humor and laughter. So what of the Southern man? I'll just say he should never forget the lessons taught by the best of our Southern women.
J.B.: Opinions on Foucault and other high-brow scholars?
B.B.: They're a voice. But so is the slam poet who performs every Saturday night, or the vet who's done three tours in Afghanistan, or the guy who wanted to be a writer and so he started a publishing company rather than wait on someone else to validate him. And it takes all kinds of voices. Have the courage to let your voice be heard, and the world will be a better place.
Jeremy Brunger is a senior in English. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.