“What Other Choice” poignant and frank
In the wake of last year’s Prop. 8 ruling and last month’s suicides by gay teens, Jeremy Halinen’s debut book of poetry, What Other Choice, offers an unflinching resolve to be true to one’s sexuality, but a resolve that still finds tenderness within the brutality of a world hardened against homosexuality.
Halinen was the winner of the 2010 First Book Poetry Contest put on by the nonprofit press Exquisite Disarray, run in part by English professor Bill Kupinse. Poets from all over the state of Washington were invited to submit manuscripts for a chance to have their poems published, provided they did not have a book published.
With titles such as “A Brief History of Heavy Petting” and “Some Nights Even God is Agnostic,” Halinen’s poems lay bare the shame, the joy, the grief, the shocking frankness of gay sex and other experiences of being a gay man, but more importantly, he lays bare the humanity of just being oneself, no matter the cost.
At the Monday, Nov. 15 book release of What Other Choice, held at the downtown branch of the Tacoma Public Library, Halinen read a selection of his poems. He began his reading with a preface of how the poems in his book came into existence.
“It is no small feat to come of age in America as a person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender,” Halinen said.
“To live that long, into one’s twenties, is no small feat – and that is because some people who have no respect for human life and dignity have worked hard to make us scapegoats, to make us objects of ridicule and scorn, to portray our bodies, our loves, our very existence as aberrant and abhorrent.”
Upcoming readings of his book include the King’s Books’ poetry marathon on Nov. 20 in Tacoma at King’s Books and at the arts collective whizARTbang! in Seattle at 8:15 p.m. on Dec. 4, held at the Satori Loft at 619 Western Ave. (RSVP email@example.com to attend.)
What Other Choice by Jeremy Halinen is, in his own words, “a testament to survival.”