Author and artist William Poe draws inspiration for his novels from his own upbringing. He grew up in the American heartland and joined the Unification Church of Reverend Sun Myung Moon at eighteen. He stayed there for nearly ten years, all the while struggling to reconcile his identity as a gay man with Moon's teachings. Poe eventually left the group and pushed back against the ideology he'd at first embraced and then rejected.
After recovering from drug addiction, Poe began to find peace and understanding in his art. He received his bachelor's degree in art from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and his master's degree in anthropology from the University of Nebraska. He worked at the National Museum of the American Indian (part of the Smithsonian Institution) as well as for several government agencies. Poe retired in 2018 and now focuses on writing, painting, and researching his family history.
Simple Simon (ISBN:978-1477624999) is the winner in LGBT Fiction category for the 2016 IndieReader Discovery Awards as well as a finalist in the Book of the Year Award 2013 in Fiction Gay & Lesbian (Adult Fiction) Clarion ForeWord Reviews. Simple Simon received 5 of 5 stars in each category from the judge in the 22nd Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
Poe's novel, Simon Says (ISBN:978-0615559575) is the winner of the 2013 International Book Awards in the category Fiction: Gay & Lesbian.
Poe is also the author of the acclaimed poetry collection Myths and Rhymes (ISBN: 1479233919). His latest publication is a collection of poems and short stories, Endings: Poetry and Prose (ISBN: 1516836936).
“An engrossing saga of a gay man dealing with the sins of a lurid past while moving assuredly into the future.”
– Kirkus Reviews
The eventful life of a troubled young gay man comes full circle in this third installment of a series.
The adventures of resilient protagonist Simon Powell continue in this novel, which charts his post-rehab existence after years of melodrama. He escaped a conservative upbringing and involvement with the Unification Church as a teenager, then intensive drug use with shady acquaintances in Southern California. Finally fed up with his string of bad luck coupled with years of poor life choices, Simon finishes a stint in rehab, then retreats to his birthplace of Sibley, Arkansas, and his family’s pre-Civil War timber mansion. Eager to recharge and reboot his life and start anew, he finds himself surrounded by ghosts of the past. Painful memories of his dead father’s judgmental criticism merge with childhood stories, all clouding Simon’s mind as he and his Los Angeles boyfriend, Thad (also fresh from a drug dependency program), begin moving into the mansion. As things progress and Simon settles into his new life with Thad, efforts are made to repair deep-rooted Southern familial ties previously severed by assumptions, misunderstandings, and anti-Christian lifestyle choices. A family reunion attended by Simon and his mother opens old wounds, but an offer to permanently remain at the mansion to resume marketing films and dabbling in his art endeavors takes him by surprise and seems like a solid plan. Eager to focus on his own work, Thad returns to LA to continue collaborating with an adult film producer, but Simon has reservations about his departure. As the lure of sinister influences begins to tempt Thad in California, Simon must deal with his mother’s failing health and, later, the sudden disappearance of his lover after some vengeful Spaniards from their past make their presence known. Poe (Endings, 2015, etc.) begins the story with flashbacks, sketching in the details of Simon’s checkered history. This narrative touch will familiarize uninitiated readers with the series and provide an appropriate amount of plot refreshing for loyal followers of Simon’s gritty, fraught journey. The author writes with more certainty and ease than he’s exhibited in previous volumes, though his impeccable sense of place remains solid throughout. The tale’s narrative moves from past to present seamlessly, laying out Simon’s situation candidly and without hesitation or overt exposition, which paves the way for plenty of melodrama and family tension. Though he’s come home to heal, there’s no denying that Simon’s problems have followed him to his hometown and still darken his days. This inability to resolve his issues may become wearisome to readers hoping that Simon will find some happiness after so many bleak periods of addiction. Alternately, for readers familiar with the series, Simon’s continual struggle with forgiveness, recovery, intimate relationships, and the momentum of his life is what gives Poe’s books their moxie.
An engrossing saga of a gay man dealing with the sins of a lurid past while moving assuredly into the future.
Page count: 287pp
Publisher: Time Tunnel Media
Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2019
A slim volume of largely gay-themed writings with pessimistic overtones.
Poe (Simple Simon, 2013, etc.) divides this collection of six short stories and 34 poems into five sections: “Art,” “Death,” “Relationship,” “Being,” and “Reflection.” Significantly, a figurative death at the age of 7 appears in two different poems, in which the author uses the phrase “a pretended life” to refer to the idea of hiding one’s true nature and performing socially enforced gender roles. This is a well-worn trope, but it will be powerful and resonant for many who have struggled with a stigmatized identity. In a similar vein, “Imaginary Tom” presents the remnants of a faded relationship: “Now we are imaginary friends, different in each other’s thoughts, / I the burden you seek to discard, / you the lover I created from the mist of longing.” Once in a while, short story passages practically leap off of the page, such as this evocative description of a seedy establishment in Lincoln, Nebraska: “It was a dimly lit bar that smelled of rodent piss, with barstools that danced on uneven legs and made the patrons wonder if they were drunker than they thought.” In “Valéry’s Ride,” Poe examines the familial duties that often fall to unmarried and childless people, keeping them from forming meaningful bonds with others. In this story, after the double whammy of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hits Louisiana, Valéry’s extended family needs him more than ever; readers will likely root for the gay protagonist as he makes the difficult decision to strike out on his own. Not all of Poe’s main characters are gay; the heterosexual title character in “Mrs. Calumet’s Workspace,” for instance, pursues employment in order to escape the confines of her home and a passionless marriage. Working as a bookkeeper, she attempts to carve out a space for herself, symbolized by changes in her work area. Still, this story echoes the recurring theme of lives unlived due to forces often beyond one’s control.
Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.
Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2015
Page count: 120pp
Review Posted Online: March 5, 2016
Growing up is tough on Poe’s (Simon Says, 2012) titular protagonist in this thoughtful, gritty tale.
Simon Powell grew up gay, smart and constantly searching for fulfillment in the rural South in the 1960s and ’70s. As the novel opens, Simon is writing down his personal story while staying at a rehab facility and trying to work through his problems—which are, as he would say, “legion.” The word “journey” is often overused, but it absolutely applies to Simon’s experiences, starting with his first sexual encounters with his best friend. Later, after high school, he fights to establish his own identity in a world full of new ideas, drugs and quasi-religions; soon, he comes under the influence of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon and his Unification Church members before an inevitable disillusionment. Simon’s search for himself leads him into esoteric areas of philosophy, music, art and drugs; along the way, his musings are peppered with big names, from musician Jimi Hendrix to artist Willem de Kooning to psychic Edgar Cayce. Later, in rehab, he engagingly fights both his addiction and his emotional detachment as his lover and mother look on. At times, the book dwells a bit too long on philosophical discussion, to the point where the characters seem like mere place holders to make conversational points. But even during these occasional narrative speed bumps, Simon remains an extremely compelling character, and readers will find themselves invested in Simon’s fate. He may be self-destructive, but he’s always trying to adhere to a moral compass—although one that’s been badly damaged by his life experiences. It’s an engaging story throughout, and it’s rarely obvious where Simon will wind up.
A sweeping, unpredictable fictional autobiography.
Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2013
Page count: 462pp
Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2013
After his father’s death, Simon Powell moves from sleepy Sibley, Ark., to Los Angeles, where he’s pulled into a seedy underworld.
When Simon Powell was 17, he left home to join the Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. He had never considered himself religious, but he hoped the church would help him repress his homosexuality and hide the fact that he was gay from his conservative family. Ultimately, Simon can’t deny who he is and so abandons the church after 10 years. He returns to Arkansas, but when his father dies, he moves to L.A. to reunite with old friends. Once there, he drinks heavily, goes out every night and picks up a cocaine habit. Simon’s friends come and go, many after screwing him over in some way, and his lovers are all interchangeable hustlers. The portrayal of a party boy’s surfeit of sex, drugs and money may be an accurate representation of the ’80s, but it doesn’t make it any more interesting. All of Simon’s relationships are with people who just want drugs or money from him. It’s difficult to become invested in any of the characters; they have no attachment to him and his attraction to them, romantic or otherwise, is equally superficial. He repeatedly makes the same bad decisions in his personal life, readily trusting people who will obviously take advantage of him. When he hits rock bottom after going on a crack binge with yet another young hustler, it’s not surprising or upsetting. One of the most interesting aspects of Simon’s story, his membership in the Unification Church, is not explored enough. He summarizes his time there, but provides disappointingly few memories or specific details.
For a novel so filled with debauchery, it could use a few more real thrills.
Pub Date: May 18, 2012
Page count: 348pp
Publisher: Simon Says
Review Posted Online: June 26, 2012
Gore Vidal, John Steinbeck, John Rechy, Edna Ferber
East of Eden
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
SIMPLE SIMON: IndieReader Discovery Awards - LGBT Category, 2016
SIMON'S MANSION: Semifinalist - Publisher's Weekly BookLife Fiction Prize 2019, 2019
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