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by Richard Tayson

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-87338-614-0

paper 0-87338-615-9 Marilyn Hacker picked this debut for the press’s Wick Award—a collection by a New York poet she admires for his supposedly transgressive focus on things —corporeal—and for his passionate discussion of his homosexuality and his lover’s demise by AIDS. With Tayson’s attention to the etiology of disease and his autobiographical sex tales, the volume adds up to yet one more memoir from the history of an epidemic. The poet’s apparent self-loathing and his survivor’s guilt seem conventions within the genre, which he seldom transcends in these clear but formally uninspired verses. The best rely on indirection and deviate from the straight-forward AIDS narrative: —Phone Sex— splices the recordings heard on a sex line with memories of an affair with a married man and proclaims the poet’s unabashed lust (—I love all men’s cocks—); —Love as an Argument in Time and Loss— imagines ancient Greek lovers; and the seven-part —Sacraments,— with its clever variation on Psalm 23, mixes Christian imagery with personal memory and eroticizes the poet’s boyhood Christ. Elsewhere, Tayson remembers fearing God’s wrath (—The Gift—) and experiencing separation from both God and family (—First Sex—), only to find spiritual ecstasy in sex (—The Ascension—), especially in anal penetration (—Sacred Anus—). The many poems about his now-dead lover and the course of his illness pose an obvious challenge: to say anything negative would seem misanthropic and incorrect.