Black Fag: By Shane Allison, 25 pgs. By Sean Carswell

Jun 05, 2007

          As you may have guess by the title, Shane Allison is a gay black dude. He’s a bit like Allen Ginsberg in the sense that both of them write poems that carry a sexually confrontational attitude. Stylistically, Allison is a little more direct than Ginsberg. He gets right into his narrative poems about sniffing underpants, having sex with anonymous men, being a little boy and exposing himself to another little boy, and giving blow jobs. In fact, he writes a lot about “sucking dick.” You get the feeling that it’s kind of a hobby for him. He even writes a poem about how much he’d like to suck his own dick. He’s really put a lot of thought into it (he wonders, “If my dick tastes like chicken or steak”). Allison’s raunchiness, though, goes beyond ordinary shock value and comes across as a well-developed aesthetic. As he says in the poem “If I Were an Editor of a Literary Magazine,” “make it stank and rank.” Beyond the stank and rank, Allison has an openness that’s all too rare. As James Baldwin once wrote, “If we did not understand what was happening to men and women who shared all the horrors but none of the privileges of our civilization, then we did not know what was happening to ourselves.” When Allison writes about getting herpes from sucking a guy’s dick in a state park, he dangles the horrors of his life out there like a raw nerve. When he lists all the things he could never tell his mother, he’s more forthright with his readers than most people are with their best friends. And even if you’re not black or gay, understanding Allison’s life will give you a little insight into your own. –Sean (Future Tense, PO Box 42416, Portland, OR 97242)