Marvin K. White, author of last rights (finalist for Stonewall Book Award and Lambda Literary Award), nothin’ ugly fly (finalist for Lambda Literary Award), Our Name Be Witness and Status, is a poet, performer, playwright, visual artist and community arts organizer. His poetry has been anthologized in The Road Before Us: 100 Black Gay Poets; My Brothers Keeper; Gents, Bad Boys and Barbarians: New Gay Writing; Things Shaped in Passing; Sojourner: Writing in the Age of AIDS; Bum Rush the Page; Role Call; and Think Again, as well as other local and national publications. He is the co-editor of If We Have to Take Tomorrow: HIV, Black Men & Same Sex Desire. An ex-member of the critically acclaimed Pomo Afro Homos, he has led creative arts and writing workshops for a range of audiences, from youth centers for runaway kids to black gay support groups to literary conferences and social justice organizations. White was co-founder of B/GLAM (Black Gay Letters and Arts Movement), a Bay Area, California, organization whose goal was to preserve, present and incubate black gay artistic expressions He currently holds a fellowship in the national African-American poetry organization, Cave Canem; and sits on the board of Fire & Ink, a national black LGBT writers organization. In community, Marvin K. White is articulating a vision of social and creative justice through being a deacon, homemaker, cake baker, Facebook statustician, activist and office manager.
Your Facebook updates are poetry. And that’s not hyperbole, you literally turned them into a book of poems-Status. Can you talk about how that book happened and about your relationship to technology-Facebook and otherwise.
I have always been attracted to emergent and burgeoning poetic forms, particularly those found not in Norton’s Anthology but at the fingertips of everyday language users. I thought a lot about what the Facebook Status poetic form is. The guiding questions for me when writing for Facebook are, “What is the quick? What is the cut? The pith? How do you use the limitation of characters and space as well as the economy of language to address things in memory as well as things topical? How do you tell a whole story that can be both silly and poignant? How do you stay a writer in a medium that is not considered a “medium?” My Facebook work is about finding a way through the bits and bytes so that an authentic poem, recipe, query, joke, dream, wives’ tale, advice or observation can shine through.
What are your thoughts on how sexuality, race and gender intersect, specifically as it relates to queerness in the African Diaspora?
Recently, I worked in collaboration with dancers and they spoke of movement in terms of “gestures” and getting out of those gestures as the “resolve.” Maybe sexuality, race and gender are gestures and depending on the day, the mood, the socio/political climate, my sex drive, my longing, my creativity, my god or my economic state get “resolved” differently in different moments? I enjoy the varied ways that these thing play out when information and cultural inputs are added.
What’s your vision of the black future? From an artistic, social and cultural standpoint?
The future is black. One day everything will be absorbed into it and we will be there saying, “See, I told you.” Black folks have always been futuristic, sending forth prayers and dreams and protections ahead in the face of enslavement, oppressive legal and social systems and seemingly unsympathetic gods. My job as a writer is to tap into what they sent ahead for me. Writing is there.
What are you working on now and how does your work tie into your views on culture, community, sexuality and identity?
I am editing a new manuscript of poems and thinking about a new collection of writings inspired by Facebook statuses. I am also looking for more multi-discipline collaborations, putting a tour together, maybe start a band, sell more books and cupcakes and write until something makes sense.