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"Bradley and Matthew," Benjamin Fredrickson (2015), courtesy Daniel Cooney Fine Art



Visual AIDS was a beneficiary of this year's Folsom Street East. As part of the fair's events, Visual AIDS artist member Benjamin Fredrickson took Polaroid portraits at a pop-up studio during the festivities. Ben selected some of his favorite images from the pop-up studio to share here as a slideshow on the Visual AIDS website.

Fredrickson's Polaroids have been recently exhibited at the Museum of Art and Design, and his debut solo exhibition at Daniel Cooney Fine Art was reviewed widely, including by The New Yorker.

Folsom Street East is the largest fetish block party on the East Coast; this year's theme was "The New York You Were Warned About." This year's fair directly benefited two NYC-based nonprofit organizations: the New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) and Visual AIDS.

"I'm Not Moving," Chloe Dzubilo

Visual AIDS is thrilled about Aging Fiercely While Trans, an upcoming event with Kate Bornstein, Sheila Cunningham, Miss Major and Jay Toole, moderated by Reina Gossett and co-presented with the New York Trans Oral History Project. In anticipation of the program, Ted Kerr, one of the show coordinators, frames his ideas that inspired the program.

Aging Fiercely While Trans takes place on Saturday, July 11, at Streetwise and Safe on the fourth floor of the Miss Major & Jay Toole Building at 147 West 24th Street. Presentations and community discussion from 2 to 4 p.m.; intergenerational reception from 4 to 5 p.m.

Stories about trans people often focus on young trans people and tragic death, or young trans people and amazing achievements. These stories are important and too few people hear them. At the same time I know there are other stories out there. As a cis person in community with trans and gender queer people, I want to hear them. I am curious about everyday experiences and about older folks. I am a big believer that our power and struggle lies in the mundane, in our everydayness. How do you get out the door in the morning? Do you get out of the door in the morning? These are big questions.

These thoughts started coming to me around the time I was working at Visual AIDS, specifically on the publication DUETS: Che Gossett & Alice O'Malley in Conversation on Chloe Dzubilo about the art and activism and life and legacy of Chloe Dzubilo. I helped them with their conversation, urging them on, sometimes providing prompts. I wanted to know more about Chloe's everyday life. Even though Chloe may seem--and in many ways was--a larger-than-life figure, she was also a woman who had pain, dreams, strategies and hunger. I think in many ways her drawings are about her everyday life, the thoughts in her head that she had to get out and share with the world. If I am remembering correctly, the majority of the drawings she left the world were done in a short amount of time. At other moments in her life Chloe expressed herself through music, design, facilitating or friendships. But when she was in a lot of pain, spending time in bed, she took up the pen. It was a generous gesture that now generations of people can view.

I am not alone in finding power in the mundane. Alice and Che are proof of that, as is Aging Fiercely While Trans moderator Reina Gossett, through her work and amazing tumblr, The Spirit Was, and the ongoing work for Visual AIDS, the Philly Trans Oral History Project, the New York Trans Oral History project and the work of other individuals and organizations. It seems like whole disciplines are also leaning in this director. Many within Archive Studies, History, Linguistics, and Oral History have left behind the Great Man or Great Moment model of making sense of the world and have instead begun to take "a people's" approach that values the quotidian. They lead us to ask what factors had to be in place for an uprising to occur? What ideas were floating around in the community that made a positive reception of some speeches possible over others?

There is so much value in the tinniest of details. Growing up I had a thumbnail sketch idea of HIV and the early response in the United States. I had some understanding of what went into pulling off the St. Patrick's Cathedral action, or the amazing community support that made Treatment Action Campaign's "HIV Positive" T-shirt campaign a breakthrough in South Africa. But in the last few years, smaller moments will stay with me. I am not alone. Many friends say the most vivid scene in Sarah Schulman's Gentrification of the Mind is the image of the Playbills being left on the corner and how she understood that a person living with HIV had most likely just died and their stuff had been tossed away. The Chloe story I hear most repeated is how she used lipstick to cover up her KS legions when going on stage. These stories remind us that behind labels like "HIV positive" or "trans" are real people, living real lives, in real time.

I think small details also attempt to chip away at the idea that we need heroes--or even role models. What I think we need is each other, and an opportunity to witness how we all get by. A friend recently joked that my life is their practice run. It's funny, but isn't it true of all of us? We learn how to be in this world from watching each other, be it through the media or closer contact. This is a historic moment for trans visibility, but if we have learned anything from the gay movement it is that visibility will not always align with life-saving wins for those most at risk. Hope is not enough. We need each other. We need tangible strategies from a variety of perspectives for getting out the door, day after day. And we need to hear how we can help each other, be it through sisterhood, brotherhood, kinshiphood, allyship or other.

One way we can continue this work of learning from each other is by hearing from trans folks who have been around longer than we have, who have lived more life than we have, and who have stories big and small that, if not helpful to us get out the door, might help us at least get out of bed.

This Saturday, July 11, when you listen to the stories, don't be afraid to revel in the mundane, or ask questions about the tiniest of things. Sometimes it is the tiniest of spots we focus on in front of us that helps us get through the worst moments.

Theodore Kerr is a Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based writer and organizer. He was the programs manager at Visual AIDS and is currently doing his graduate work at Union Theological Seminary.

"Finding Barry," Mark Bradford (2015). ©Mark Bradford. Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth. Photo by Joshua White. Numbers represent the estimated adults and adolescents diagnosed with AIDS (per 100,000) in each U.S. state in 2009.


Mark Bradford's exhibition Scorched Earth at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles in part considers the immediacy and history of the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic through the language of abstraction. Bradford's large-scale excavated wall painting, "Finding Barry" (above), is a map of the United States that includes numbers representing the estimated adults and adolescents diagnosed with AIDS (per 100,000) in each U.S. state in 2009. The exhibition also includes a suite of abstract paintings based on AIDS cells under a microscope. Below, Visual AIDS interviews Bradford about the exhibition and his relationship to the 1980/'90s moment when AIDS ravaged multiple communities, including those in Bradford's hometown of Los Angeles.



Can you describe the process for creating "Finding Barry"? In what ways does the representation speak to the "power of information, the urgency of activism, and the danger of forgetting cultural trauma" as articulated in the exhibition's wall labels? And why 2009?
I have always loved maps, and "Finding Barry" was created by excavating into the Hammer project wall to reveal what was underneath, all the projects which came before. The work touches on all the subjects you mention. It also comes out of my thinking about the recent hysteria about the Ebola virus and how familiar that felt to some of the hysteria around AIDS in the 1980s. 2009 was the year of the statistics I found.

Many of the paintings included in the exhibition are based on abstracted representations of AIDS cells as seen under microscopes. How does this process, which you describe as "social abstraction," allow you to both speak to particular social or political contexts while also transcending them? And why were you drawn to AIDS cells in particular?
I like the idea of biology being a map, and in thinking about this show I was looking at cells being infected by the HIV virus. For me that has a lot of social references I find fascinating. The show isn't just about AIDS. It's about the body and how the body and health can be political. AIDS and Ebola somehow in a social context become much more than just biology. That transformation fascinates me.

The thought-provoking reader that accompanies the exhibition features republications of seminal texts from writers and cultural critics including Douglas Crimp, Marlon Riggs and José Esteban Muñoz. How does including these perspectives provide a context from which your work is created and broaden reference points for understandings of your practice?
All of those works talk about some of the same issues I am pointing to in the Hammer show. They just provide a broader context. They are all also writers and ideas I admire.

The Scorched Earth reader also features a compelling section in which images of AIDS activism during the 1980s are paired with more recent images from the Ebola outbreak. Can you touch on the thought process behind this arrangement?
The discussions, debates and news coverage around the Ebola virus felt so familiar to me, right down to the idea of banning flights from Africa!

How did/does the cultural impact of the HIV seroconversion of prominent cultural icons such as Eazy E and Magic Johnson play a role in discussions and tropes of masuclinity and race that you tease out in your performative works such as "Spiderman"?
"Spiderman" came right out of those discussions. I wanted to take a familiar idea and turn it inside out. It's just another way of dealing with the same issues but from a totally different perspective. It was so much fun to create that piece and to take that character through so many of the crazy ideas we have as a society. The piece is all about how AIDS and HIV had different meanings depending on who had it. Those social differences fascinate me.

In what ways does your newly co-founded organization Art + Practice in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, which "creates an educational platform that supports the acquisition of practical skills for foster youth and stresses the cultural importance of art within a larger social context," relate to the more abstract ways that larger social contexts are embedded in your art-making practice?
To me it's all about social context. Both in the studio and with Art + Practice, I am always interested in the same ideas of how to engage and shift the discussion.


Mark Bradford was born in 1961 in Los Angeles, California, where he lives and works. In 1997 Bradford graduated with a bachelor of fine arts degrees and master of fine arts degree from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. In 2015, Bradford was presented with the National Medal of the Arts. Earlier this year he was elected as a national academician by the National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts in New York. He is also a recipient of The McArthur Fellowship (2009); the Wexner Center Residency Award (2009) and the Bucksbaum Award, granted by the Whitney Museum of American Art (2006).

Still from Neil Goldberg's "She's a Talker"

Neil Goldberg's short film "She's a Talker" was not made for the internet. And yet for a huge swath of folks, that was where they found it and fell in love. As per Goldberg's wishes, the work has all but disappeared from the ether, only solidifying the film's fanbase IRL.

Made in 1993, the minute-and-a-half work features 80 men from across New York City petting their cats, saying, "She's a talker." Like much of Goldberg's work, the film is tender and gains power through repetition, giving viewers the space and time to consider what is going on beyond the obvious. Then what is obvious changes.

For Dirty Looks: On Location 2015 Goldberg has granted permission for "She's a Talker" to be screened once. Curators Theodore Kerr and Carl Williamson with Dirty Looks' Bradford Nordeen have partnered with JD Samson to show "She's a Talker"at the Rusty Knot on Sunday, July 5, at 7 p.m. as part of Scissor Sundays. J. Morrisson will be on hand with his Homo Cats collection, and folks are encouraged to come in their favorite cat attire.

In the conversation below, Goldberg speaks with Kerr about the making of the film, the role of silence in his work, how "She's a Talker" got on the internet in the first place, and why he would prefer to stay off--for now.

Why did you make "She's a Talker"?
I was combing my roommate's cat and found myself saying, "She's a talker," and then wondered how many gay guys in the city at that very moment might be doing the same thing. I often find myself thinking about simultaneous hypothetical situations. That was the initial impetus; however, I feel like the decision to follow through with it as a video piece had to do with being situated in a context in which gay men around me were constantly disappearing. This was not something I understood right away. As is true with many things, motivation is better understood retrospectively. I think the connection between the work and the AIDS crisis did not fully dawn on me until the editing process.

Seen in 2015, the video can read as a supercut culled from YouTube. But that is not what it is. You went to each of the men's houses and interviewed them?
Yes, that was an important part of it. I spent at least an hour with each of them talking about a bunch of things. It was free association. A lot of it was about their cats but a lot of it was just talking. At a certain point I would ask them to perform, saying, "She's a talker" while combing their cat--though many of them reported that they had indeed said that.

The supercut feel I think comes from the fact that much of the time we spent together is excluded from the final second-and-half segment in which each person and their cat in their apartment appears. A huge part of the art-making process was responding to the question, what do you exclude from the edit, and what does that leave the viewer with? I love that these are snapshots. As a teacher I feel very called upon to question students as to why their work is living in a specific form. Why is something a video rather than a photograph? I like that this project has a paired down relationship with moving image.

As you are talking about movement I am thinking about sound--or the lack of it. Silence plays a large role when it comes to work related to HIV, and yet I don't think we consider it enough beyond the idea that it exasperates the harm of HIV. When you are talking about how you edited the tapes, you are talking about silence.
I like this observation. There is a lot of literal silence in my work. There was a lot of ambient sounds I could have used in my video "Surfacing," where you see people orienting themselves as they emerge from the subway one after the other. Yet I never thought about my decision to exclude the bulk of my encounters with the men and their cats as an engagement with silence. If I think about specific encounters and what I excluded a lot of it is about the mundane. But I know there were a number of encounters where AIDS was very specifically discussed and integral to the conversation.

This is a generalization, and I am not sure it is supportable, but at the time I was making "She's A Talker" there was a fraughtness around two gay men meeting privately. Full of sexual tension in a way, which does not mean you necessarily want to have sex with each other. But the question of sex was always present in a way I don't think--at least for me--is present today in the same way. I think that has to do with the evolution of gay rights.

Do you think HIV was part of the fraughtness?
You are jogging my memory. Totally. A major feature of what talking to gay men was like at that time was asking the questions (or at least thinking them): Do you have HIV? Are you dying? It sounds dramatic, but this is what was haunting gay interactions at the time.

Death was looming, yet at the same time you were young gay men living in New York, so vitality was also at play.
There are a number of people from the video that I am still in contact with. There are others who were very sick at the time and it is hard to imagine them still being around.

Working with you on screening "She's a Talker," I have been moved by what an advocate you are for the men in the video and their cats. Like many people involved in HIV/AIDS I think you feel an ongoing kinship with and a sense of responsibility toward others impacted by HIV. On my screen as we talk is a clip from your video "Ten-and-a-Half Years of To-Dos," where young men in trees are reading your to-do lists. To me this is in conversation with "She's a Talker." It is a lament for the unfinished. It is moving image of young people up in trees, which conveys a sense of vitality, and wanting to rise above it all. To make a crude comparison, in the same way Michael Jackson was always trying to return to a childhood he never had, "Ten-and-a-Half" can be read as you working through a desire to return to a free and easy youthful sexuality with primarily mundane responsibilities, which for you and many of your friends, never existed.
Yes, and what supplanted that historically, culturally and just personally were these lists, which speak to my own character which is prone to fretting, preoccupation and plodding. I was moved by the guys I worked with on "Ten-and-a-Half Years of To-Dos" who in my mind live with a type of relative ease I don't recognize from my experiences at that age, or those of any gay man of my generation. Also, I need to say that I think a sign of progress is that every time I say "gay men," I wonder who the fuck I am talking about. It feels great to have these categories destabilized.

To speak more about men, gay or otherwise, how did you find the guys for "She's a Talker"?
It was a highly manual, hybrid process. This was of course well before everyday folks had access to the internet. Friends and friends of friends are in the tape, but I also put up flyers and I think I put an ad in the back of the Village Voice.

What did it say?
It was really simple: "Looking for gay men who have female cats that are willing to be in a video art project." I don't know if I would have limited it to female cats at this point given where my understanding of gender is currently at. Important to me at the time was that all five boroughs be represented.

Why was that important to you?
At that time my demographic of gay men was rooted in the East Village. I wanted to move beyond the narrowness of my particular life. I wanted something that at least connected with New York City in a more sweeping way, because for me the city is sort of a silent--if we want to use that word again--participant. Having the work encompass subjects from all five boroughs at least gestures at that.

How long did the project take?
Three to six months. It was my first video project, which I think is reflected in the work. I was borrowing a VHS camcorder from my friend's mother. I had this intense spread sheet. I treated it like a part time job, which I was also working at the same time. I would go out and meet with six people a day. It reminded me also of the labor involved in searching for an apartment.

What were some of the reasons for taking it off the internet?
I never put it on the internet.

How did it get there?
I was a visiting artist in Russia and had some exhibitions there as well. In Russia there did not seem to exist a concept of intellectual property. The video ended up on some torrent sites. From there Kenny Goldsmith posted it on UbuWeb--as his is practice--without permission. From there it was reposted on many other sites. To Kenny's credit, when I contacted him to take it down, he did. And on every occasion where I have contacted someone to take the video down, they have done so. I am sure it is out there somewhere and it will end up there again maybe even with my permission.

Why don't you want it online?
I know it is a losing battle, but it is something about the way the web flattens, neutralizes, equalizes, decontexualizes media content. You have extremely limited control over framing work that is up there.

The biggest reason I don't want it online has something to do with the fact that it is not just a campy romp through the living room of 80 gay men. It is that, but it is also a document and a documentation of people's lives in a time of extreme peril. Having it thrown into the blender of the internet does not work for me.

Some artists use the specifics of the internet in their practice and their work plays to this element. I might change my mind one day and work like that. But for now, the internet is inconsistent with my stewardship of the representation of these men and their cats.

What do you hope for the people watching the video?
I would like the presence of time, the passing of time and the meaning of what it meant to be a gay man at a particular historical moment to be evoked or felt. I want people to enjoy it. I want people to laugh. Humor is really essential to my work.I also want people to think about who these people are and where they are now, and think about them in relationship to this historical moment we are situated in today, days after the Supreme Court ruling.

A pleasure for me of making art is the range of response people can have to a work. There is a way in which I am drawn to making work that has an open ended emotional valiance that allows for multiple readings. It is always deeply gratifying when people come back with responses I would not have imagined, so I guess I don't know.

Postscript: While Goldberg's video is no longer online, the internet being what it is, offers this gem from artist James Mulder: She's a Talker.


Theodore Kerr is a Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based writer and organizer. He was the programs manager at Visual AIDS and is currently doing his graduate work at Union Theological Seminary.

Neil Goldberg has exhibited video, photo and mixed media work over the past two decades at venues including the Museum of Modern Art (permanent collection), the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the Hammer Museum, the Kitchen, the Pacific Film Archive, NGBK Kunsthalle Berlin, and El Centro de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, among others.

Part of Seeing Me: Profiles of Resistance by Smith Galtney


Seeing Me: Profiles of Resilience is a collection of portraits of individuals who have been impacted by HIV/AIDS in some way, both HIV-positive and negative, taken by Smith Galtney and first exhibited at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies last year for World AIDS Day. Those photographed included long-term survivors and newly diagnosed, advocates, private funders, case managers and physicians, all with a different perspective and story. The exhibit is currently on view at Biddeford City Theater/City Hall from June 26 to August 22, coinciding with Pride Portland, southern Maine's collection of Pride events. Below, Visual AIDS interviewed Smith about the photography and exhibition process.

Describe the Profiles of Resilience exhibition: its initial conception, the scope of the show, the range of sitters.
Back in August, I was asked by the Frannie Peabody Center in Portland, Maine to do a series of portraits involving Maine's HIV/AIDS community. The year before, Frannie had mounted a show at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies that detailed Maine's history with HIV/AIDS. It incorporated a lot of archival material, and for the new show, they wanted to focus on the present. So they handed me a list of people to get in touch with - medical providers, advocates, people who were HIV positive, others who'd been affected by HIV in one form or another. We ended up spotlighting 24 individuals.

What was your process, perspective and vision as you photographed the portraits for Portraits of Resilience?
When I was first approached, I was really nervous because it felt like a huge responsibility. I'd tell friends about it and they'd immediately get this very serious look on their face. I made a point of meeting all the subjects beforehand, when that was possible, just to talk and get to know them a little first. Obviously all of their stories had parts that were intense and sobering, but none of them were depressing. And when the time came to take pictures, everybody was a lot of fun. The first few shoots had a magazine feel to them, casual and colorful, which seem like a good idea to run with. I think everybody's seen the gritty, black-and-white side of the HIV/AIDS experience.

You've said you "didn't want to put the person on a pedestal or under a microscope." Can you describe what you mean by this, and how your photographs address the complexities of stigma surrounding those deeply impacted by HIV/AIDS?
Like I said, the first time I mentioned the show to people, a common reaction was to make a face, like "oh those poor people." To go from that to actually meeting these so-called "poor" individuals, who didn't seem poor in any way, was impressive. You can't do a show like this without casting everyone in a heroic light, but we didn't want to be too sentimental about it, which can feel cheap and condescending. And from the very start, I knew it was not my place to pry. At times I was tempted to ask someone how they got HIV or, in some cases, if they had it, but that seemed beside the point. The show wasn't about being positive or negative. It wasn't a PSA. It was about a collective experience.

Can you share any particularly moving anecdotes about the Profiles of Resilience photographing or exhibition process?
There was one day when I cracked. All of the portraits happened really quickly, within just a month, and there was one week where I was meeting up to three people a day. One afternoon, I met two older men who I related to immensely. They were gay like me. One had a very sick partner who had transitioned due to AIDS only four years ago, which I didn't think happened anymore. The other was going through life stuff, tough financial problems, etc. I called my partner on the drive home and started crying. I think what made me sad had more to do with growing older than with HIV/AIDS, to be honest.

Each portrait was accompanied in the exhibition with a one paragraph first-person testimony from of the sitter sharing their story. What were some of the more charged or incisive responses highlighted in these text panels?
One guy named Jimmy talked about pros and cons of living with HIV for 25 years. On the one hand, it helped him to live for now, be in the moment, spend his money on a motorbike and ride across the country. But it also robbed him of big-picture plans, like investing in an education and saving up for a house. Another woman named Sharon, who'd turned her life around after battling drug addiction, summed up the show better than we ever could have: "I don't regret anything I've done. I don't regret who I am. I won't regret who I'm becoming."

What has been the response to the exhibition in the local Maine community and beyond?
It got lots of attention in the local press, which was great and a little unexpected. The best thing I can say about it is that everyone who came to see the show seemed to linger on each photograph and took the time to read the panels. There weren't many people who came in and did a quick lap and split. That's all you can ever hope for with a photo exhibit.

Having spent two decades living in New York City, can you share your sense of the differences or similarities that people living with HIV face in an urban versus rural context?
We moved to a small town in Maine six years ago. I went to New York University in '89, after growing up in New Orleans. I told my mom I wanted to to there because it was the Harvard of film schools, but I really wanted to go there to be gay. Living in New York City was fabulous, of course, and it will always be my favorite city on Earth. I just didn't realize what a bubble I'd been living in--a gay life with gay friends, just gayness everywhere! Since moving to Maine, my life has gotten way more integrated. There's lesbians and straight couples and old people and young people. And I've met more females with HIV than I ever had in my life. I'd say maybe people tend to be a little more secretive about it in a rural environment? But urban folks can be hush-hush, too. I do know that almost all of the people I know who've seroconverted recently live in urban areas.

Your self-portrait was the closing image in the Salt Institute exhibition. Can you talk about the process of including your own image in the exhibition, and how the placement of the image relates to the narrative that is being told through Profiles of Resilience?
Katie Rutherford, Frannie's director of development, asked me to include a self-portrait. Her idea was to hang it at the very end of the show, so I could serve as a sort of proxy for the viewer, a way of saying, "We're all part of this experience and now you are, too." I took a self-portrait with me surrounded by all of these records I'd been given by a recording engineer who'd died back in 1996, to hopefully underline how the AIDS/HIV experience has been around long enough for everyone to know someone who's been affected by it. One newspaper printed the photo under the headline "Show Highlights Mainers with HIV." At first I freaked out a little, like, "Um, guys, I don't actually have HIV." But for me to make some big deal about being HIV negative seemed completely at odds with everything I'd experienced putting the show together. So I got over it.


Smith Galtney is a recent graduate from the General Studies program at the International Center of Photography in New York. He also studied photography at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, GQ, Rolling Stone and Time Out New York. He lives with his partner in Raymond, Maine. They married in August.

Call for Submissions: HIV Here & Now Anthology

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"I SURVIVED AIDS," John Hanning (2015)

As the publisher of Indolent Books, a new independent small press, Michael Broder is seeking work (poetry, fiction, memoir, essay, drama) for an anthology about living with HIV in 2015. No restrictions as to sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, or any other identity category. No restrictions in terms of HIV status: The writer can be HIV-positive, HIV-negative or not know their HIV status. As long as the work is about living with HIV, or living with the risk of HIV, or living in proximity to HIV in the here and now of 2015. Memorials and commemorations have their place, but this anthology is not that place. This anthology is about current experience.

The goal is to hear the voices of people living with HIV for a long time or for a short time. People who are negative and trying to stay that way via any and all methods--condoms, PrEP, abstinence, partner selection, prayer, lotto, whatever. Negative partners of positive people. Men, women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, any race, any age, who seroconverted via any mode of transmission--homo sex, hetero sex, sharing needles, transfusion, mother-to-child transmission.

Deadline: Through September 30, 2015
What to sumbit: Up to 10 poems or up to 10 pages of poetry, fiction, memoir, essay or drama (or mixed-genre)
How to submit: Email poems in Word doc form or submit via Submittable.



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