Divining Divas

Divining Divas
100 Gay Men on Their Muses
Edited by Michael Montlack
Lethe Press

Reviewed by Chuck Willman

Divining Divas: 100 Gay Men on Their Muses is a wonderful follow-up collection to the same editor’s My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them. This new collection has a diva for just about everyone!

Covering everyone from Sappho, Gertrude Stein, Gloria Swanson, Anaïs Nin, Edith Piaf, Maya Angelou, to more contemporary women like Björk, Stevie Nicks, Mary J. Blige, Lady Gaga, even Buffy’s Sarah Michelle Gellar, these talented and respected poets masterfully and colorfully dust off cobwebs, call some divas out on the smoke and mirrors they use to bewitch us, exposing their vulnerabilities, or simply make us remember our own undeniable connection to the female icons we’ve adored and, sometimes, emulated (or even disliked).

There are a handful of poems that address HIV/AIDS: Jeffrey Berg’s tribute to Elizabeth Taylor (“Elizabeth in the Mirror”); Peter Covino’s homage to Patti Labelle (“Changes: Technological and Providential”); Steven Cordova’s “plea” to Bette Midler (“Encore”); and Douglas Ray’s nod to the “charms” of Julia Sugarbaker, a.k.a. Dixie Carter (“Designed Diva”)—a personal favorite of mine having worked with Ms. Carter during her Designing Women days, and remembering how sharp that sultry Southern drawl could be.

But this collection is a treasure of poetry for anyone who loves and respects women. As the editor states in his introductory notes: “After all, often pioneers in their fields, they frequently paid a price for stepping beyond the lines drawn for them by society, for being a successful or loud or strong woman, when women were not supposed to be any of those things.” He continues, “They, like gay men, failed at playing the gender role defined by their time and culture. And they, perhaps like gay men (and gay women), helped to redefine, broaden and loosen those restrictive roles, which benefits all of us.”

Chuck Willman lives in Las Vegas with his partner of twenty-three years and their dog. He spends his time writing poetry and erotica, and is fortunate to have had both published or forthcoming in journals, magazines, and books.

March 2012