This week’s featured community member is New York-based poet Billy Merrell. Those of you who purchased my 2008 album “The Healing of Nerves” might remember him as my co-conspirator on that one. It was the first time collaborating with someone via email, and although it only resulted in two official co-written songs (only one was used on the album), Billy’s input was indispensible. That album went through so many transformations and so much of it—content and structure—was influenced by him. He also designed the album cover. But enough about his work with me, Billy is his own accomplished artist.
He has published 3 books (1 solo, 2 cowritten). The first is 2003’s Talking in the Dark, available here; in 2006 he co-authored (with David Levithan) The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing About Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, and Other Identities, also available here—The Full Spectrum also won the Lambda Literary Award; and most recently he released the book Go Ahead, Ask Me, co-authored with husband Nico Medina, and available here.
There is quite a plethora of online material that you should definitely check out, including Billy Merrell’s website, his ‘Further Reading’ blog, his ‘Talking in the Dark’ blog, or simply google ‘Billy Merrell’, you’ll be overwhelmed at the body of work and influences available. I’m not a huge poetry connoisseur, without the music, I’m lost. But there is something about Billy’s work that is engulfing. I can only describe it as a continuous inhale. Billy is a good friend, who I have never met, but love to hear from and will continue to work with for future projects.
Here is a sample of his writing:
Talking in the Dark
Before college, before high school, before my voice
finally cracked, before I could do my first pull-up,
and long before my first real kiss, you and I
held the same girls’ hands. First Karen, then Tiffany,
then Jessica. And by the time you kissed Amy, I knew
it wasn’t her I wanted to kiss. I spent the night at your house
and we talked in the dark until we fell asleep. Those years
were short ones, seem shorter now. I hated myself for lying
so still in the bed beside you, as awkward as a body
and as inarticulate. I have never wanted to kiss you,
only hold you now and then or be held. I know now
that you wouldn’t have cared and just wanted to be
trusted. I have pictures of us with girls at dances.
I’m wearing my father’s dress shirt. It balloons away
from my body. But you are right there next to me,
in my shirt’s reach. Later you won’t stand so close, and Amy
will have to pose us, pleading closer. No, no. Closer.
Listen to the track ‘We Are Men, Then’, from the album The Healing of Nerves, lyrics by Billy Merrell.
Listen to Nkonde Song – a reading of Billy’s poem.