I had the opportunity last week to sit down with local poet Luis Pabon (known on stage as L-Majesty) to talk about his brand new book of poetry, Tendencies.
Thom Francis: Why the new book right now?
Luis Pabon: The book was writing itself for a long time. Basically, I was going through some experiences and common themes started to form and I said to myself, “I got to put this down. I got to make this a collection.”
TF: The title is Tendencies, what is the overall theme?
LP: There’s a couple of themes. The book is about my life as a gay man, as a former gay man, I no longer identify in that context. It’s societies tendencies to label boys like me. I don’t really like the label “gay” for many different reasons. It just has a bad connotation – historical context. A lot of different themes.
TF: How would you label yourself?
LP: Me? I label myself as a boy trying to find his identity. I didn’t grow up with a dad and I think that plays a role in what I’ve been craving. I think a lot of boys out there have a father hunger, they are looking for certain things from a man. I think a man helps you form your identity and when you don’t have that missing piece you’re going to look for it. It’s like you have been starving for so long, when you see some food or water, you are going to run to that food and water.
TF: My parents split up when I was seven. Between my mom’s first marriage and second marriage there was a time when there was no one there and I found being with friends fathers I latched onto whoever was the father-figure at the time, in that situation. So I know what you mean when you find that male role model, that male hero, so to speak, wherever you can.
LP: Exactly. Someone to look up to, someone to emulate. I never really had that.
TF: With that, was writing a way, when you were growing up to express yourself?
LP: Yes. I wrote my first poem when I was eight. It was about a sycamore tree and I was sick. I was sipping soup and drinking all this orange juice and then I started writing this poem about a sycamore tree. I think i was delusional to be honest, but it made me feel better. And after that I realized that writing has a way to literally heal you. I got better, so I started writing some more.
TF: What was your first open mic?
LP: First open mic – Nyorican Poets Cafe. They had an open room on Wednesday nights. It started late, around 12. It was a godo experience.
TF: How old were you?
LP: I was in high school. I think I was 16. I was with a friend who I went to hear read and after she read, I was next.
TF: What made you continue going to readings and open mics?
LP: I like the feel. I like the energy. I like the crowd, the welcoming nature.
TF: So why did you decide to put it all together in a book?
LP: I had to tell a story. So many people told me not to, it will bring shame on the family. I always believe that you have to write the poem, write the book, write the thing that you’re most afraid to write. I saw so much devaluation of the boys in the gay community. People have put them down and it’s like a self-eating monster, because even in the gay community you see boys who are struggling, trying to find their identity. They’re hurting each other. I saw all this and it made me angry. I put on the back of the book that this is “an angry love letter” to the gay community because I love gay men, I love people in general, but I see so much destruction. They are destroying themselves.
TF: Why would anyone want to discourage you from writing this book?
LP: Because right now it’s a hot topic. Being gay is not acceptable. It’s basically still vilified. having same-sex desires is not easy to talk about. I grew up in a family that wanted me to hide that part. “Don’t talk about that, you’re going to have this legacy of shame, people are going to judge you.” And I was like, “I really don’t care.” I think that people need to hear this.
TF: Do you find it easier now to deal with things than when you first came out, is society a little more welcoming than then?
LP: I think in some ways. I think in other way there is some confusion about gay men. I came out in 2007, that’s when I officially decided to share it with the world. I was 25. To me it wasn’t shameful. I was trying to find my identity. I was trying to find out about men. Who are men? I knew all about women and I wanted to learn more about men.
TF: What else inspired Tendencies?
LP: I saw a misrepresentation of the sex roles. For example, some guys that pretend to be tops or bottoms depending on what it can get them. I wrote this because it was misleading. I saw that if you meet guys online or in bars, you get that mentality. I have met guys in bookstores. I have met guys on the street, restaurants, and you still see this mentality. That is what inspired this – I saw so many guys lost, lost in the life. That is what drove me to put this out there.
TF: While writing the poems and putting the book all together, were you able to come to a better understanding of yourself?
LP: Yes, definitely. I have a poem in here called “Male Monologue”, it’s one of my favorites and it speaks to that.
TF: How many poems in the book?
LP: 30 poems, broken down into three sections. Review of my life, realizations, and then an emergence. The last aspect is spiritual. The book takes you on a journey. But it’s very dark with some elements of light at the end.
TF: Is this book different than the work that we are familiar with, the erotic poetry that we are used to hearing you perform on stage?
LP: It plays with the shadows of the human mind. There is some eroticism. It definitely is provocative. I want people to read it and have a reaction. Be it good or be it bad.
Tendencies is $14.99 and is currently available at select local bookstores and on the Albany Poets online store starting on Sunday. You can also get your copy from L-Majesty himself at local open mics and events for just $10.