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    HomeCultureQ&A: Author Emanuel Xavier discusses his Book 'Love (ly) Child'

    Q&A: Author Emanuel Xavier discusses his Book ‘Love (ly) Child’

    West Hollywood’s first City Poet Laureate, Steven Reigns interviews author Emanuel Xavier to discuss Xavier’s book “Love (ly) Child.


    Emanuel Xavier busted into the literary scene with his chapbook Pier Queen, written when he was involved in the ball scene as a homeless gay teen. Fusing the ball scene and spoken word communities, he created The Glam Slam as Father of The House of Xavier. He is recipient of a New York City Council Citation and a Gay City Impact Award for his many contributions to NYC arts culture.

    Emanuel will be reading at Book Soup from his new collection, that was short-listed for a Lambda Literary Award, Love(ly) Child. The book signing event is taking place at 8818 Sunset Boulevard, on Thursday, May 23, 2024, starting at 7pm. The event is free to attend. To learn more visit: https://www.emanuelxavier.org/

    I want to start with asking about the evocative title Love(ly) Child.  How did this come about?

    It’s a multifaceted expression that plays on words and meanings, reflecting the themes and personal narratives within the collection. The title can be seen as a homage to my identity and experiences, encapsulating themes of love, resilience, and identity, often exploring my journey as a queer person of color, and my experiences with hardship, acceptance, and transformation.

    The use of parentheses adds a layer, suggesting a dual reading: as “Lovely Child” and “Love Child.” “Lovely Child” references the inherent worth and beauty in every individual, despite our struggles. “Love Child,” on the other hand, is about my origins and the circumstances of my birth. I was abandoned by my father who I recently found and many of the poems are deeply personal and born out of these experiences. It’s a title with a layered meaning and I hope it invites the readers to delve into the complexities of identity, love, and survival.

    Emanuel Xavier

    In 1986 she and her boyfriend had kicked you out of the house after coming out.  You were then part of a scene that most of us only experienced through Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning. The book is also full of homages, to places like Christopher Street and people like Willi Ninja. What was it like to revisit and memorialize these people and places for you?

    It’s both a personal and communal act of homage and remembrance. There is a complex interplay of emotions and responsibilities. By sharing these personal experiences, I’m preserving a crucial historical and cultural moment. Ballroom continues to provide a space for expression, acceptance, and competition for those of us often marginalized in broader society. It’s an opportunity for me as a poet to celebrate how far the LGBTQ+ community has come while mourning those who were lost too soon, many of whom did not live to see the progress that has been made.

    Many of the poems are about your mother. The poem “Virgen De Las Mercedes” shares your feelings but also a commonness.  What was it like to write about your relationship with her?

    Writing about my mother let me explore deep emotions and experiences, ranging from abandonment and betrayal to love and understanding. It was a cathartic process, allowing me to confront and articulate my feelings, heal from past traumas, and celebrate the nuanced bond we share. It was a way to understand and narrate my life’s story, acknowledging the pain and love that have shaped me.

     This is your 7th poetry collection and yet there are some new revelations in this book. What prompted you to address some of these elements of your life.

     I’ve been known to reflect my experiences as a queer Latinx individual and former street youth, often drawing upon my personal history, social justice themes, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights in my poetry. This book is consistent with my body of work in addressing personal growth, societal issues, and new phases in my life. It’s a platform to give voice to marginalized communities, confront issues of racism, homophobia, and inequality. The new revelations stem from my ongoing journey of self-exploration and social observation.

    Can you talk about your first chapbook Pier Queen that came out 27 years ago to much acclaim?

    It was 1997 and I was a street poet with no literary education. Chapbooks were the only way to go for many of us LGBTQ+ poets of color. Pier Queen was perhaps groundbreaking in that it’s a raw and unapologetic exploration of my life as a gay Latino in New York City. The poems delve into themes of identity, sexuality, street life, and survival. It captures some of the struggles and resilience of our community during a critical period in history. Admittedly not my best work, it helped bring diverse queer narratives to the forefront of literary discussion. Some of those poems have become personal signature classics and I still share them at reading events. It was a novelty, and it would have easily been forgotten had Rebel Satori Press not officially published it in 2012.

    The cover image of Love(ly) Child is beautiful and from artist Timothy Cummings. How did you go about selecting this image for such a personal and intimate collection?

    Timothy’s artwork resonates deeply with the themes in my writing. His art often touches on identity, gender, and the human condition. Timothy and I were introduced at the Saints & Sinners Literary festival last year in New Orleans. I think we were both excited about the possibility of a collaboration. After reading an advanced copy of the manuscript, he was inspired to create this beautiful piece which he calls “The Poet.” It reflects the content and tone of the book and offers an emotional and visual impact. It’s unique and powerful and perfectly captures the essence of this book.

    You are such a part of the NYC literary scene that it’s exciting and rare to have you read in Los Angeles. What can attendees of your Book Soup reading expect?

    I just can’t believe that I’ve never been to Los Angeles before, even when I was doing spoken word poetry and it was so popular. I’m excited and hope to bring some of that Nuyorican flavor to the Sunset Strip. Los Angeles is a city known for its vibrant arts scene and diverse audiences. It should be a significant and enriching experience. I hope it attracts not just fans of poetry, but also activists and students. The city’s strong support for LGBTQ+ rights and its history of advocating for social justice align with my themes. I won’t just be reading poems from Love(ly) Child. I think the audience would also appreciate hearing some of my signature classics live and in person.

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    Steven Reigns
    Steven Reigns
    Steven Reigns is a Los Angeles poet and educator and was appointed the first Poet Laureate of West Hollywood. Alongside over a dozen chapbooks, he has published the collections Inheritance and Your Dead Body is My Welcome Mat. Reigns holds a BA in Creative Writing and a Master of Clinical Psychology. He edited My Life is Poetry, showcasing his students’ work from the first-ever autobiographical poetry workshop for LGBT seniors. Reigns has lectured and taught writing workshops around the country to LGBT youth and people living with HIV. Currently he is touring The Gay Rub, an exhibition of rubbings from LGBT landmarks. His newest collection A Quilt for David was published by City Lights in September 2021 and is the product of ten years of research regarding dentist David Acer’s life. www.stevenreigns.com


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    13 days ago

    Thanks for sharing your story, Emanuel. Best of luck, and welcome to West Hollywood.

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