Poet X
Recent Poems

Three Gay Scientists


I first heard, "Poetry 

is the gay science," in 1984 

or '85, and understood 

at once.

Gay men explore 

language and living and in poetry 

continue culture. 

                            In 2004, 

I googled "gay science" and learned 

that Friedrich Nietzsche wrote an essay 

about poetry entitled "The Gay Science" (1882, 1887). 


Three gay scientists, 

Harold Norse, Jack Spicer, Allen Ginsberg, 

(b. 1916, 1925, 1926, respectively; 

a Cancer, a Capricorn, a Gemini) 

three worthy, important gay scientists: 


Three American Gay Scientists: 

T.A.G.S.!  Faggots.  Labels. 

A title, a study, homage, illumination 

of diverse poetic talents. 

(I'm hungry, I'm horny, 

unemployed, dreaming of 

editing a Harold Norse reader, 

distilling 600 pages of poetry 

plus his memoirs to the essentials. 

Poets give it away.) 

If this were a story  -- it's not, it's a poem -- 

I'd presume the reader 

knows nothing of Norse, Spicer and Ginsberg. 

So, too, the poem. 

I could try, in describing each, 

to imitate their poems (Norse: short, sexy things;

Spicer: episodic chapters about and amounting 

to nothing; Ginsberg, one 

long, orgasmic and famous howl).  Instead: 

I'll describe three gay scientists (a Ginsberg poem 

is titled, "Describe: The Rain on Dasaswamedh"): 

Norse, the neglected one, 

the intermittently noted one, 

Beat, expatriot, hard to pin down. 

Harold Norse, born in New York City 

of an unwed Russian Jewish immigrant 

mother, squalid childhood from which 

literature was a college escape along 

with early love Chester Kalliman who 

landed a bigger catch in famous poet W.H. Auden. 

Norse was chosen by William Carlos Williams 

to read at the Museum of Modern Art in 1952. 

After his first book was published, Norse 

moved to Europe, settling, in 1954, in Italy. 

Ginsberg, the famous one, wrote 

one great poem and a few 

good ones.  Norse wrote no 

great poem, at least no famous one, 

but lots of good ones.  Spicer 

wrote neither of the above but 

is nevertheless an important gay scientist. 

Norse, eldest by almost a decade (all three 

included in Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse where

Norse's birth year is listed erroneously), has outlived 

the other two -- Ginsberg died in 1997, 

Spicer in 1965 at the age of 40. 

Spicer, briefly, was a drunk, 

lived in Berkeley, California, 

among friends who regularly read poetry. 

Spicer knew his stuff and 

would read his poems twice and 

knew his stuff and disparaged the fame 

of Ginsberg and the Beats by calling 

his circle The Berkeley Renaissance. 

Spicer called for depersonalized poetry. 

"The poet is a radio receiver," as he put it. 

Even he couldn't get that right. 

His influence was stronger than his poems.

His book-length poem, After Lorca, 1957.

is a series of letters to Lorca and 

short poems addressed to friends.  Spicer then

renounced all his earlier poems and thereafter 

wrote only "book" poems, saying poems needed 

a larger context, while he drank and held court 

in a North Shore bar.  He worked, 

but it seems very little, as a linguist 

for the University in Berkeley and could identify 

the county of someone's birth by 

hearing the person speak. 

	                           	         Soon after

a lecture tour to Vancouver, B.C., 

where his poetry was popular, Spicer 

was found unconscious in the elevator 

of his apartment building, drunk, 

taken to the hospital, unidentified for a week, 

"thought he was a homeless drunk," he 

died there a month later. 

Briefly. Briefly? Ginsberg, briefly? 

Famous for writing a poem, "Howl", 

which he first read at his first public reading 

along with four other poets on Oct. 7, 1955, 

in San Francisco, the Six Gallery Reading, 

the only famous poetry reading I can think of. 

When the poem and others were published 

the following year, the book was siezed 

by San Francisco Customs for being obscene.

A trial was held. The publicity was good for 

Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, whose On the Road 

appeared shortly after the trial. The Beats 

were suddenly famous but no longer were 

in America but in Paris at the Beat Hotel. 

Ginsberg, the first famous homosexual! 

(I mean in America, I mean since Oscar Wilde's tour.) 

Ginsberg, forever my mentor and only role model. 

"Howl" is the greatest poem of its century. 

Ginsberg, where did you go wrong? Why 

is so little of the rest of what you would write 

good? Instead of "American idiom" we get 

stilted Ginsberg electric flashing Ignu-speak. 

His work evolved to chanting and singing. 

Power to him.  Yet he lived off poetry, 

a rare feat, an accomplishment. 

St. Allen, bright star in grandfather night. 

William Carlos Williams 

	                        	        chose Norse.  Ginsberg 

chose Williams who then 

	                        	        adopted him.  But Norse 

is true heir to 

	                       Williams called for use of 

ordinary language, ordinary events, 

the "American idiom" 

                                   in poetry 

broken into 

                    images (don't call them 

ideas) one line 

                       at a time. 

St. Gertrude. St. Allen. 

St. Harold, what are you doing 

in the corner? 

In Norse, sex is natural. 

In Spicer, sex is dysfunctional. 

In Ginsberg, sex is exhibitionistic. 

I haven't yet called him St. Jack. 

Do I?  St. Jack of the Bottle. 

I tried to be him without realizing it, 

before I knew he lived by the bottle, 

had already tried that route, the elevator it led to. 

I've been on that elevator.  Several times. 

Post-masturbation did Ginsberg, Allen,

a Blakean "Sunflower" hear.

Norse, often neglected? 

Spicer probably should be neglected 

(Lawrence Ferlinghetti, publisher of 

"Howl" and editor of City Lights Books, asked, 

"Do people still read Spicer?" incredulous) 

except that he tried. 

He ate, breathed and shit poetry. 

(Unfortunately, he didn't drink poetry.) 

Ginsberg, bright as a nova, unable to sustain it 

yet famous the rest of his life and he could sustain that, 

rightly admired, honored. 

Norse lives meagerly but relates in his memoirs 

his times in the European homes or apartments

of patrons. I can't help but ask, Was it an unknown 

gilded age Norse lived in? Where are the patrons 

of today? Yellow pages? Central casting?

I haven't said anything of science: 

Norse is chemistry. 

Ginsberg, geology. 

Spicer, microbiology. 


Jacks off to jpg's. 

His sex life consists of 

a mouse in hand. 

Does that mean 

he's into bestiality? 

Newspaper weather war 

onions on anti-abortion 

force employment issues 

magazine geology peace 

peppers in Spicer-specific 

spectacles for the blind. 

Hats off to Jack.  This is 

a Real Novel About Rimbaud: 

Poetry is written by the Other 

in that it has to fit into the 

curriculum and chronology,

reflecting its time and tempo 

tempered by that bitch, the Muse. 

	III (Erato) 

Secret sex, furtive, speechless 

thus nothing more can be said or 

written in a clumsy language sex 

wet dark yearning receiving 

Norse Spicer Ginsberg Erato 

falling forward seed of a tree 

lumbering into tumults of time 

supine on a drunken memory boat, 

yes, the boat is drunk.  I gave 

it up years ago, Walt Whitman, I haven't 

mentioned your sexy beard yet.

Gay science moves us forward 

word by startling word.  Erato. 

	Footnote to "Three Gay Scientists" 


Sunday.  Want ads. 

Unemployed, uninsured, uncle. 

An existential purgatory, dread.  Every day. 

Dawn, birds first. 

Seven clematis flowers where yesterday three. 

Allergies.  I'll wait again till winter to breathe. 

Hunger is constant in the Fast Food Nation. 

Off-shore prison/torture camps are not democracy. 


I'm hungry. 

Tomorrow is George's annual Fourth of July picnic, 

and I'll eat watermelon which I don't buy, depriving 

myself of prostate-cancer fighting chemicals 

also found in tomatoes 

I used to hate but am recently craving. 

I am a gay scientist.  These are my notes. 

Dawn, hungry, horny, tired, unsatisfied. 

Did I mention unemployed? 

I write plenty,  get paid nothing. 

Spicer died facing unemployment. 

No dawn.  No end to blank notebook pages. 

Sunday.  Want ads. 

Want to sleep.  Need to eat. 

Instead this insistent poetry 

masturbates in front of me, mocks me. 


	The Book of Erato 

Also dawn. 

	The Book of Lorca 

And Don, the boy in college biology class 

I couldn't talk to but stared at constantly 

when he wasn't looking.  I'll write until

history is rewritten to the point where I 

talk to him.  Almost thirty years ago, 

and still I feel an empty flush of love.


Copyright 2005 by Greg Baysans