Today we return to our “Think Music” series, in which writers speak about the influence of music on their work. Today’s guest is Gabrielle Calvocoressi, who is a 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist in poetry for her second book, Apocalyptic Swing. Her fellow finalists are Amy Gerstler, Tom Healy, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, and Brenda Hillman, who poet Phoebe Reeves interviews in Issue 12 of Memorious.
There’s a whole secret story to my book, Apocalyptic Swing, and the three playlists that push up behind it. But all I can think of today is Alexander McQueen, the genius designer who I love so deeply and who took his own life just a few days ago. I’ve been working on an elegy for him, or for all of us. I’ve been working on an elegy for a certain part of queer culture where my life of making and loving and losing was born.
As I work on that essay I keep imagining the women on the catwalk and the boys and girls I’d see in the meatpacking district in NYC all those years ago when Florent was still open and you could take a break from dancing at the Clit Club and watch girl on girl porn on the wall. How it was a place some would have called dangerous but really there was always someone looking out. Some older butch or some drag queen. How the older people talked to us and warned us and once in awhile walked us to a train.
I’ve been thinking of Alexander McQueen and beauty and ruin and brutality. And I’ve been listening to Regina Spektor’s, “Dance Anthem of the 80’s.” I keep playing the section from 2:03 till the end, which is something I do. I find the spot in the song that has all the tension and contradiction and sometimes just explosive beauty of what I want to make. So I’ve been playing that over and over and dreaming of all of us. Listen. It gets so quiet and she’s just looking at you and the boys and girls stop for a second and then it opens and opens and we’re dancing and laughing. We’re fucking outdoors and in tight bathrooms. It’s beautiful. It’s where I started: