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WHAT HE CARES ABOUT: Poetry, publishing, and his gay literary magazine, "Assaracus."
Oddly enough, Bryan Borland knows the exact date he became a poet: Jan. 20, 1993. If that date rings a bell, it's because it was the day Bill Clinton was inaugurated as president.
"My brother had just died, and I was sort of lost," Borland said. "He died on December 15th, 1992. That whole time, I was just sort of spiraling around, very vulnerable I guess. And I saw Maya Angelou get onstage and read 'On the Pulse of the Morning.' Something about that just blew me away."
Borland, who came out of the closet at 22, started writing poetry, and has since been nominated twice for the prestigious Pushcart Prize. His 2010 collection, "My Life as Adam," is still garnering praise from all over the country, and was included on the American Library Association's first "Over the Rainbow" list of gay and lesbian literature. Borland also finds time to run Sibling Rivalry Press, which publishes marginalized authors. His true baby, though, is "Assaracus." As far as he knows, it's the only literary print journal in the country devoted to gay male poets.
"I love that it's from Arkansas," he said. "For the longest time I'd say I'm from Little Rock, but I'm actually from Alexander. And I'm very proud to say that the only print journal of gay poetry is from Alexander."
Several Ivy League universities are subscribers, and the journal has paid for itself so far. The fact that the world seems to want to hear what "Assaracus" has to say gives him hope.
"It says that it's necessary. It says that it's valid. It gives people a voice," Borland said. "I want to give people the microphone, give them the stage, and let them speak. That's what the journal really is. It's giving them the stage to be heard, and the fact that Yale, Brown, Stanford and Cornell and all these other places are interested — that's just cool."
The title of the journal is a tribute to publisher John Stahle, who designed and launched "My Life as Adam" at the Rainbow Book Fair in New York City in 2010. Stahle's journal, "Ganymede," named after a Greek demi-god, was the first place to publish Borland's poetry. When Stahle died in April 2010, his journal effectively died with him. Borland stepped in to collect work for and publish a tribute issue. In return, he got the contacts and editorial boost he needed to start his own journal. In Greek mythology, Assaracus was Ganymede's earth-bound brother.
While Sibling Rivalry Press will soon issue some of its books electronically, Borland said he'll never offer an electronic edition of "Assaracus." He said he likes the idea of somebody finding a dusty copy in a book store 20 or 30 years from now, opening it up, and finding something that speaks to them. Borland realizes he's being a little exclusive by publishing only gay authors there. But until they can be published elsewhere, he'll keep on.
"As long as there is a kid in his dorm room in Kansas who it might, not even to exaggerate, it might save his life to read a poem by one of these authors — as long as that person exists, I think there's a need for a journal like this."
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