Billy Merrell: A Poet that is not Afraid of his Feelings

When Billy Merrell met his husband Nico Medina for the first time, he assumed that he was a prostitute. The poet expresses his feelings and emotions in his poems. Merrell published his first book during his senior year in university while working with PUSH. Because he is a gay man himself, some of his poems may be true or related to his own personal experiences.

Billy Merrell? Billy Merrell was born in 1982 and he grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. He is an American author and poet. This poet began writing poetry in grade 8, and during sophomore year, he began to write about his own feelings in his poetry. In this time, Billy recognized writing poetry as a “liberating activity”. In the summer of his early college career, Merrell was hired as the first PUSH Writing intern. PUSH is a book imprint dedicated to new authors and new voices, and often holds writing contests for high school students. While Billy Merrell was working with PUSH, Billy wrote his first book talking in the dark. This poetry memoir was published during Billy Merrell’s senior year in university in 2003, when he was age 22. Billy Merrell is the youngest author to date to have his book published by the Push Imprint of Scholastic Inc. He received his M.F.A (Master of Fine Arts) in Poetry from Columbia University. “He co-edited (with David Levithan) a personal-nonfiction anthology of GLBTQS youth called The Full Spectrum (Knopf, 2006), which received a Lambda Literary Award.” Merrell is the web developer of poets.org, and now lives in Florida. 

Billy Merrell’s poetry memoir talking in the dark is told in verse. This book is, “A memoir composed of poetry that documents a story of growing up, coming out and exploring love. As a gay man himself, Merrell sought to write a book that he felt could have been of use to him as a teenage boy coming out.” Merrell’s poetry memoir talking in the dark is poems written in chronological order, describing a complete life story. The poet, Billy Merrell, often writes about his own feelings and how a person who likes its own gender or both genders deals with life. From the first poem to the last, Billy Merrell has used various kinds of characteristics in his poems. But the one that is found most often throughout the book is long lines that end abruptly and goes to the next. The language that is used in Billy’s poetry has a feeling that the poet is speaking to you informally, but has complicated words within the easy-going feel. That language is called colloquial language. Billy Merrell’s poems are recognized as prose poetry. Prose means “the ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure, as distinguished from poetry or verse”. 

Yes

My mother asks me and it seems years pass

before I answer. When I first kissed a boy, I told her

about him, explained where we’d go or at least half

of everywhere he would take me.

First she said it would be okay and that she loved me.

But I said No, said He’s just a friend, laughed.

Then cried in the shower because she made me

lie to her. But I thought she was convinced

and, perhaps, so was I. Years before that,

she asked. Of you and your brother,

she said, you’d be the one to get an earring.

Wasn’t that her way of testing the water?

I said No and argued about the feeling

of metal in my skin, how I would never

do something permanent to my body.

Before that, years and years before

I could possibly know what I was

asking for, she slid me a sheet of paper, asked

what I wanted for Christmas: a Ninja Turtle

some watercolours, an Easy-Bake Oven.

And she didn’t say no. I opened the box, smiling,

not knowing how many boys had asked for it.

and got a football or a pair of skates. She asked me,

didn’t she? And each time I said No

and wanted her to believe me, maybe she did.

So after I say, finally, Yes, she’ll cry.

She’s known, she’ll say, since I was five

and I’ll want to ask why

she didn’t tell me sooner, but instead ask

if she’s okay. And she’ll give me that look

I’ve seen before. When I stepped

through the back windshield of her car while

playing on it. When I crawled out

of that hiding place and startled her.

It’s a mother’s look and a mother’s look only. It says

How dare you and It’s okay and I want you to be

safe and finally okay and finally conscious,

stepping toward me slowly, as if into

an ocean, she says Yes.

The poem, “Yes” is about a young boy who tries to come out of the closet to his mother, but it is hard because the mother will not believe it and is in denial. The poem is describing many situations where the boy has showed his attractions to boys, yet the mother is pretending that it is not there. She is always doing things that will “test the water”. “Wasn’t that her way of testing the water?” (line 12). The mother does not want her son to be sexually attracted to the same sex so she’s purposely saying things that will make the son have no choice but to agree with, even though he might or does not. An example would be, “When I first kissed a boy, I told her / about him, explained where we’d go or at least half / of everywhere he would take me. / First she said it would be okay and that she loved me. / But I said No, said He’s just a friend, laughed. / Then cried in the shower because she made me / lie to her.” (lines 2-8). The theme of the poem is the hardship that “gay” boys go through with no moral support from their mother. The poem has very unusual form. Sometimes the beginning of a line starts capitalized, sometimes it is not. Periods aren’t always at the end of the line, but sometimes it is. Few words are italicized, but it is not placed in a way that is patterned. Lastly, the poem concludes with the poem title itself. The feeling that is given from the poem is sympathy for the boy in the poem. It does not ever mention that the narrator in the poem is a boy, but with all characteristics and info given throughout the poem, “I opened the box, smiling, / not knowing how many boys had asked for it.” (lines 21-22), it is concluded that the person speaking throughout about himself in the poem is a boy. Overall, the poem creates a sad and sympathetic scene for the boy in the poem.

Billy Merrell is a carefree individual who writes comforting poetry to those who needs to know someone else understands. His prose poetry with colloquial language within it gives an easygoing feel to it. It’s like a friend telling a story, very informal. Merrell’s poetry memoir talking in the dark is a book that describes the hard life of a teenager boy who discovers his attraction to males.

Sources
talking in the dark (author biography at the back of the book)
http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/33

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Merrell

http://www2.scholastic.com/browse/contributor.jsp?id=2738

http://www.nicomedina.com/about_billy.html

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s