Whitney Houston. Julia Child. Audrey Hepburn. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Dixie Carter. Frida Kahlo. She-Ra. Lotte Lenya. Although it can be easy to think that these eight women have nothing in common, they are united in Divining Divas because they are among the female muses that inspire today’s gay poets. This collection includes 100 poems, arranged chronologically by the birth date of the female muse addressed in the poem.
The collection is a thematic sequel to My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them, also edited by Michael Montlack, but this collection takes the familiar theme and moves it exclusively into the realm of poetry. The range represented in this collection is especially remarkable. From the ultra-modern to the classic, from the fanciful to the all too real, the women that inspire these poets read like a history of female glory with that glory occasionally ascending into excess. As Rafael Campo puts it in his poem on the drag diva Divine, divas are “both glamorous and in bad taste.” These gay men take their divas as a whole package and don’t ignore the rough spots, instead reveling in them.
As with any anthology (especially one with so many writers and such varied subject matter), individual taste will vary. The poems included vary in a range of structures, lengths, and poetic forms, and outside of general subject matter, it can seem like little unifies them. However, there’s an echoing theme of the poems’ speakers wanting to receive some of the brash power, the careless ease, and the above it all air that these divas possess. For men who often characterize themselves as powerless or unheard in these poems, these divas represent a specialness that is worthy of emulation.
This book will primarily be attractive to gay men with an eye for pop culture, but age isn’t really a limiting factor. With divas as diverse in time as Gracie Allen and Strangers With Candy’s Jerri Blank, there is a woman in this book to empower every man.
Reviewer: John Mack Freeman