glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
home
arts
literature
social sciences
special features
discussion
about glbtq
   search

 
   Encyclopedia
   Discussion
 
 

   member name
  
   password
  
 
   
   Forgot Your Password?  
   
Not a Member Yet?  
   
JOIN TODAY. IT'S FREE!

 
  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy
  Copyright

 

 

 

 

 
literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Field, Edward (b. 1924)  

Born in New York in 1924, Edward Field recounts his life in his poetry. He portrays himself as an aging New York Jewish gay poet who likes plants, traveling, and popular culture and never got enough sex and companionship though he now gets more of the latter. The short version of his life is told in "Bio" (Counting Myself Lucky, 1992); the long version is the sum of all of his poems.

The critical discussion of Field centers on two issues, his diction and the confessional nature of his poetry. Field's diction is straightforward and "unpoetic." He does not seem to force the language into producing special effects, nor does he require his readers to have arcane knowledge.

Sponsor Message.

He was asked to do a children's book of translations of Eskimo poetry (Eskimo Songs and Stories, 1973) because, he explains in "Bio," "I was the only poet they could find, they said / whose poetry was understandable by ten-year-olds." Some readers find that this plainness produces immediacy and honesty, whereas others find it bland and clichéd.

As for his honesty, Field seems to have no inhibitions regarding what he tells his readers. Some critics find this openness brave and engaging, an indication that Field regards his readers as friends. Others wish that Field were more reticent.

Field's development as a gay poet can be traced throughout his volumes. Apart from a sexually explicit version of the Ruth and Naomi story, which has not appeared in either of his collections of selected poems, and "Ode to Fidel Castro," there are few explicit references to homosexuality in his first book Stand Up Friend With Me (1963), which won the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1962.

There are, however, two types of poems in this book in which homosexuality forms the obvious subtext. One is Field's animal poems. In "Donkeys," for example, the animals:

do not own their bodies;
And if they had their own way, I am sure
That they would sit in a field of flowers
Kissing each other, and maybe
They would even invite us to join them.

The other poems are about Sonny Hugg, a boyhood friend of Field. In these poems ("Sonny Hugg Rides Again," "Sonny Hugg and the Porcupine," and "The Sleeper"), Field looks up to Sonny the athletic, aggressive boy who inexplicably likes Field. Sonny also has his vulnerable, sensitive side.

In Variety Photoplays (1967), Field uses popular culture, primarily films but also comics and other forms, as one of his principal sources of inspiration. In "Sweet Gwendolyn and the Countess" and "Nancy," there is lesbian material. The only explicitly gay male poem is "Graffiti," a story about a glory hole.

But homoeroticism informs the wonderful "Giant Pacific Octopus," in which an octopus seen in a pet store becomes in Field's imagination a "boychik" with "the body of a greek god" who "will stay, one night or a lifetime, / for as long as god will let you have him."

In A Full Heart (1977), Field came out fully as a gay poet in genial poems that are of a piece with his other work. Field's gay manifesto is "The Two Orders of Love." In this poem, he sees homosexuality as natural as heterosexuality and as necessary:

Nature needs both to do its work
and humankind, confusing two separate orders of love
makes rules allowing only one kind
and defies the universe.

In "David's Dream," Field gives a typical self-deprecating portrait of himself as one who is "no fun. / I talk liberation / but my actions show otherwise." In "Street Instructions: At the Crotch," he portrays the sexually unrepressed person he would like to be.

New and Selected Poems (1987) contains fewer explicitly gay poems than the preceding volume, but by this time Field has established his persona as a gay man well enough that all of his poems read as meditations on life from a gay standpoint.

Counting Myself Lucky (1992) also contains selections from his previous books as well as new poems. In this volume, growing older as a gay man becomes a primary concern.

Field's gay poems tend to fall into a few categories. The poems about sex are often wry and resigned, but sometimes playful and sexy, as, for example, "The Moving Man" in Winston Leyland's anthology Angels of the Lyre (1975).

In addition, there are poems in praise of relationships and poems of regret about the suppression of his homosexuality when he was young, the cost of which still is coming home to him as he grows older, as is clear in "World Traveler."

There are also a few political poems such as "Two Orders of Love" and "Oh, the Gingkos." In the latter, John Lindsay is described as a mayor no one liked, but who not only had trees planted in New York City, he also "stopped the police from raiding gay bars."

Field's poetry is a pleasurable and valuable account of coming to terms with homosexuality in the literary world of New York in the second half of the twentieth century.

Terrence Johnson

     

    
 interact  
   
Contact Us
 
Join the Discussion
 
 find 
   
Related Entries
 
More Entries by this contributor
 
A Bibliography on this Topic

 
Citation Information
 
More Entries about Literature
 
   
spacer
Popular Topics:

The Arts

 
Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators
Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators


Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall
Photography: Gay Male, Pre-Stonewall


Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male
Erotic and Pornographic Art: Gay Male


New Queer Cinema


White, Minor


Halston (Roy Halston Frowick)


Surrealism
Surrealism


Winfield, Paul


McDowall, Roddy
McDowall, Roddy


Cadinot, Jean-Daniel
Cadinot, Jean-Daniel

 
 


   Related Entries
  
literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Gay Male, 1900-1969

Although largely invisible to the general public, a large body of twentieth-century gay male literature by American authors was published prior to Stonewall, some of it positive but most of it tinged with misery or bleakness as the price of being published and disseminated.

literature >> Overview:  American Literature: Gay Male, Post-Stonewall

After Stonewall, gay male literature became focused as a movement, aided by the development of gay newspapers, magazines, and quarterlies and the founding of serious gay and lesbian bookstores.

literature >> Overview:  Camp

Combining elements of incongruity, theatricality, and exaggeration, camp is a form of humor that helps homosexuals cope with a hostile environment.

literature >> Overview:  Humor

Like other minority groups, gay men and lesbians have had to develop both a particular sense of humor among themselves in order to make their marginal social status endurable and also a defensive awareness toward the rest of the world in order to disarm their adversaries with laughter.

literature >> Overview:  Poetry: Gay Male

The gay tradition in literature from ancient times to the present is primarily a tradition not of prose but of verse.

literature >> Friend, Robert

An American-born Israeli, Robert Friend was both an accomplished poet in his own right and also an exceptionally skillful translator of poetry from many different languages.

literature >> Schuyler, James

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Schuyler, a prominent member of the New York School of poets and painters, wrote openly about his homosexuality.


    Bibliography
   

Bergman, David. "Edward Field." Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume One Hundred Five, American Poets Since World War II: Second Series. Detroit: Gale, 1991. 95-105.

Goldstein, Laurence. "The Spectacles of Edward Field." Parnassus: Poetry in Review 15 (1989): 240-255.

Howard, Richard. "Edward Field: 'His Body Comes Together Joyfully from All Directions.'" Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States Since 1950. Enlarged Edition. New York: Atheneum, 1980. 143-157.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Johnson, Terrence  
    Entry Title: Field, Edward  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated May 5, 2005  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/field_e.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

This Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates

www.glbtq.com is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.