My Friend Ragan Is Crazy Talented.

I’m proud to pimp the poetry book of one of my dearest friends, Ragan Fox.

exile in gayville is everything I love about Ragan. Spot-on hilarious, yank-your-marrow honesty, clever-clever without a hint of “i-mean-if-you-can-understand-but-i’m-sure-you-can’t,” and the next thing you know, you feel like you’ve always known him, and you’re grateful for everything he shared with you.

But, you know, fancier people said it better:

“Ragan Fox’s searing chronicle of growing up gay is an anguished autobiography composed of poems unerring in their ferocity and their truths. These stanzas, which seem to be scraped directly from the surface of the poet’s skin, are both gut-twisting and impossible to turn away from. No edges are blurred, nothing is held back. Sharpening a creative signature that already sported a razor edge, Fox grants us
witness to the crafting of an unapologetic life.”

-Patricia Smith, four-time individual National Poetry Slam champion and National Book Award finalist for Blood Dazzler

“In a post-Will and Grace world, there is something freshly anarchic about the poetry of Ragan Fox. In the service of the story, Fox isn’t afraid to get ugly, to be the mean girl, the irresponsible son, the nervous guy who can’t keep track of his f*ck list while filling out forms for his AIDS test. Fearlessly exploring every aspect of his life — from the trials of his love life, to the death of his father, to the TV shows he uses to escape — Fox approaches the reader with a joke on his tongue, a glint in his eye and hook in his hand for your heart. And that’s what makes his latest collection sing: that no matter how hilariously raw or painfully voyeuristic the verse, Fox finds a real tenderness, a true humanity in the chaos. With his latest collection of poetry, Fox doesn’t just walk the thin line between the shock and the awe, he swaggers all over it.”

-Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz, author of Words In Your Face: A Guide Tour Through Twenty Years of the New York City Poetry Slam

“Exile in Gayville probes the root of our glittering, American paranoia as it attempts to organize the detritus of the speaker’s past into a comprehensible mythology. Fox methodically plays pick-up sticks with the fragments of his formative years in a way that is more detective-like than confessional. Declarative, essayistic, playful, and vividly descriptive, Gayville reads more like a fragmented experimental memoir than a collection of poems. At times surreal, language-y, and often heartbreakingly funny, Fox mans multiple forms (micro-play, curriculum vitae, ballad, litany, epistle, flarf, index) in order to fully navigate the gay gyre. In this way, the poet manages to gauge not only his own pulse, but that of a post-Prop 8 nation.”

-Karyna McGlynn, author of I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl

smaller world.

Aw, Ragan! Sniff! At work!

Ragan has no idea how much of an influence he was on me in high school, even though we only had a short time together. First of all, I remember him in Noises Off, and I remember seeing him and thinking, “That boy and I; we are gonna be friends.” His Houston high school theatre scene was completely different than mine. They all seemed so grown-up, with how they dated each other and had big, giant drama. It was like they were already in college! And when I went to see Ragan’s show at his school, he was in drag. (“Little girls! I am in the process of putting old heads on young bodies!”) The first time I ever saw a boy in drag, and I was just smitten.

I don’t know if he remembers this, but one night we drove up and down Westheimer in his Jeep, being the most obnoxious teens in Texas, ruining the ending of “The Crying Game” for the poor souls waiting at the red light next to us. (Ragan, I put that in my high school’s yearbook, by the way! I never got to tell you that!)

It’s amazing to me that Ragan and I were living parallel lives all these years, so close to each other without knowing it. He’s always been in my heart, and I’m so proud of him for all he’s done over the years. And I’m not just talking about how he’s a published poet, accomplished performance artist and a teacher. It’s that he’s still brave, bold, fiercely independent and intelligent, with compassion that reaches right across the table and holds you tight.

small world

So Ragan sends me a link to this video. It makes me laugh. A lot. (When he removes his glasses, from then on I am in hysterics.). I forward the video. We watch it at work. (Marco: “Not a hit with the straight guys. They ran over to watch it and then wandered away like the pack of coyotes who got to the carcass after the meat had been stripped.”) It’s the fun video of the day. I get an email the next day for this link — turns out the video was directed by my talented friend Alex Staggs!

(“Grove ticket ripper” has been the slam of the week around here.)