A week ago a tweet came into my feed. It promoted a free ebook of poetry by Harry F. Rey. I downloaded it and a few days later started reading.
Instantly I fell for the surreal imagery. Each poem hit me with its honesty about gay life and in some instances, the heartache attached.
So I contacted Harry and asked for a guest blog. He was straight onto it and provided some musings on writing his collection titled The Road Home.
Finding my road home
I didn’t set out to write a poetry book. But ever since I had the confidence to put pen to paper, I found myself scribbling down poems in the margins of life. I love playing with the sounds and the beats of verse, building a rhythm in words that leaps the story straight into the readers’ heart.
Like so many boys who like boys stretching back throughout history, I was once seventeen and in love. But The Road Home doesn’t start there, it begins with my broken teenage heart. In two of the poems of the opening section, Sticky Jealousy and Reality, I’m trying then failing to understand the mindset of someone who tells me he loves me, but wants more than just me. By the close of the first quarter of the book, I’m depressed, lost, and longing for someone who just didn’t care for me anymore, but I couldn’t accept it.
That first section of poems, The Fall, originally finished with one of the most haunting poems I think I’ve written. Called Winter has Come, I actually wrote it long before I’d heard of Game of Thrones, but for me it evokes that same kind of empty, nihilistic view of the world I had back then. Many years later I revisited that first chaotic relationship and wrote the closing poem to that section; Good Intentions, which is one of my favourites of the whole book. It’s also the only poem I’ve ever performed live at a poetry slam. Safe to say it was an unmitigated disaster. I spent weeks trying to learn it by heart then forgot half the words as soon as I got to the stage. A couple of gays in the audience took pity on me and cheered the whole way through, but at least I learned something about myself, I’m a writer, not a performer.
The second section, The Longing, is influenced by the paths I travelled in my early 20s. A Nights’ Desire, Inferno, Nights of Thunder explores that period of a gay man’s life when a 2am text will send you out into the dark and cold to fill your desire with a hope to find that spark of love. In Stolen Nights (there’s definitely a theme here!) there’s a line that sums up the hollowness of that period:
I am alone each forsaken morning
But pray for the darkness to take
One more night closer to you
Until that day my heart will break
The only poem from the collection published externally by a journal is: Night at the Park. I love that poem because it is so evocative of the memory of a particular place and time. There was this small, scratchy suburban park near this guy’s house and it terrified me. I never knew why. It felt like a black hole, some sinkhole to another dimension that might just come swallow me up if I wasn’t careful. But still I kept walking across it, night after night, almost in love with the fear.
The next poem is perhaps the most brutal of the book, certainly the most explicit. Drug-fucked is inspired by the issue no gay or bi man alive today is not affected by in some way; sex and anti-retrovirals. The book, like my journey, is pre-PrEP, but I think it speaks to this newer Truvada generation that are filling prescriptions before finding love. There’s this clinical, medical element to the way men love men today that I think has more to be explored by gay literature, and it’s going to be a big part of the sequel to The Road Home.
The poems of the third section, The Wander, I wrote from age 26 when one day I quit my job, sold most of the belongings I had, said goodbye to friends and lovers and started travelling the world. I embraced this idea of journey, of a road with no end. I lived out of backpacks, picked olives off ancient mountainsides, wandered through cities and fields alone, and I think finally, finally came to terms with the bits and pieces of my life that had torn me apart. One of the lines that sums up that period of life for me is this:
That I am not my stems, stalks or broken limbs
My home is here, floating in the wind
The final section of the book, The Rise, is the culmination of that journey which despite the many miles I had travelled, I realised was always towards myself. The title poem of the book, The Road Home, sews each element together. In it, I’m coming to peace with my past and present, my family, politics and history, and working out that the things which other people build their lives around aren’t that important to me, and that’s okay.
My favourite stanza from the whole book is in that poem, and it unlocks the way I view the title of the book itself.
Alone I’ll sit but not for long I’ll stay
Because the road’s my home it and it goes my way.
That’s my lesson from the book, from the journey, from life. And it’s something that we’re told time and time again. Life is only ever about the journey, there is no destination. Home is the road, the trick is to make it our peace with it, to make our home on it, to make our own road home.
Harry F. Rey is an author, poet and lover of gay themed stories. His first novel The Galactic Captains, an M/M sci-fi romance, is out from Nine Star Press in July, as is The Line of Succession, a contemporary royal gay romance published by Deep Desires Press.
You can follow him on twitter @Harry_F_Rey
And you can download his free poetry book at these links: