with James Schwartz:
Q1: When did you start writing and first influences? Current influences?
I won several awards in school for creative writing and had teachers’ encouragement as well as free reign at the local library. I was searching for my own story, one that reflected my identity as a gay youth in a closed religious community that is hostile to its LGBTQ members and practises shunning, family separation and conversion therapy.
I was also reading about the world at large, outside my Old Order Amish community. Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling were childhood favorites.
Later in my 20s I read Oscar Wilde, Arthur Rimbaud, Allen Ginsberg, the Beats, Hart Crane, Willa Cather, Truman Capote, James Baldwin, Pat Parker, any LGBTQ writer I could find.
Q2: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?
James: I knew I wanted to write early on but what does an Amish boy from the Midwest have to say about life? I had to sow my wild oats as the Amish say about youthful rebellion however there were a lot of oats to sow! I had to go clubbing and travel and fall in love and find my own way.
Q3: Who has helped you most with writing?
James: In my 20s I wrote almost every night, sometimes with a friend and we would read aloud our odes to drag queens and go go boys on the Kalamazoo gay scene which circa 2000 was a Mecca with Brothers Beta Club and The Zoo Bar, where I gave several poetry readings. I have always felt supported by my LGBTQ community and chosen family.
Q4: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing & have any travels away from home influence your work?
James: I am from the Midwestern, Bukowski, working-class school of poets and from a Swiss Amish background. I inherited the Amish work ethic and try to write 5 nights a week. Fun fact: Today you can see a copy of my poetry collection “The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America” in Obermutten, Switzerland’s International Museum of Friendship!
Travel always inspires. I have traveled around the US and Mexico and lived in Puna, Hawai’i for 3 years which inspired my book of poetry and photos “Punatic” (Writing Knights Press). When I moved to Puna I had no idea this was an international destination for spiritual refugees.
Q5: What do you consider your most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far to you?
James: My first book, “The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America” for the obvious reasons: it was a coming out story from a place where there were no coming out stories. It was a stepping stone to use a poetic metaphor which would lead to the formation of LGBT Amish.com, an online support group and recently co-hosting “Plain Rainbows: LGBTQ Amish and Anabaptist Stories” podcast with Mary Byler (YouTube, Facebook, Podbean platforms).
Q6: Favorite activities to relax?
James: Reading the classics, a mystery novel, biography, history or travel essays. Meditation and nature walks in my free time.
Q7: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poet?
James: Shakespeare’s line in “Hamlet”: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Q8: What kind of music do you enjoy?
James: Baroque, jazz, house music depending on the mood. I am also fond of Hawaiian music and watch the Merrie Monarch Festival every year!
Q9: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?
James: “Punatic” was rereleased in 2020 and I recently contributed to the anthologies “Lovejets: Queer Male Poets on 200 Years of Walt Whitman” (Squares and Rebels Press), “Sweeter Voices Still: An LGBTQ Anthology from Middle America” (Belt Publishing) and “Good Cop/Bad Cop” (FlowerSong Press).
Bio & Links:
James Schwartz is a poet, writer, slam performer, speaker & author.
His book THE LITERARY PARTY: GROWING UP GAY AND AMISH IN AMERICA was published by inGroup Press in 2011 + nominated for a Lambda Literary Award & #ARTFORFREEDOM. Schwartz has also been a PUSHCART PRIZE nominee.
Poetry by Schwartz has been published in various journals (SILVER BIRCH PRESS, THE NEW VERSE NEWS, WRITERSRESIST.COM, RIC JOURNAL, HEADLINE POETRY & PRESS, ACROSS THE SOCIAL DISTANCES, TRAIN: A POETRY JOURNAL, OVERGROUND / UNDERGROUND MAGAZINE, ICEFLOE PRESS, FEVERS OF THE MIND)
+ the anthologies:
AMONG THE LEAVES: QUEER MALE POETS ON THE MIDWESTERN EXPERIENCE (2012)
MILK & HONEY SIREN (2013)
WRITING KNIGHTS PRESS 2014 ANTHOLOGY
QDA: A QUEER DISABILITY ANTHOLOGY (2015)
DANGEROUS SUBMISSIONS (2017)
CHALLENGING SUBMISSIONS (2017)
#R E S I S T(2017)
GRAND SHOWCASE 2018
NOT MY PRESIDENT: THE ANTHOLOGY OF DISSENT (2017)
LOVEJETS: QUEER MALE POETS ON 200 YEARS OF WALT WHITMAN(2019)
POETRY IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS (2020)
MARCH 2020: A COVID-19 ANTHOLOGY
JUNE 2020: A PANDEMIC ANTHOLOGY
SWEETER VOICES STILL: AN LGBTQ ANTHOLOGY FROM MIDDLE AMERICA (2021)
GOOD COP/BAD COP: AN ANTHOLOGY (2021)
+ ALPINE SUITE (2013), POETRY 4 FOOD 2 (2013), POETRY 4 FOOD 3 (2014), ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE (2014), SECULAR, SATIRICAL & SACRED MEDITATIONS (2016), MICHIGAN MEDITATIONS (2016), PUNATIC(2019), SELECTED POEMS (2019), IN THE FAR DISTANCE SO MUCH IS BURNING (2021), #MARTYRMIRRORS (2021) chapbooks.
In 2011 Schwartz joined the Three Rivers Community Players for a production of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW, playing a Phantom.
He appears in the documentary films THE SEAHORSE + FROM PAHOA WITH LAVA 4.
A slam performer, Schwartz has read at various venues including The Zoo Bar, This is Fire! Kukuau Studio, La Hiki Ola kava bar + speaking at East Hawaii Center for Spiritual Living.
Essays by Schwartz have appeared in RFD MAGAZINE, THE GOOD MEN PROJECT, OUR HAPPY HOURS: LGBT VOICES FROM THE GAY BARS anthology (winner of a Goldie Award) + short story AMISH ROAD TRIP in JONATHAN: A JOURNAL OF QUEER MALE FICTION & several Amazon Kindle eBooks (VOLCANO SUITE).
Media appearences include HUFF POST LIVE, DIVERSITY RULES MAGAZINE, SENSA NOSTRA MAGAZINE, SHUNNED PODCAST, THE FORBIDDEN APPLE PODCAST, THE PLAIN PEOPLE’S PODCAST & THE NEW YORK TIMES.
He co-hosts the podcast Plain Rainbows: LGBTQ Amish and Anabaptist Stories with Mary Byler.
James Schwartz resides in Detroit.
Bio: James Schwartz is a poem, slam performer and author of various poetry collections including The Literary Party: Growing Up Gay and Amish in America (Kindle, 2011), Punatic (Writing Knights Press, 2019) & most recently Motor City mix (Alien Buddha Press, 2022)