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Award-winning poet L. Lamar Wilson headlines Saturday at Reading Queer festival in Miami Beach

BY STEVE ROTHAUS
srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

L. Lamar Wilson's headline performance Saturday at the Reading Queer festival in Miami Beach will tell his personal story through music and poetry.

"I have a book of poems called Sacrilegion," said Wilson, originally of Marianna in Florida's Panhandle. "It's a book about language of the Bible and the music of the church I grew up in, the Missionary Baptist Church."

Sacrilegion (Carolina Wren Press, 2013) is "a complex book because it's dealing with three things," said Wilson, a copy editor at the Charlotte Observer (a Miami Herald sister paper) and doctoral student at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

"It's about coming of age in the era of AIDS," said Wilson, who won the 2012 Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series.

"I say that with intention. When you are growing up with this thing that kills people, who are like what you are discovering you are … it impacts the way that you think about what it means to be a queer body. It’s not something to embrace, to be joyful about."

SacrilegionCVR_sml3-280x360The book's centerpiece poem is Legion: Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which Wilson will perform Saturday at Reading Queer.

Sacrilegion's second pillar is about race upheaval, Wilson said.

"The aftermath of Jim Crow violence in my hometown of Marianna, Florida," he said."With that kind of violence happening to young black bodies. My book is exploring the violence that is pervasive or institutional in these small towns."

Wilson will read his poem, Resurrection Sunday, about the real-life lynching in 1934 of Claude Neal.

Sacrilegion is also about body image, said Wilson, whose left arm and hand were damaged at birth.

"Growing up with this physical difference, Erb’s palsy, and coming into his own, realizing he is queer and finding the kind of acceptance in a culture that’s obsessed with the perfect chiseled body," Wilson says in the third person.

He later adds a fourth pillar: "What it means to embrace being decidedly rural & Southern in metro cities -- for me, Milwaukee, Chicago, D.C., Atlanta -- when that means you'll be mistaken as slothful and simple-minded. Sacrilegion complicates that narrative," he says in a text message. "It also blurs the lines between English, Spanish, & other Native languages that inform it. I am multiethnically black; my ancestors were master & slave, Mascogo & possibly Latino."

Reading Queer

L. Lamar Wilson performs with Carl DuPont (an assistant professor at University of North Carolina at Charlotte), bass-baritone Lloyd Reshard Jr. & tenor Kunya Rowley from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday at Miami Beach Botanical Garden. 2000 Convention Center Dr. Free (suggested donation of $20).

Click here for more information.

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