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‘D.C. queer poets doing some of the most innovative writing’

Kim Roberts on Washington as home to thriving poetry scene



‘Because the federal government is here, people don’t think there’s poetry in D.C.,’ said Kim Roberts.

Cheer up! There’s hope! April isn’t just for filing your taxes. It’s National Poetry Month!

Few people are more important — more vital — to poetry in Washington, D.C. than queer poet, editor, and literary historian Kim Roberts.

It’s hard to imagine any bard in the D.C. region who hasn’t been enriched by Roberts’s editing, poetry, or understanding of history.

“Kim Roberts brings the past and present together with elegance and intelligence,” said Maryland Poet Laureate Grace Cavalieri in an email to the Blade.

“Poetry’s past has gone nowhere at all, thankfully, because of Kim’s work,” Cavalieri, producer and host of the public radio show and Apple podcast “The Poet and the Poem,” said. 

D.C. has been home to numerous poets from its founding to the Civil War to World War I to World War II to our COVID era, Roberts, 60, told the Blade in an interview.

“D.C. is a company town like Las Vegas,” Roberts, who moved to Washington, D.C. 35 years ago, said. “Because the federal government is here, people don’t think there’s poetry in D.C.”

“We get overlooked,” she added.

You might think poetry is a snooze or only for residents of Mount Olympus who are untethered to earthly hopes, fears, loves and losses. But you’d be wrong.

All sorts of people  – from politicos to journalists to teachers to lovers to mourners — seek out and write poetry.

“You turn to poetry in times of great emotion like funerals and weddings,” said Roberts, who is the author of six books of poems.

Recently, this hit close to home for Roberts. “COVID’s been so hard for so many people,” she said, “I feel a bit guilty. Because at my age, I fell in love during the pandemic!”

Roberts was gobsmacked (in a good way) by love — she didn’t expect to find it so late in life. 

At this transformative juncture, Roberts turned to poetry. “My style changed,” she said, “I became confessional.”

Much of her previous poetry has been about other people. The poems in her 2015 collection “Fortune’s Favor: Scott in the Antarctic,” for example, are in the “voice” of explorer Robert Falcon Scott.

“The Scientific Method,” her 2017 book, combines poems about Thomas Alva Edison and Carl Sagan, “the strange mating habits of invertebrates and fish, and rondeaux about the United States presidents,” Roberts writes on her website (

Roberts’s poems about her love for her girlfriend Tracey are personal. They are filled with passion and desire.

Five of her love poems are just out from The Last Press. Roberts is the third poet to be featured in an ongoing series of accordion-fold, hand letter press poems called “Quire.” If you don’t feel the passion pulsating through Roberts love poems, check your pulse.

“My desire for you this evening/is not done, where I bridge/inopportune distance,” Roberts writes in her poem “On Roosevelt Bridge,” one of the poems in the “Quire” series, “where I cross/the river into my city, fluid/ around my heart.”

“There’s an ocean inside my belly,” Roberts writes in “Another Lapping Refrain,” one of her “Quire” poems, “and you’re making my tide rise/I want to apologize to the shore/for my past indifference to its beauty.”

The pandemic gave her permission to try different types of projects, Roberts said. One of the things she and her friend Robert Revere, a photographer, missed during the shutdowns was going to museums. Roberts and Revere co-created “Corona/Crown,” a 14-part prose poem with photographs.

“We created a “museum of our own,” Roberts said. “We combined how we imagined people would interact with visual culture with photos of real places.” 

“Corona/Crown” will be published as a chapbook by WordTech Editions in the winter of 2023.

Since childhood, Roberts has felt a strong connection to the English language. “I loved the musicality of words. I made up rhymes and stories,” Roberts said, “it’s inevitable that I would write.”

Roberts earned a B.F.A. in creative writing from Emerson College, and an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Arizona. In 2000, Roberts became the founding editor of “Beltway Poetry Quarterly,” an acclaimed journal that publishes D.C.-area poets. She retired from editing “Beltway” in 2019.

“Beltway” has published many queer poets (including a special LGBTQ issue). Richard Blanco, Regie Cabico, Jona Colson, Cheryl Clarke and Angelina Weld are among the queer poets whose work has appeared in “Beltway.”

“Publishing queer writers helps us see ourselves as part of a special literature,” Roberts said.

Roberts began to explore the history of Washington, D.C. decades ago when she arrived in D.C. “It helped me to feel connected to the city,” she said.

The anthology “By Broad Potomac’s Shore: Great Poems from the Early Days of Our Nation’s Capital,” which Roberts edited, came out in 2020. The collection covers poets, born between 1800 to 1900 through the Civil War, Reconstruction and World War I.

Their work “spans the gamut form traditional Victorian-era sentimentality through the beginnings of literary modernism,” Roberts writes in the preface.

Everyone knows about Whitman being queer, Roberts said. The anthology’s title comes from Whitman’s poem with the same title. But there have been many other queer poets throughout D.C.’s history, Roberts said.

Take Natalie Clifford Barney, a feminist poet, who lived from 1876 to 1972. Barney spent her early years in D.C. She hosted salons in Paris for artists for more than 60 years. “She was the first woman to write openly about lesbian love since Sappho,” Roberts said.

“The full-sailed rising of your body’s sweep/ – Adrift and safe on joy’s last tidal wave —,” Barney wrote in her poem “How Write the Beat of Love,” “Will toss you on the silver sands of sleep/Forgetful of the ecstasy you gave.”

Other queer poets in the “By Broad Potomac’s Shore” anthology range from Charles Warren Stoddard, whose homoerotic writing about the natives of the South Seas was inspired by Whitman’s “Calamus” poems to Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, first lady for two years for her bachelor brother President Grover Cleveland.

Roberts is as committed to LGBTQ poetry in our time in D.C. as she is to queer poetry in the city’s past.

Roberts and filmmaker Jon Gann are co-coordinating the DC Queer Pride Poem-a-Day project. In June, the Project will feature 30 poets reading a poem in short videos online. One poem will be released daily. The website will stay up after Pride. (This reporter is one of the poets who will be featured in the Project.)

“D.C. queer poets now are doing some of the most imaginative, innovative writing,” Roberts said. “It’s important to document the writing of our time.”



PHOTOS: DCGFFL 25th Anniversary Party

Gay flag football league marks milestone at Penn Social



The D.C. Gay Flag Football league held a party celebrating their 25th season at Penn Social on Saturday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Gay Flag Football League (DCGFFL) held a 25th season anniversary party at Penn Social on Saturday, Sept. 23. Proceeds from the event benefited the LGBTQ youth services organization SMYAL as well as the D.C. Center for the LGBTQ Community.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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New book goes behind the scenes of ‘A League of Their Own’

‘No Crying in Baseball’ offers tears, laughs, and more



(Book cover image courtesy of Hachette Books)

‘No Crying in Baseball: The Inside Story of ‘A League of Their Own’
By Erin Carlson
c.2023, Hachette Books
$29/320 pages

You don’t usually think of Madonna as complaining of being “dirty all day” from playing baseball. But that’s what the legendary diva did during the shooting of “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 movie, beloved by queers.

“No Crying in Baseball,” the fascinating story behind “A League of Their Own,” has arrived in time for the World Series. Nothing could be more welcome after Amazon has cancelled season 2 of its reboot (with the same name) of this classic film.

In this era, people don’t agree on much. Yet, “A League of Their Own” is loved by everyone from eight-year-old kids to 80-year-old grandparents.

The movie has strikes, home runs and outs for sports fans; period ambience for history buffs; and tears, laughs and a washed-up, drunk, but lovable coach for dramady fans.

The same is true for “No Crying in Baseball.” This “making of” story will appeal to history, sports and Hollywood aficionados. Like “All About Eve” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “A League of Their Own” is Holy queer Writ.

Carlson, a culture and entertainment journalist who lives in San Francisco, is skilled at distilling Hollywood history into an informative, compelling narrative. As with her previous books, “I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy” and “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep,” “No Crying in Baseball,” isn’t too “educational.” It’s filled with gossip to enliven coffee dates and cocktail parties.

“A League of Their Own” is based on the true story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL). From 1943 to 1954, more than 600 women played in the league in the Midwest. The league’s players were all white because the racism of the time prohibited Black women from playing. In the film, the characters are fictional. But the team the main characters play for – the Rockford Peaches – was real.

While many male Major and Minor League Baseball players were fighting in World War II, chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, who owned the Chicago Cubs, founded the league. He started the AAGPBL, “To keep spectators in the bleachers,” Carlson reports, “and a storied American sport–more important: his business afloat.” 

In 1943, the Office of War Information warned that the baseball season could be “scrapped” “due to a lack of men,” Carlson adds.

“A League of Their Own” was an ensemble of women’s performances (including Rosie O’Donnell as Doris, Megan Cavanagh as Marla, Madonna as Mae, Lori Petty as Kit and Geena Davis as Dottie) that would become legendary.

Girls and women  still dress up as Rockford Peaches on Halloween.

Tom Hanks’s indelible portrayal of coach Jimmy Dugan, Gary Marshall’s depiction of (fictional) league owner Walter Harvey and Jon Lovitz’s portrayal of Ernie have also become part of film history.

Filming “A League of Their Own,” Carlson vividly makes clear, was a gargantuan effort.  There were “actresses who can’t play baseball” and “baseball players who can’t act,” Penny Marshall said.

The stadium in Evansville, Ind., was rebuilt to look like it was in the 1940s “when the players and extras were in costume,” Carlson writes, “it was easy to lose track of what year it was.”

“No Crying in Baseball” isn’t written for a queer audience. But, Carlson doesn’t pull any punches. 

Many of the real-life AAGPBL players who O’Donnell met had same-sex partners, O’Donnell told Carlson.

“When Penny, angling for a broad box-office hit chose to ignore the AAGPGL’s queer history,” Carlson writes, “she perpetuated a cycle of silence that muzzled athletes and actresses alike from coming out on the wider stage.”

“It was, as they say, a different time,” she adds.

Fortunately, Carlson’s book isn’t preachy. Marshall nicknames O’Donnell and Madonna (who become buddies) “Ro” and “Mo.” Kodak is so grateful for the one million feet of film that Marshall shot that it brings in a high school marching band. Along with a lobster lunch. One day, an assistant director “streaked the set to lighten the mood,” Carlson writes.

“No Crying in Baseball,” is slow-going at first. Marshall, who died in 2018, became famous as Laverne in “Laverne & Shirley.” It’s interesting to read about her. But Carlson devotes so much time to Marshall’s bio that you wonder when she’ll get to “A League of Their Own.”

Thankfully, after a couple of innings, the intriguing story of one of the best movies ever is told.

You’ll turn the pages of “No Crying in Baseball” even if you don’t know a center fielder from a short stop.

The Blade may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made via this post.

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Rupert Murdoch’s powers on full display in ‘Ink’

Media baron helped pave the way for Brexit, Prime Minister Thatcher



Cody Nickell (Larry Lamb) and Andrew Rein (Rupert Murdoch) in ‘Ink’ at Round House Theatre. (Photo by Margot Schulman Photography)

Through Sept. 24
Round House Theatre
4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, MD 20814

Yes, Rupert Murdoch’s loathsome traits are many, but his skills to succeed are undeniably numerous. 

In the first scenes of John Graham’s West End and Broadway hit drama “Ink,” an exciting year-long detail from the life of a burgeoning media baron, Murdoch’s powers of persuasion are on full display.

It’s 1969 London. Over dinner with editor Larry Lamb, a young Murdoch shares his plan to buy the Sun and rebrand the dying broadsheet, replacing the Daily Mirror as Britain’s best-selling tabloid. What’s more, he wants to do it in just one year with Lamb at the helm. 

Initially reluctant, Lamb becomes seduced by the idea of running a paper, something that’s always eluded him throughout his career, and something Murdoch, the outsider Australian, understands. Murdoch taunts him, “Not you. Not Larry Lamb, the Yorkshire-born son of a blacksmith, not the guy who didn’t get a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, who didn’t get a degree from anywhere. Not you.”

Still, Lamb, played convincingly by Cody Nickell in Round House Theatre’s stellar season-opener, a co-production with Olney Theatre Center, remains unsure. But Murdoch (a delightfully brash Andrew Rein) is undeterred, and seals the deal with a generous salary. 

Superbly staged by director Jason Loweth, “Ink” is riveting. Its exchanges between Lamb and Murdoch are a strikingly intimate glimpse into ambition involving an ostensibly average editor and a striving money man who doesn’t like people.  

Once on board, Lamb is trolling Fleet Street in search of his launch team, played marvelously by some mostly familiar actors. He makes his most important hire — news editor Brian McConnell (Maboud Ebrahimzadeh) — in a steam bath. The remainder of the Sun’s new masthead falls handily into place: Joyce Hopkirk (Kate Eastwood Norris) the women’s page editor whose forward thinking is marred by her casual racism; Zion Jang plays Beverley Goodway, an awkwardly amusing young photographer; persnickety deputy editor Bernard Shrimsley (Michael Glenn) who learns to love ugly things; and an old school sports editor who proves surprisingly versatile, played by Ryan Rillette, Round House’s artistic director. 

At Lamb’s suggestion, the team brainstorms about what interests Sun readers. They decide on celebrities, pets, sports, free stuff, and —rather revolutionarily for the time —TV.  Murdoch is happy to let readers’ taste dictate content and the “Why” of the sacred “five Ws” of journalism is out the window. 

Murdoch is portrayed as a not wholly unlikable misanthrope. He dislikes his editors and pressman alike. He particularly hates unions. His advice to Lamb is not to get too chummy with his subordinates. Regarding the competition, Murdoch doesn’t just want to outperform them, he wants to grind them to dust. 

Loewith leads an inspired design team. Scenic designer Tony Cisek’s imposing, inky grey edifice made from modular walls is ideally suited for Mike Tutaj’s projections of headlines, printed pages, and Rein’s outsized face as Murdoch. Sound designer and composer Matthew M. Nielson ably supplies bar noises and the nonstop, pre-digital newspaper clatter of presses, linotypes, and typewriters.

From a convenient second tiered balcony, the Daily Mirror’s establishment power trio Hugh Cudlipp (Craig Wallace), Chris Lee Howard (Chris Geneback) and Sir Percy (Walter Riddle) overlook all that lies below, discussing new tactics and (mostly failed) strategies to remain on top.   

Increasingly comfortable in the role of ruthless, sleazy editor, Lamb is unstoppable.

Obsessed with overtaking the Daily Mirror’s circulation, he opts for some sketchy reportage surrounding the kidnapping and presumed murder of Muriel McKay, the wife of Murdoch’s deputy Sir Alick (Todd Scofield). The kidnappers mistook Muriel for Murdoch’s then-wife Anna (Sophia Early). Next, in a move beyond the pale, Lamb introduces “Page 3,” a feature spotlighting a topless female model. Awesta Zarif plays Stephanie, a smart young model. She asks Lamb if he would run a semi-nude pic of his similarly aged daughter? His reaction is uncomfortable but undaunted. 

For Murdoch’s purposes, history proves he chose well in Lamb. By year’s end, the Sun is Britain’s most widely read tabloid. Together they give the people what they didn’t know they wanted, proving the pro-Labour Daily Mirror’s hold on the working class is baseless and paving the way for things like Brexit and a Prime Minister Thatcher. 

“Ink” at Round House closes soon. See it if you can.

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