You’ve already met, Jay McCoy. He was the one who stood up at the Caucus meeting, raised his hand, and said, “I would like to serve as Secretary!” (Or at least that’s how I remember it!) Here, at the start of our year in the Caucus, I thought it would be nice to get to know Jay a bit better. I caught up with him to find out more about him, his interests, and why he was crazy enough to volunteer for the 2017-2018 LGBTQ Writers Caucus Board:
Tell us a bit about yourself, Jay!
I live in Lexington, Kentucky, where I work as a freelance writer and editor. Yes, I am sixth generation of the feuding McCoys; my ancestral roots run deep in Appalachia. I hold an MFA from the Bluegrass Writers Studio at Eastern Kentucky University. My first poetry collection, The Occupation, came out in 2015 from Accents Publishing. Until this January, I was the general manager of an independent bookstore, The Morris Book Shop, when its doors closed. I now spend my free time plotting a new independent bookstore with my business partner, Savannah Sipple. We hope to launch Brier Books’ online presence very soon and have a brick & mortar location in late summer or early fall.
You worked in books! Okay, so who are your favorite contemporary writers?
Jan Beatty has held the top spot of my favorite contemporary writers for a few years. Her visceral poems and activist spirit inspire me. Pick up one of her books and lose yourself in it. Sit with it for a while. Let it simmer. I would round out my top ten, in no particular order, with the likes of Mark Doty, Joy Harjo, Ron Rash, Sonia Sanchez, Eileen Myles, Maurice Manning, Chuck Palahniuk, Jericho Brown, and Lee Smith.
All right! Now I know who to add to my bookshelf! Other than your clear love of books, why did you want to become involved in the LGBTQ Writers Caucus?
I have wanted to become more involved with the Caucus for a few years. I strongly believe in doing the necessary work of increasing the visibility and involvement of the LGBTQ community, whether within AWP or in any of our organizations or hometowns. I’ve sat back and done the things I could. Now, I have more time to commit to the work. The energy and love during the Caucus meeting this year was an immediate impetus to put my words into action. Also, I blame my friend, Staci Schoenfeld, for nudging me in the moment to raise my hand.
Ha! Maybe you’ll nudge her next year to join the board as well! Okay, Last question: What was the most memorable part of AWP 2017?
Aside from getting to be in the actual physical presence of so many writing friends that you only know virtually for most of the year, I would have to put the most memorable weight on a single session: The Elegy Endures: 30 Years of Community Witness to HIV/AIDS. The panelists (Irene Borger, Michael Broder, David Groff, Reginald Harris, and Terry Wolverton) shared the work of voices, both well-known and lesser known, that spoke, so clearly and loudly, to the past thirty years and the spirit necessary for the years ahead. I walked out of that session with a quiet, yet immediate, resolve. It served healing and motivating purposes.