For Some Executors of Gay Writers by Dan Vera explores the prosecution of gay writers within history. Vera writes in attack of those who stifled the voices of these gay writers. He points out the acts that they committed and then curses them. Vera wants those ‘Executors’ to suffer the same fate, hoping they feel the same pain. It is a poem equally about gay liberation and gay suffering.
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From this, Vera then curses those in charge of this marginalization. He wants the same suffering to be inflicted on those ‘Executors’, forcing them to hear, see, and experience all that the writers did. The first half of the poem points to the ways that gay writers were controlled and destroyed. The second half points to the consequences that Vera wants to inflict on those that caused the destruction.
You can read the full poem For Some Executors of Gay Writers here.
Form and Structure
Dan Vera splits For Some Executors of Gay Writers into two stanzas. The first stanza measures 7 lines, while the second measures 8. The increase in the number of lines could reflect how Vera wants the ‘Executors’ to be paid back in full and more. As well as directly suffering for all they have inflicted on the gay community, Vera wants them to suffer even more so. This reflects the cruelty of those executors, their acts causing the suffering of so many. Vera writes the poem in anger, wanting a punishment.
The key theme within For Some Executors of Gay Writers is homosexuality and the gay voice. Vera is writing in reaction to, and in support of, those lost gay voices. The poet wants to acknowledge their loss, while also persecuting those who caused this loss of voice. Homosexuality and the treatment of gay people are central to the understanding of the poem.
Another theme in the poem is violence. Indeed, Vera writes many examples of the violent treatment of gay writers. Going hand in hand with the homosexual voice, Vera exposes the awful treatment of the LGBTQ+ community. Vera is clearing writing this poem directed back in time, to all those voices lost to a homophobic history.
The most important and prominent poetic technique that Vera employs when writing For Some Executors of Gay Writers is anaphora. Anaphora can be seen at the beginning of each line, ‘For’ occupying the first stanza and ‘May’ the second. This repetition could signal the repeating of history, Vera wanting them to pay for all they have done to the gay community and voice.
Another technique that Vera uses is structural repetition. Especially in regards to syntax, the first and second stanza bear many similar grammatical structures. This can be most easily seen by the final line of each stanza. While the gay writers have been given ‘eternal silence’, Vera wants their oppressors to receive ‘nothing but silence’. The syntax, placing ‘silence’ as the final word of each places emphasis on this condition. At heart, this poem is about enforced silence, the gay voice being stripped from the community of writers.
For Some Executors of Gay Writers Analysis
For the manuscript you kept locked up in a wall safe,(…)For the letters from lovers you burned in the furnace,
The first three lines of the poem focus on forms of literature. Vera focuses on ‘manuscripts’, ‘diaries’ and ‘letters’, all ways in which literature has come to fruition in history. By focusing his poem on these forms, Vera is pointing to the canon of literature. Historically, being gay was something scorned and prosecuted in society. Although this is still something prominent in many places in the world, some societies are now more accepting. The exclusion from the canon meant a loss of generations of gay voices, Vera reacting against this.
The method of which the Executors deal with gay writing is stifling and destructive. Vera writes that they ‘kept locked up’ their ‘manuscripts’. This links to the obfuscation of the gay voice. Yet, the reference to ‘locked up’ could also draw upon the contextual criminalization of homosexuality.
The anger of ‘letters from lovers’ that are ‘burned in the furnace’ demonstrates the hate the gay community received. The flowing elegance, caused by alliteration across ‘letters from lovers’, creates a soft and endearing tone. Yet, this is obliterated by the overreaction of fire, ‘burned’ destroying the peaceful tone. The fact this was in a ‘furnace’ shows the depth of fate, the letters industrially destroyed. The executors ensure that no one will ever see these declarations of love again.
For the measures you took to tear out their tongues,(…)For condemning the lovers to eternal silence,
The use of ‘straitened the record’ is polysemous. On one hand, Vera is suggesting that the ‘record’ of writing was set right, the executors removing anything that did not align with their heteronormative narrative. Yet, ‘straightened’ also directly references the slang of gay and straight. Vera is subtly suggesting that the gay voices were rejected, ‘straight’ voices instead of being favored.
The final line forces the gay ‘lovers’ into a deep ‘eternal silence’. This is an incredibly tragic image. Yet, Vera rallies against this, using his poetry to try and give some agency retroactively to the lost gay voices.
May you see their faces in each mirror you gaze in.(…)and be forced to lose sleep to all of their groans.
This second stanza focuses on what punishments Vera wants to enact on those that caused this suffering. The first three lines focus on aspects of the identity of the lost voice. Indeed, ‘their faces’, ‘the name’, ‘their f****g’ all describe the personal aspect of the gay voices which were destroyed. Vera hopes that no matter what the executors do, they will remember and see the gay voices everywhere they go. There will be no escaping what they have done, seeing themselves and their loved ones as transformed into what they long suppressed.
Vera suggests that the executors will not be able to sleep with what they have done, ‘wake in the night’. Indeed, the ‘sound of their f*****g’ and ‘their groans’ will keep them up. The lack of sleep points to prosecution, Vera wanting the executors to suffer a similar torment.
May the pages you hide catch fire from their smoldering,(…)May you call out in grief but hear nothing but silence.
The fire imagery of the first stanza is used again, Vera wanting their ‘house’ the ‘explode’ in fire. The ‘pages you hide’ suddenly ‘catch fire’, causing the complete destruction of the executors’ homes. Vera yearns for revenge, the use of ‘consumes’ displaying the total destruction he wants. The ‘house’, a symbol of safety and security is destroyed in Vera’s rage.
The final line reuses the semantics of silence. The executors, in their ‘grief’, will ‘call out’ for help. Yet, due to their prosecution of gay voices, their voices will similarly fall on deaf ears. Vera presents the loss of the straight voice, using poetry to attempt to level the atrocities reaped on the gay community. The final words, ‘nothing but silence’ display the total consumption of sorrow. The executors lose everything, their identities, their homes, their voice – Vera reflecting exactly what they stole from their homosexual counterparts.
Another poem which deals with homosexuality, but from a differing perspective is Danez Smith’s The 17-Year-Old & the Gay Bar. This poem discusses gay liberation, pointing to a modern age. This offers a different perspective on gay voices, Smith looking to the current age while Vera looks back.
Carol Ann Duffy’s White Writing also focuses on homosexual relationships. While Vera’s relationships are destroyed by the prosecution, Duffy explores her own modern relationship. Although gay marriage was not legal during the publication of Duffy’s poem, she still shows the happiness of the relationship. These poems discuss very similar themes, again taking different moments in the relationship as their central idea.