“This Garden Plot” grew out of my experience through two pandemics: AIDS and COVID 19. That experience found vivid reverberations in poems drawn from Walt Whitman and Thom Gunn, work that traces the experience of being gay in America from the Civil War through AIDS.
The show begins with Whitman’s great poem about the trauma of tending to the wounded in the Civil War, and moves through those about his determination to live and love freely as a Gay man in a time when the term “homosexual” had only just been coined, through his radical ideas about what it means to live in community with others, and about death. His work speaks to us urgently and evocatively, particularly as we emerge from life with Covid 19.
The second section is built from the work of Thom Gunn. It begins with poems written before Stonewall, about a Gay culture that was removed from the attention of most people, but shifts quickly to the trauma of life with AIDS. For many of us who have been around a while, Covid 19 was our second pandemic. I found in Gunn’s work descriptions and lessons that are as vivid and helpful today as they were when he wrote them, 25 years ago. Linked together, the work of Whitman and Gunn form a diptych of the life of Gay people in America, from 1865 through 1995. It is also a story that many of my generation lived ourselves.
I believe that this story offers something important to younger generations, and in a way it answers the plea Matthew Lopez makes in his play, “The Inheritance.” “This Garden Plot” is an expression of the experience and wisdom of previous generations of Gay men.
Storytelling through poetry