FLIT: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature, by Dennis Milam Bensie

flitFlit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature ($11.95, 128 pages, ISBN: 978-1-60381-323-5), a collection of poems by Seattle wigmaker and memoirist Dennis Milam Bensie, each selecting words from a work of classic literature to create snapshots of gay life and culture.

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The Advocate voted Bensie’s first memoir, Shorn: Toys to Men, “One of the Best Overlooked Books of 2011.” The New York Journal of Books called Shorn: “Bracingly honest.” The Library Journal recommended it as “particularly topical in these days of bullying stories and gay teens committing suicide.” One Gay American was a finalist for both the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Book Awards.

“Dennis Milam Bensie offers his readers in Flit a veritable Baedeker to contemporary gay culture constructed from the clay of the literary canon. In poems simultaneously playful and wise, Bensie ‘mashes up’ the words of the classics to comment on the intricacies of gay identity/ies today. In the harrowing ‘PnP,’ for example, the poet speaks of the pain that fuels drug use into ‘the party and play way of life.’ The protagonist in ‘A Bill with the Devil’ is sent to ‘a special shock camp’ by his Christian family. Bensie angles his lens forward in poems such as ‘The Harvey Milk Doll’ and ‘God in a Dress’ that bring the volume to a close, fashioning a new iconography of heroism and the divine. With the likes of Arthur Miller, George Bernard Shaw, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Leo Tolstoy, Virgina Woolf, and numerous others ga(y)zing over his (and our) shoulders, Bensie dares us to consider anew the literature and our world that we thought we knew. ‘Minor’ and ‘major’ literatures, in Bensie’s exuberant hands, come together on unexpected ground. This engagement proves most felicitous indeed.”
—Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, author of Prayers of a Heretic: Poems

“Dennis Milam Bensie’s latest book is a wildly unique combination of his own lively, in-your-face verse surveying the contemporary queer scene seamlessly mingled with lines from classic authors like Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Herman Melville, and William Shakespeare. Mr. Bensie is truly a master of the memorable amalgam!”
—Jeff Mann, author of Rebels and A Romantic Mann

“The literary closet is blasted ajar with dynamite, as we slowly learn that gay urbane quotidian poetry of today is lurking in literally all of literature. From Charlotte’s Web and Hemingway to Gone With the Wind, we’ll forgive if some of the evidence is planted by our author—a private eye who won’t quit till each straight boy in history is caught wearing a skirt!”
—Felix Bernstein, author of Burn Book (Nightboat) and Notes on Post-Conceptual Poetry (Insert Blanc Press)

“What Bensie and these poems do is to make us have another look at what have been literary classics and reconsider them as they pertain to our lives. Here Bensie is the master as he takes to places we never thought we would visit—he has the magic carpet and we get on and enjoy our journey through the very best that has been retailored for us. Having read all that he has published, I never really thought of Dennis Bensie as a poet but I see how wrong I was. He is a poet par excellence and we are so lucky to have him share it with us…. I want all of you to love this book as much as I do.”  Read more….
—Reviews by Amos Lassen

“The word ‘flit’ comes from J.D. Salinger’s overrated, homophobic novel, Catcher in the Rye. Dennis Milam Bensie queers the work of Salinger and thirty-nine other well-known authors (some gay, some not), from Shakespeare to Alice Walker, by using words from their work to create brilliant mash poetry. The poems present aspects of contemporary gay life many readers, myself included, will identify with, such as growing up gay in hostile church and school environments and exploring some of the more exotic and exciting features of gay life today. A remarkable achievement well worth the read.”
—Clifton Snider, literary scholar, critic, novelist, and author of Moonman: New and Selected Poems

Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature is a sometimes fierce, often poignant, but always important reminder of the unique ability of gay writers to share their experience of love, loss, fear and hope. This is the heart and soul of gay literature, the message we all need to receive about being queer in America, both in a time when change seemed impossible and now, when it is almost overwhelming to contemplate what change may bring to us all.”
—Eleanor Lerman, author of Strange Life and Radioman

“If we are the sum of all the words we’ve read and heard, then Flit shows us a new way to write poetry. Dennis Milam Bensie extracts words from stories we know and love, using them to create fresh, strong poems. These poems capture the fears, joys, and common moments in every human life. They are a choir of voices, singing in their second language: compassion. These poems show that words have long lives. They might even make the case that words live forever. The only way to know is to read and savor these beautifully crafted poems.”
—Joseph Ross, Author of Gospel of Dust and Meeting Bone Man

“I am honored to speak of the work of Dennis Milam Bensie. I had thought of Dennis as a particularly fine writer of short, comedic fiction. Since reading Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature, I now know he is also an exceptional poet. His work is both personal and universal, honest, tragic, and quite frankly, outstanding! I am envious. Thank you, Dennis, for the joy and the sorrow, the rage and defiance, the love, the beauty, and the damn fine poetry!”
—Kay Kinghammer, poet, author of Picture This, And Then, and Inside the Circus

“Dennis Milam Bensie has mined the secret seams of classic prose texts and come up with an unexpected ore. Who would have thought our genteel library shelves were hiding so many explicit poems about contemporary gay life? It’s enough to make a bookworm blush!”
—Gregory Woods, poet, author of An Ordinary Dog

J.D. Salinger uses the word “flit” twenty times to reference a homosexual male in his classic 1951 novel, Catcher in the Rye.

Not to suggest the celebrated writer was homophobic. But it was in his book that the word entered common parlance.

Poet and author Dennis Milam Bensie tackles the work of Salinger and thirty-nine other famous authors, including Melville, Dickens, Tolstoy, Twain, and Forrester, and mashes them up into his own concoctions. These poems offer intriguing snippets of gay life, from cruising bears (furry men sailing the ocean blue) to Log Cabin Republicans, to youths subjected to sexual conversion therapy. Every poem in Flit: A Poetry Mashup of Classic Literature is built entirely with words from one classic book or play.

Says Bensie, “I have always loved collage. I heard about a method of writing poetry called a ‘mashup’ while participating in the Artist Trust EDGE Program for Literary Artists about a year ago and was intrigued. I went to Half Price Books and bought a bunch of books and started mashing. I started with The Bell Jar, one of my favorites, and literally cut words and phrases out of the book with scissors and set them aside. Once I’d gathered a bunch of clippings, I studied them and put them back together in different order until I had a whole new story. It was great fun to borrow the words of some of the greatest authors of all time and rearrange them into a contemporary gay poem that spoke to me.”

Dennis Milam Bensie has written two memoirs: Shorn: Toys to Men and One Gay American. His short stories have been featured in The Rain, Party and Disaster Society, Talking Soup, Chelsea Station, Short Fiction Break, The Ink and Code, Everyday Fiction, Bare Back Magazine, The Round Up, Specter Magazine, Fuck Fiction, Cease Cows, and This Zine Will Change Your Life. His essays have appeared in the Huffington Post, Boys on the Brink, and the Good Men Project. The author has been a presenter at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans and at Montana’s very first gay pride festival. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

Shut your eyes and your ears.

As long as you behave well,

You will be free

And godly.

 

A pathetic benediction I felt.

My flesh and blood, tight and snug

Didn’t convert or contend.

There was nothing from above.

 

The camp dispersed and I was still quite frolicsome;

Unbridged by religion.

That summer, I had found

My own new twists and turns.

 

I announced to my parents

That there was no bill with the devil,

That there would be no rooms for me in heaven,

And any bill from God had already been paid in full.

 

—An Excerpt from “A Bill With The Devil,” a mashup of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)

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