Poets of SMITTEN Interview Series: Wil Staley

I am a writer, painter, and more. I received my BA in Psychology, MA in Education, and 50 graduate credits in Counseling before coming out; as being queer was grounds for dismissal. I am now seeking my MSW, so I can help those marginalized by society and be a voice for the LGBTQ community. When I met my wife, I knew I had found myself and I’m learning to love the human I have become. Wil Staley

Do you find any stereotypes in lesbian/bi work that you would personally remove?

Absolutely! Most books for same-sex attraction focus on sex and erotica. Very little exists for same-sex love and companionship. Not only that, but I haven’t seen many books that have lesbian or bi characters who are just people; it almost always focuses on their sexuality. I think it’s important to remember we’re all just human and we are not our sexuality though that is an amazing part of us. Being a lesbian or bi is a normal part of life and I hope this anthology is able to portray that truth.

What does it mean to you to be part of something like SMITTEN and have your work alongside other women who love women?

This is such an honor to me. I’m being published alongside those like me who want to speak their truth for others. Not only that, but I can’t believe I’m in a book with so many amazing artists! I appreciate knowing so many other writers hope to make a change in the way our community is viewed.

Did you ever want to be a voice for the lesbian/bi community? If so, why?

-Being a voice for anyone is incredibly important to me but being a voice for the lesbian/bi community is even more precious to me. I know what it’s like to be hated for something you can’t control and to lose many people close to you because you want to love another human who happens to be the same sex. I come from a religious community who turned their backs on me when I came out. I still had a few people who stuck around and taught me what unconditional love was really like and I am so thankful for them. I hope I can help give others a voice and let them know they’re not alone.

Do you feel your voice is heard? Do you believe anthologies like this can help you be heard?

-Writing is really the only thing that has ever helped me feel my voice is heard and has made a difference. Being in this anthology will help my voice expand. I think anthologies like these are amazing because it caters to all types of people and offers many different styles of writing for our readers so they undoubtedly will find something that speaks to them and helps them feel heard.

Your poem in SMITTEN was excellent, why did you choose this particular poem and what did you hope it would convey to readers?

-I had three accepted pieces and the poem “Nakedness” really speaks volumes. I wrote this to show others how beautiful love can be; how healing it is to be able to give your all to someone leaving nothing uncovered; even the painful or ugly pieces of life. My wife and her love took away the shame I felt in being out and open and the pain I felt growing up in trauma. I am forever grateful for her gentleness.

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Not even ourselves

Why and when did people stop being interested?

as kids we would sit on benches and talk about our pain

there seemed then, such a mercy in the air

it hung like cobwebbed dew around us and

despite the hardships we bore, our friends were

our succor

Why and when did people stop being interested?

and grief was labeled an annoyance?

why does growing-up mean we no longer write

poems like this

do we no longer feel the same

or just hide it away?

and if it is hidden how does it stay so

with the swell and the surge and the blistering salt

I hear rain falling into a tin can somewhere

and briefly I remember eating out of cans in summer

my lips sticky with apricot

it was a luxury then and my grandmother carefully

spooned each peachy globule out and added ice-cream

I hated the taste of ice-cream and I loved

the feeling of lying high in a big tree smelling apple leaves

in those days

when tragedy struck

we children who are called resilient

had the hope or the armor of youth

and the cherish of our friends

I saw her running toward me across the fields separating our houses

her red hair and freckled face red with exertion

we ate stale cucumber sandwiches left over from her mother’s

garden party and she held my hand in her own

clammy seedy palm

as if I were a starfish

I told her of my disappointments and the ache in my chest

all those who had forsaken and gone their own way

with the wisdom of child she wrinkled up her eyes against the sun

told me what I needed to do was pretend I didn’t care a damn

because one day you’ll grow up and nobody will be able to hurt you

I held onto that advice like a piece of paper framed in my chest

but it wasn’t true it wasn’t true

and I wonder where she is now

if she has children

if she is the same kind of mother she was as a friend

if I could see her again I would say

thank you for giving me the hope to get to this point

maybe it wasn’t true, maybe adults fool themselves into

thinking they are not children with ageing hearts and

brittle bones

maybe being an adult is harder than any childhood

because you don’t have afterwards to dream of

and the future as yet unsummoned

with all your magic and all your wistfulness

seen through the eyes of someone not old enough

to know the reality

I would tell her don’t tell your children the truth

let them dream as we did just a bit more

where I can still hear my grandmother knocking over pots

as she makes an apple pie and the smell

of summer is all about us in a haze

and your red hair makes mine look blonde

and your freckles tan your legs whilst mine remain blue

and your hand in mine is the first hand of friendship

I would thank you for running when I called

because nobody has run since and I suspect

adults have ways of doing things

us children never quite understand

I’m thinking if I could choose a side

I’d go through time and clasp your wrist and run

into the high grass fields out the back and where

nobody would find us

not even ourselves

years from now