Fellow Odd Fellow
Fellow Odd Fellow, Steven Riel’s first full-length collection, was published in February 2014.
Fellow Odd Fellow glitters with poems that explore gayness and effeminacy by meditating on a series of famous women (Lena Horne, Elizabeth Taylor, Cyndi Lauper, Kitty Carlisle, and Chris Evert) as well as the female characters Ophelia and Cruella de Vil. Poems starring Robert Goulet, Tennessee Williams, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Melville’s Ishmael round out the parade. Elegies that bear witness to the loss of Riel’s younger brother to AIDS, however, comprise the heart of this collection, with that experience having become the poet’s “new center of gravity.”
Praise for the Book
“In these artful poems, Steven Riel conjures a gay boy’s coming-of-age as well as the cultural referents that anchor one gay man’s identity. Riel imagines Tennyson’s grief at the death of his friend Arthur Hallam and Ishmael’s thoughts after sharing a bed with Queequeg in persona pieces of astonishing compassion. Riel’s scope includes “drag queens, who glue themselves together / follicle by mannerism by phrase” and an ailing friend—’the raw/ toothpick you’ve become.’ I admire Riel’s pacing, precise language and unflinching gaze.” — Robin Becker, author of Domain of Perfect Affection
“The witty, poignant, exuberant poems in Steven Riel’s first collection celebrate the life and observations of ‘a man / with a strapless imagination / whose armoires are endless / & hold all that he might need.’ The reveling in gay experience calls up all sorts of poetic ‘fellow odd fellows,’ from Walt Whitman to Frank O’Hara, whose rapturous voices are echoed here.” — John Drury, author of The Refugee Camp
“Fellow Odd Fellow is a book Melville’s Ishmael might have written if he’d lived in our times. What I particularly love about the poet Steven Riel is what I love about Ishmael; he is able to be sociable with the horrors of this world – the politics of prejudice, the persistence of injustice, the ruthlessness of disease – as he gathers around him a community just as intriguing and illuminating as any in Moby Dick. What a ship’s crew we travel with – Kitty Carlisle, Tennessee Williams, Robert Goulet, Ophelia, Crayola Cruella, Chrissie Evert, Alfred Lord Tennyson! This book’s quiet elegance and its unflinching honesty invite us to sail as far as our imagination will let us.” — Christopher Bursk, author of The First Inhabitants of Arcadia
“Steven Riel’s Fellow Odd Fellow delineates the outsider—the odd man out—and transforms that role into a great odyssey of the mind. These poems aren’t just fabulous, however: they overflow with sympathy and humor. With the outsider’s keen perception Riel plays, mourns, and rejoices. These poems offer all that we might need with the ultimate reassurance that, here and now, we’ve ‘aligned / Where with What’ we want to be.” — Elizabeth Robinson, author of Blue Heron