How to Dream
The poems in Riel’s first chapbook largely focus on gay identity and experience. One poem (written decades before same-sex marriage became legal) depicts an imaginary gay wedding. In another, the poet investigates the experience of growing up queer in a small town. The storm clouds of the AIDS epidemic appear in such poems as “House Guest with AIDS” and “Walking Underwater.” In the latter, the widespread grief brought on by the disease is compared to the sorrow felt by displaced inhabitants of the four towns evacuated so that the Quabbin Reservoir could be constructed in central Massachusetts. In “Field Trip Home,” Riel describes how he came to embrace his Franco-American identity.
Praise for the Book
“…he can balance pathos and wit and make it seem easy (it’s not), and he can invent… this poet has a gift for metaphor which shines in comparison with the flat unimaginative approach of much current verse… How to Dream is an estimable debut.“ — James Cory, The James White Review
“With tenderness, humor, and intelligence, these poems illuminate what it means to grow up gay in an ‘ordinary town’ in America and what it means to be gay, to be intimate in a world where the ‘young sicken & fall before the old.’ Steven Riel deftly confronts the truth without losing sight of the joy and possibilities – how to love, and how to dream.” — Carol Potter, poet and author of Before We Were Born