Q & A: Randall Mann

Tell us about 1992, the year itself. How did this particular time work its way into your poetry? What happened in Gainesville? Who was Lady Pearl? How did you survive it all?

The fall of 1992 was an Ecstasy- and booze-fueled, boy-crazy time for me, the season I “came out,” as if I needed to make it official (I didn’t unlock the closet door so much as push back the beads). I was an undergraduate at the University of Florida; I met someone as serious about partying and poetry as I, and we were fixtures at the local gay bar, the University Club, where we hammered baby pitchers of Miller and did a choreographed, stomping dance (cringe) to “Deeper and Deeper,” a Madonna song off my soundtrack for that fall, Erotica (love it). The Lady Pearl—a hulking heap of rhinestones and a red wig—was the house drag queen at the University Club; her trademarks were flirting with any straight boy she could sniff out, drawing a heart in the air as she lip-synched the evening’s lovelorn number, and barking “Get you a cocktail!” whenever she approved of someone. She was a mess, and so was I. Sex equaled death then, or so I imagined (the “acronym” mentioned in the poem is aids); in the fall of 1992, I was oversexed, and I don’t remember the half of it; as a consequence, when I wasn’t numb, I was often pretty terrified.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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