David Ly’s poem “Because I am” appeared in The Puritan’s Spring Issue 37.
I was on the third or fourth day of an intensely irritating writing block that prevented me from adding to my manuscript. Like all of my writing blocks, I sought to solve it by listening to some of my favourite pop singers, Lady Gaga being one, of course. Her track “Monster” from The Fame Monster was what obviously helped remedy my block; however, Mother Monster wasn’t the one who had me start writing “Because I am.”
It began with a new word I learned from a song of another singer: “Lucozade” on Zayn Malik’s album Mind of Mine. After looking into the word’s meaning, Lucozade turned out to be an umbrella term for a series of energy and sports drinks produced in the United Kingdom. In North America, our equivalent would be Red Bull or (fittingly so for my writing) Monster energy drinks.
Obviously, I got very excited about this serendipitous discovery. Not only did I learn a new word that related so well to the word “monster,” but it opened up this perfect setting for which a poem can be situated: a gay club (similar to one I’ve been to) where men down energy drinks with alcohol in between dancing to a Lady Gaga track.
I wanted the poem to capture the apprehension of a gay Asian man in a very white setting, the second thoughts he has to himself when someone shows interest in him …
So, the first image that came to mind was how lucozade can look in a club setting. For me, it was blue (for unknown reasons) and not exactly inside the club, but having to be drunken outside in secret. But I had to find a way to incorporate this image; I had to build up to it.
I chose to use the image in a poem concerning a topic very important to me: how gay Asian men are viewed and perceived in the gay community.
I wanted the poem to capture the apprehension of a gay Asian man in a very white setting, the second thoughts he has to himself when someone shows interest in him, if he is being fetishized, but also the guilt in thinking this.
Since song lyrics heavily inspire some of what I write, it seemed natural to select lyrics in “Monster” to convey the thoughts of the narrator, to try and make it seem like these familiar lyrics were heard every now and then through all the noise on the dance floor, but being interpreted in a different way for the narrator.
I always feel like pop music gets a bad rap: that a lot of people think it has little poetic merit, and is only comprised of catchy beats and melodies recycled from artist to artist.
But for me, some of the greatest inspiration can be found in the Sias, Lana Del Reys, Zayn Maliks, or Lady Gagas of pop music who produce relatable material, not in words of “classic” poets in canonized literature from way back when.
David Ly is a Vancouver-based writer, poet, and Master of Publishing graduate from Simon Fraser University. His journalism has appeared on Daily Xtra, NUVO, and VICE, and his poetry on Ricepaper Magazine, Westender, and in the Erotic Haiku Of Skin On Skin anthology (Black Moss Press 2017). His first chapbook, titled A Perfect Jawline, will be published in spring 2018 with Anstruther Press. Find David on Twitter @dlylyly or Instagram @divad.ly.