Brian Czyzyk on “No Tongue Can Tell”
“No Tongue Can Tell” was partially inspired by Kevin Young’s “Ode to the Midwest.” The epigraph of that piece led me to the Bob Dylan song it’s taken from, from which I derived the title of this poem. Dylan also makes a brief appearance in the poem as a nod to that.
While this may seem like an indictment of the Midwest and small towns therein, my intention was to point out how multifaceted this region can be. While its social environments may not always be the most accepting, there is undoubtable beauty in the natural environs of the Midwest. It’s a place full of contradictions, and I love that. I want to challenge peoples’ preconceived notions of place and of others.
As a queer person growing up in small-town Northern Michigan, representation in my day-to-day life was limited. Representation still remains elusive, but I’m not talking about representation purely in terms of sexuality: how many other queer male poets from the rural Midwest can you name? Granted, the specificity of that definition does limit the potential scope of your findings, but I know I’m not the only one (the incomparable poet Michael Walsh comes to mind). I’ve recognized this as a niche that needs to be, not filled, but expanded. My life experience is not everyone’s life experience, but it contains echoes of shared truths. Someone, I can’t remember who, once said that poetry should be so personal it becomes universal. And that is my aim.