Behind the Sestina: Shane Allison on “Mother Worries”

Shane Allison‘s editing career began with the best-selling gay erotic anthology Hot Cops: Gay Erotic Stories (Cleis Press), which was one of his proudest moments. Since the birth of his first anthology, he has gone on to publish over a dozen gay erotica anthologies such as Straight Guys: Gay Erotic Fantasies, Cruising: Gay Erotic StoriesMiddle Men: Gay Erotic Threesomes, Frat Boys: Gay Erotic Stories, Brief Encounters: 69 Hot Gay Shorts, College Boys: Gay Erotic Stories, Hardworking Men: Gay Erotic Fiction, Hot Cops: Gay Erotic Fiction, Backdraft: Fireman Erotica, and Afternoon Pleasures: Erotica for Gay Couples.

Allison’s work has appeared in five editions of Best Gay Erotica and Best Black Gay Erotica. He is the author of Slut Machine (Queer Mojo) and the poem/memoirRemember (Future Tense Books). Allison is at work on a novel and currently resides in Tallahassee, Florida.

We went Behind the Sestina with Allison to discuss his poem, “Mother Worries,” featured in The Incredible Sestina Anthology.

When did you first discover the sestina?
When I was a graduate student at The New School. I was taking David Lehman’s poetry workshop and he assigned it as an exercise. I was very anti-form poetry before that. The restrictions that some of it often presents, but the restrictions also present a great challenge of writing a sestina successfully without it seeming forced. I just thought it was another fun way to write.

And you’ve written a lot sestinas since!
I became a kind of mad scientist, or poet, if you will, with the sestina, often mixing it with other forms like pantoums and the list form, which is a favorite of mine. I have a few failed experiments lying about somewhere.

Can you describe writing “Mother Worries”? 
I went through a time where I started thinking about repetition and its use in poetry, thinking about phrases I’ve heard. My mother’s voice is always reoccuring in my head. She was going through a hard time with my dad at the time. Emotions very high and unfortunately, I was witness to much of her fear and worry. She asked, “Lord, how are we going to pay these bills?” I wrote that down somewhere and came back to it later and “Mother Worries” was born.

You are the author of a volume of poetry titled Slut Machine and you work has been anthologized in Best Gay Bondage.  This poem seems almost wholesome. Thoughts?
I like to think that I’m always moving the line. It’s important to do that as a writer. I’ve been called prolific, but I think I go through phases in my work, moving to newer heights, yet I find myself sometimes dipping my toes back into familiar waters. The element of sex exists in a lot of my writing. I try not to be a one-trick pony. I still have a ton of ideas.

The first sestinas were always dedicated to someone—who would you dedicate your sestina to?
My mother and all the mothers with worries I hope are laid at peace.

–Interview conducted by Jessica Furiani

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