Eric Sneathen

Seven Sonnets

A series of thirty-one sonnets, I Fill This Room with the Echo of Many Voices combines the historical and fictional records of Gaétan Dugas (1953-1984), whom Randy Shilts fraudulently identified as "Patient Zero" of the AIDS epidemic in North America. Drawing from numerous sources, these sonnets include Randy Shilts's And the Band Played On, John Greyson's Zero Patience, Brad Gooch's The Golden Age of Promiscuity, and Richard A. McKay's Patient Zero and the Making of the AIDS Epidemic. I have also infused some of my favorite depictions of communal sex of the 1970s and 80s (Aaron Shurin's "City of Men," Robert Glück's Jack the Modernist, Samuel Delany's Times Square Red, Times Square Blue), reports from the plainclothes cops who surveyed the bathhouses of San Francisco before their closure (housed at the San Francisco Public Library), and some of the foundational documents of AIDS activism in the US (including Michael Callen and Richard Berkowitz's "How to Have Sex in an Epidemic" and The Denver Principles). Formally inspired by Dodie Bellamy's Cunt-Ups and Wendy S. Walter's Troy, Michigan, I hope these sonnets complicate and provoke our manifold relations to embodiment, voice, history, trauma, and transmission. The title is inspired by Derek Jarman's Blue:



I fill this room with the echo of many voices
Who passed time here
Voices unlocked from the blue of the long dried paint
The sun comes and floods this empty room
I call it my room
My room has welcomed many summers
Embraced laughter and tears
Can it fill itself with your laughter
Each word a sunbeam
Glancing in the light
This is the song of My Room



Eric Sneathen is a poet living in Oakland. His first collection, Snail Poems, was published by Krupskaya, and he is currently writing a book about Gaétan Dugas and Randy Shilts titled Don't Leave Me This Way. Eric is also a Ph.D. student in Literature at UC Santa Cruz, where he's writing his dissertation on GLBTQ poetries of the Bay Area. Recent writing can be found at SF MOMA's Open Space