I'm a gay rights activist, survivor of bullying, sexual assault, and depression. I'm a poet, musician, geek, and nature-lover. My goal is to help bring people together through storytelling and to help create a sense of healing through confronting traumatic experiences.
My chapbook of poems, Casting Seeds, is officially out! You can snag a copy of it here. I’m excited to share this little book with the world because it celebrates the way my grandma empowered me when I was a little LGBTQ+ kid, not knowing his way in the world (at least, not yet). Thank you all for supporting me along this journey, and I hope you enjoy these poems! Below are some promotional images and some live performances featuring work from this collection.
My upcoming chapbook of poems, Casting Seeds, will be released on November 15, 2022. I’m excited to share this small collection with the world because it’s some of my most personal work yet. Here is the back cover synopsis:
In his first chapbook collection of poems, Donny Winter takes readers back to his childhood growing up in rural Northern Michigan. Written entirely in the Japanese tanka form, these poems invite readers to join him at the kitchen table with his Grandma Winter to enjoy a cup of tea and watch the natural world. Casting Seeds acts as a love letter to his grandmother, her house, and his family’s property – all of which still bearing the warmth of childhood memory. Through these poems, Winter seeks to cast for others the same seeds his grandmother planted in him – a knowledge that we linger in the spaces we inhabit, leave imprints of ourselves for others to harvest, and possess the power to rebuild ourselves into beings free from our childhood bullies.
I’ll be sharing more news as the week advances. In the meantime, check out the cover art, video introduction, and performance of my new poem, “The Apples are Ripening.”
What is Oct[poem]ber: Back in 2019, I grew envious of artists and fiction writers because they got to enjoy monthly challenges like Inktober and NANOWRIMO. So, I decided to create a monthly writing challenge for poets and thus, Oct[poem]ber was born. Throughout the month of October each year, I challenge myself to write one poem per day not only for the fun of it, but to also expand on my content and improve my craft.
How to Participate: Open up a word document or notebook and just start writing! To make it easier for participants, I’ve designed 2 tracks for completing Oct[poem]ber. The first track provides you a daily prompt to follow. The second track is self-guided and expects you to write a poem per day without the assist of prompts. Some writers benefit from having guidelines, whereas others benefit from not having any! So, there’s a track for both schools of thought!
Track #1: Daily Prompts
October 1, 2022 – Nature
Sit outside someplace quiet and using your five senses, write a poem about what you see.
October 2, 2022 – Hustle and Bustle
Visit a public space and using your five senses, write a poem about what you observe.
October 3, 2022 – Color
Write a poem about your favorite color.
October 4, 2022 – Bauble
Research a gemstone or jewel (or observe one you own) and write a poem about its qualities.
October 5, 2022 – Artistic Ekphrasis
Find a piece of art and write a poem about it. Allow your poem to engage in conversation with the art piece, expand on what the art piece is already saying, or change the meaning you think the art piece conveys. (Example: “Ode on a Grecian Urn” by Keats)
October 6, 2022 – Musical Ekphrasis
Listen to your favorite song and write a poem about how it impacts you.
October 7, 2022 – Poetic Letters
Write a poem to a person who’s no longer in your life.
October 8, 2022 – Socio-Political Reflection
Pick an issue or event happening in the world currently and write a poem about how it makes you feel.
October 9, 2022 – Future-Self
Write a poem to your future self about one thing you’d like to learn by the time you reach that point in your life.
October 10, 2022 – Sonnet
Write a sonnet (follow link for sonnet structure directions). (Example: Shakespearean Sonnet)
October 11, 2022 – Nature vs. Industry
Write a poem juxtaposing nature vs. industry imagery.
October 12, 2022 – Past-Self
Write a poem to your past-self with about how far you’ve come or what you’ve learned from your experiences.
October 13, 2022 – Pantoum
Write a pantoum poem (follow link for pantoum structure directions). (Example: Insert)
October 14, 2022 – Alternate Reality
Imagine yourself thriving in an alternate reality and write a poem about what your life would be like in that universe.
October 15, 2022 – Cosmic
Write a poem about something in space or using space-related imagery.
October 16, 2022 – Tumult
Write a poem about a natural disaster (that’s happened) or a poem using natural disaster imagery.
October 17, 2022 – Fictional Fugue
Create a fictional character whose identity has been lost and write a poem about their journey toward self-discovery.
October 18, 2022 – Sisyphean Synergy
Write a poem about a characteristic, aspiration, or struggle you have that’s always been difficult for you to resolve or reach.
October 19, 2022 – Forest Floor
Write a poem about something you might find on the forest floor or something that lives on a forest floor.
October 20, 2022 – Sublime
Think about a feature in nature that fills you with curiosity and fear, then write a poem about your reactions if you were to be in the presence of such feature.
October 21, 2022 – Second Chances
Write a poem about a moment from your past you’d like to change.
October 22, 2022 – Cyberspace
Write a poem about what you think it’d be like to exist in cyberspace or a cyberpunk world.
October 23, 2022 – Haiku
Write a haiku about nature. (These are 3-line poems with 5-7-5 syllable line lengths).
October 24, 2022 – Format Experimentation
Write a poem that experiments with format. Change the line spacing / alignment, blot out words, place in bracketed or parenthetical statements.
October 25, 2022 – Tanka
Write a tanka about life and death. (These are 5-line poems with 5-7-5-7-7 syllable line lengths).
October 26, 2022 – Heroism
Write a poem about a time you felt like a hero in your life.
October 27, 2022 – Villainy
Write a poem about a time you felt like a villain in your life.
October 28, 2022 – Dystopia
Write a poem about a dystopian world, a poem that includes dystopian imagery, or a poem about any dystopian qualities you see taking place in our world.
October 29, 2022 – Time Travel
Pretend you’re traveling in time. Write a poem where you observe the happenings in another time (past or future, though not in your span of living).
October 30, 2022 – Erasure Poetry
Research, then copy and paste an article into a word document, then use the strikethrough (or dark high-lighting feature) to blot out the words until the remaining words create a poem.
October 31, 2022 – Horror
Using grotesque imagery, write a poem about something that induces fear.
Track #2: Independent / Self-Guided
Recommendations & Helpful Hints
Select whichever writing medium you are most comfortable with: electronic or handwritten.
Do your best to set aside designated time every day to write – create a routine!
If you fall behind, you can always catch up!
Sharing your poems across social media is not required but encouraged. The world deserves to see your work!
When writing about personal topics, always consider your own well-being above all else. Regardless what prompt you follow or self-guided poem you write, only write about what you’re comfortable writing about. If you need to skip a daily prompt, feel free to do a self-guided/independent poem on that respective day.
If you share your poems across social media, please use the hashtag: #octpoember.
As an LGBTQ+ author, I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to attend fairs or large-scale events until today. I was invited by Leopard Print Books as a local LGBTQ+ author to sell and sign copies of my poem collections at Great Lakes Bay Pride in Bay City, MI. The sticky, 90 degree heat did not deter anyone from getting out and taking in the scene. Wenona Park, nestled cutely next to the Saginaw River, welled with music, vendors, vibrant colors, and self-expression celebrated.
Overall, the past two years have been incredibly surreal for me as an LGBTQ+ author. During the height of the pandemic, when Carbon Footprint (2020) was released, I did not anticipate the level of response to my work I’ve had. While I never aimed for this, I had the honor of being nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize and once for Best of the Net. Having been celebrated by the humanities learning center at the college where I teach, I just received the Humanities Scholar Award for my creative work. Despite these successes, I always circulate back the question of: how do I deserve anything? Throughout my life, I’ve always struggled to take pride in success because it always felt so far away. In fact, in many ways, I still feel that I’m experiencing some sort of fever dream. Thankfully, paying heed to my mental health and attending regular therapy sessions has allowed me to unpack that deep rooted childhood trauma which conditions me to always tell myself: “Donny, you’re invisible, don’t deserve anything, and don’t belong.”
After attending Great Lakes Bay Pride today and being able to see each individual celebrating, I was reinvigorated by a synergy. I was reminded that I’m not invisible, that I’m deserving, and that I do belong. I was reminded that the reason why I wrote Carbon Footprint (2020) and Feats of Alchemy (2021) was to illustrate the various challenges LGBTQ+ people face prior and post coming out. We spend much of our lives unlearning erasure, self-deprecation, and minimization. Poetry became my vehicle for mapping out this trauma and plotting coordinates toward a sense of recovery.
One of the many highlights of Great Lakes Bay Pride for me was meeting current and reuniting with former students – talented LGBTQ+ individuals and allies reconnecting with their writing. The most wholesome moment for me happened when one of my former students, clutching a copy of a poem collection said: “You’re the reason I pursued a degree in creative writing.” As a writer and a teacher, knowing that I can infuse my passion for this artform in another person makes all the vulnerability, discouragement, and uncertainty along this journey worthwhile. If anything, it was an educational moment for me; it served as a reminder that we’re all representation for one another. Our actions and words linger in ways we often don’t imagine. Sometimes, my students teach me with the same excitement I strive to enter my classroom with and it’s a full-circle moment I’ve never quite grasped until now.
When people ask, “why is Pride important?”, I believe it’s more than us celebrating who we are or the histories of our communities. Both of those are crucial, but I also believe that it’s a celebration of the belonging we’ve all worked toward creating. It’s a celebration of the connection we strive for despite all the forces that still continue to work against us. Pride is more than flags, buttons, bandanas, and commercialism. It’s a grove, and we’re the seedings springing beneath weather-hardened trees, connected by the root systems, mycelium, and the sustaining air we share. The darkness we see doesn’t compare to how solar we are in the way we celebrate our belonging.
2022 has come in roaring for me on the creative writing front. I will be attending and featured in a number of poetry readings throughout January and February. If you’d like to attend any of these events, below is a list. All of these are scheduled in EST.
Tune in on my DonnySpeaks YouTube channel for a full-length, virtual poetry reading featuring selections from my latest poem collection, Feats of Alchemy. The event starts at 8:00 p.m. and will last until 9:00 – 9:15 p.m. I’ll be reading poems, sharing tidbits about the creation process of the book, themes, and will have a Q&A toward the end. Follow the video link below to set a reminder if you’d like to attend:
I always dreamed of simple things because the reality of them seemed too far away, spaced by distance, years in wait, and a thirst to belong like a rogue planet lost between solar systems.
I always dreamed of simple things and the reality of them seems near since the universe projected me forward to now, as he lays next to me falling asleep still clutching his book, glasses crooked on his face.
I always dreamed of simple things and now they’re here, tangibly present, even as I smile, remove his glasses, and turn off the lamp, I know we burn like binary stars in elliptical consistency, so, as I go to bed next to you,
I draw the lines between our eyes to connect the dots we make in this constellation, now refined.