A Year of Poetry (Here’s to Many More)

Carbon Footprint by Donny Winter

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since my first collection, Carbon Footprint, was released by Alien Buddha Press. During this busy summer, I’ve reflectively flipped through old dusty journals I’ve kept since being a teenager. Often, my angsty past-self wrote swaths of entries pining over the thought of finally having a collection accepted and published. Unfortunately, my own self-doubts combined with frequent rejections discouraged me from putting my work out into the world for the first 15 years of my life.

Now, 15 years later, that distant dream has become a reality. In fact, this is a reality that I’m still processing. Part of the difficulty processing any success as a writer involves overcoming this subliminal conditioning many of us have ingrained within. We writers often spend much of our lives navigating spaces and conversations where we’re shamed for loving our craft and scoffed at for our hope of success. We trudge through a thick field of muck steaming with statements like: “there’s no money in writing” or “make time for more important things.” Unfortunately, I’ve allowed these statements and a smattering of rejections to extinguish my desire to write and put my work out into the world for a long time.

Recently, my therapist encouraged me to celebrate my successes because the words and bits of discouragement over the years have always made me want to reduce myself gracefully, because that’s what was always expected. The Donny of the past always believed that there was an inherent selfishness in acknowledging personal successes. If I could go back in time and tell that sad, hopeless writer that he’d have a top selling LGBTQ+ poem collection, have over 40 individual poems published, and have a poem nominated for the Pushcart Prize, I would. As miserable as 2020-2021 has been for the entire world (myself included), I’m at least grateful the standstill has given me the opportunity to break down that conditioning, re-forge myself as a writer, and use this process in my own conversations as an educator working with aspiring writers.

No more shame. No more silence. No more hesitation. This past year has been a successful one for me on the writing front and may it be the first of many. In the future, it won’t take a global pandemic to teach me how to celebrate my work. After all: celebrating our work celebrates our identities and histories.

Stay tuned for my second collection, Feats of Alchemy, scheduled for release in October. Thank you all for the endless love and support.

xoxo

Donny

Poetry Reading (with Donny Winter)

Special thank you to Pages Promotions LLC for facilitating a poetry reading June 8, 2021 featuring performed selections from my book, Carbon Footprint. Considering it is Pride Month, it was an incredible opportunity reading some of my poems themed around the LGBTQ+ experience. If you are interested in watching the reading, access it through the video link below. Thank you for all the support!

Watch the reading here.

“The Alien Buddha Skips the Party” Anthology is Out!

As I work on my next poem collection, Feats of Alchemy, I’ve had some exciting opportunities to do some guest editing work. This past month, I facilitated and edited The Alien Buddha Skips the Party by Alien Buddha Press. The anthology is comprised of poetry, fiction, and art themed around introversion. Here is the official summary:

“The Alien Buddha Skips the Party celebrates the work of poets, fiction writers, and artists who have felt the solace, pressure, and quiet of introversion. Sometimes the silent people at the party have the most to say. Sometimes the person lingering at the buffet table, with no idea how to engage, observes dynamics others seldom recognize. Sometimes the least confident person afraid of speaking in the crowded room is a kaleidoscope of influence waiting for their moment to be heard. This anthology celebrates the power of introversion because a party needn’t always have to be loud. Sometimes sitting at home on the couch is the only party necessary.”

The front & back cover of The Alien Buddha Skips the Party.

Feats of Alchemy – Out Fall 2021

I am happy to announce that my second full-length collection of poems, Feats of Alchemy, will be released by Alien Buddha Press in the Fall. We don’t have a specific date penned down yet, but it’s happening! In the meantime, check out my first collection, Carbon Footprint!

If you’re interested in learning more about my upcoming collection, check out this interview segment from my “Unpacking ‘Carbon Footprint'” series:

Unpacking “Carbon Footprint” – Donny Winter Announces “Feats of Alchemy.”

Unpacking “Carbon Footprint” Interview

Donny Winter sat down last week with fellow writer (and friend), H.M. Kanicki, to discuss multiple aspects of his book of poems, Carbon Footprint. Incrementally, these episodes will be uploaded to Winter’s “DonnySpeaks” poetry YouTube channel of the course of this week. So far, two episodes feature discussions about themes of geology in the book and Winter’s love of the characters Godzilla and Mothra.

In this episode, Donny Winter discusses geology themes in his book “Carbon Footprint.”
In this segment, Donny Winter discusses how the characters Godzilla and Mothra influence his writing.

Reclaiming Pride Month | A Historical, Celebratory Reflection

June is notable to many because it marks a month-long celebration of LGBTQ Pride. For most, this means attending vast pride parades, enjoying vibrant spectacles, and ogling half-naked, Greek-God-esque men. At least, that is often the media’s depiction of pride events.

When I was a young gayling far back in 2007, and even before, I was always fascinated by gay pride celebrations because of the media depiction. I, along with other young gay men I knew, were drawn to pride because of the fearless sexualization of other gay men. There was a certain excitement in a provocatively physical public spectacle. For others, pride celebrations were a safe place for us to meet other guys to potentially connect with on an intimate level.

When attending college for my undergraduate degree, I experienced my first pride-week celebration. It involved the usual festivities: a drag show, open-mic poetry night sharing coming out stories, and game sessions- but it also included a considerable amount of educational moments. College pride-week opened my eyes to the deeper meaning behind Pride. I was introduced to Harvey Milk, who I learned was essentially one of the founding voices of the modern LGBTQ-rights movement. I learned about the Stonewall Riots and what they did for LGBTQ liberation. I learned where we came from, understood where we are now, and began to think about our future.

The other day, a gay friend on my Facebook page made a comment stating: “I can’t wait to go to Pride to see all the hot guys.” The comment left me feeling empty because most people view Pride as simply a spectacle. Many don’t acknowledge its roots in history. Pride is about acknowledging the breadth and complexity of what it means to be LGBTQ. This leads to the question: how do we re-claim this aspect of pride?

We must talk about the history more. We must confront comments like the one prior with education. Pride celebrations are safe-spaces for us to be who we are. They also must be safe places for educators to help remind our community where we’ve come from.

Storytelling | Churning the Covered Pot on the Back-burner

My name is Donny Winter and welcome to my official website and blog. I have finally done it. I have finally created a website and blog that will act as a conduit connecting my YouTube channels to my writing, activism, and music. Regardless what expressive medium I use, activism is the blood that flows through each. It’s the sustenance that inspires my storytelling, the quiet, yet powerful undertow ebbing and flowing through each message.

I have always enjoyed blogging, ever since I was an angsty teenager diligently typing at 2:00 a.m. every morning on LiveJournal. A decade ago, I was finishing high school and transitioning out of one of the most difficult points in my life. Being bullied, for me, became as commonplace as brushing my teeth in the morning. The difference back then was that I chose to reflect on my bullying experiences through the privacy of my closed LiveJournal, not publicly here or on YouTube.

Around 2009, when I was midway through my undergraduate college career, I began to look back with a critical eye on my experiences in both high school and college. I never fully grasped the extent of my story until an individual organizing Pride Week asked me to tell my coming out story in a public setting. I ended up telling it and found that sharing my experiences helped me resolve some unacknowledged pain. This was the first event that lead me to eventually creating my YouTube channel in 2011, where I began my storytelling journey.

Before transitioning into speaking publicly on YouTube, I was an extremely shy, insecure individual who feared speaking out. A lot of this had to do with my high school bullying experiences which centered around the softness of my voice, and how it emasculated me. The severity of this emasculation-fueled bullying ranged from being shoved into walls to being hit in the locker-room, among other things. The insecurity still sticks with me today and it has drastically interfered with my ability to speak. Thankfully, that changed when I subscribed to the YouTube channel Drstrangelove17, which happens to belong to my dear friend, R.E. She introduced me to v-logging, and weekly, I’d watch her bravely discuss sensitive subjects. I’d watch her confront her insecurities, respond to controversy, and philosophically reflect on life’s nuances. Immediately, I recognized how courageous she was for telling her stories and I realized that I had the power to do it as well.

Reflecting back on 2007, I created a YouTube channel but it never lifted off the ground. It was a smattering of disjointed funny videos and profane rants. It wasn’t until I found Chris Crocker’s YouTube channel that I understood how important it was to discuss more serious issues – like LGBTQ rights. Chris was (and still is) an individual I look up to as one of the foundation-layers of what I now call social justice education on YouTube. Over the years, he and I eventually spoke on numerous occasions, which inspired further confidence in my speaking ability. With both R.E. and Chris Crocker’s examples churning my inspiration, I knew it was almost time to set out on my biggest adventure.

Some time later, in 2011, I mustered the gumption to create a channel that allowed me to be funny, but also reflective. That was the moment when I realized that storytelling was easier than I originally believed. The seed R.E. planted eventually sprouted when I recognized the bravery of other friends telling their stories across different social networking sites and message boards. My friends Cyndi (streamofawareness) and Tiffany Gray (Tiffany Gray Music) also played pivotal roles in building my speaking confidence. They encouraged me to be myself and were some of the first who embraced me as an openly gay man. Now, together, all three of us have become storytelling activists. We strive to help bullying victims become survivors through the Affirmations For Bullying Victims movement and we create awareness about other topics many never discuss. Also, thanks to their musical prowess and encouragement, I’ve been empowered to create a YouTube channel dedicated to my own poetic and musical passions. (Donny Winter Music)

Despite YouTube becoming my outlet, I never recognized myself as an activist until I met actor, activist, and musician, Ace Lundon. After having watched some of my videos, he eventually approached me to be a guest co-host on his show, Lundon Calling. This lead to a friendship I deeply cherished. Over the years he would always tell me, “Donny, you are who you’ve been becoming,” a signal that I’m always shifting, growing, becoming something more. I kept his words close to my heart as I continued to speak out with greater intensity. Eventually, our friendship led to him asking Sean Chandler and myself to be a co-hosts on the The Lundon Bridge talk show, where we bridge the gaps between three generations of gay men through discussing current events. Recently, Ace passed on, but his words and his impression of my ability to speak out will always resonate throughout my life.

In 2014, I made the choice to return to school for my M.A. in English. During that time, my mentor and friend, Dr. Rose Gubele, helped me reclaim my creative voice, which helped me find the confidence to discuss even deeper subjects on YouTube that I would have originally feared to address. She helped show me that there is one thing more important than being a social justice warrior, that is being a social justice educator. With the experience of college-level teaching under my belt, I realized that activism and social justice on YouTube are even more powerful when they are complimented by the passion to educate. That passion made me realize that teaching in the classroom and on YouTube is not just about speaking out, but also about listening.

Overall, I am moved by the incredible opportunities and strengths YouTube has given me. One simple act of storytelling opened me up to so much more. In late 2012, two of my videos went viral after I chose to publicly stand up for my friend, Whitney Kropp, who was being bullied at the high school I once attended. In 2015, I branched out further and started the Universal Journeys show with my beloved mentor and friend, Dr. Brenda L. Bates, who helped me find the confidence to explore activism and its connection to spirituality. Eventually, also in 2016, I was asked to partner with Outspeak, a YouTube network that would give me further opportunities to speak out on specific subjects centered around politics, depression, bullying, and LGBTQ issues. Shortly after that, my choice to reveal my survival of sexual assault on YouTube allowed me the opportunity to present at a national conference in Houston, TX themed around social justice. Most baffling of all, I was told upon meeting one of my biggest celebrity inspirations (Adam Lambert) that he recognized me from my videos. That showed me that what I say really does get out there. Now that I look back on how far I’ve come, I realize that the small choice of telling a story helped me heal in ways I would have never imagined. It helped me reclaim the voice I was robbed of in high school. It has revealed to me that I can take all of that pain and transform it into something more powerful: storytelling.

Storytelling isn’t always sitting around campfires reflecting on good times. Sometimes, it’s dumping a bucket of ice-cold water over ourselves. It puts out those old embers that burned in us for years and allows us to feel the refreshing chill of acceptance. I cannot begin to explain how much my family, friends, teachers, and followers have empowered me on this journey. All I can say is that I’ll continue to do this. I’ll continue to listen, speak out, share stories, and show people that even the most quiet, insecure, bullying survivor can find the voice he thought he never had.