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Steven Reigns to Discuss New “A Quilt for David” Poetry Collection at Virtual Event with Charis Books

By on September 23, 2021 0

Steven reigns, the inaugural West Hollywood poet laureate, is a frequent visitor to Atlanta for performances, workshops and speeches, but he will shine virtually on Thursday, September 23 at 7:30 p.m. with Charis Books to Decatur to discuss their new “A Quilt for David” collection.

The controversial new collection, which has just been published by the famous City Lights Books of San Francisco, traces the story of Dr David Acer, a Florida dentist sadly accused of having infected some of his patients with HIV at the end of the years. 80s and early 90s. Reigns sets out to reframe the narrative around Acer and his accusers through a series of narrative poems.


Q. What prompted you to write the poems that make up Dr David Acer’s story?
A.
The writing came from my research and the research came from my curiosity about what really happened in this dental office. I have worked as an HIV testing counselor for over a decade, certified by Florida and California Health Services. At work one day I remembered seeing a young lady in eighth grade in Inside Edition and A Current Affair. She said she was a virgin and became HIV positive thanks to her dentist. With all of my education and experience with HIV, I couldn’t understand how this could have happened to her and the others who blamed the dentist. My research began with a Google search and led me to researching library archives, courthouse documents, placing an ad in the newspaper, and conducting personal interviews. While doing this research for 10 years, I wrote about what I discovered. These writings were the germ of the final work found in A Quilt for David.

Q. Although it is poetry, there is a decidedly non-fictional feeling in the work.
A.
The history of dental transmission of HIV is already so saturated with misinformation that I didn’t want to add any poetic license, poetic reverie, or fictional details. I wanted the reader to know that every detail of the book is based on my research. A Quilt for David is documentary poetry. Instead of writing a simple journalistic article, I wanted to write something that would stir emotions and help humanize this slandered man.

Q. There are still a lot of conflicting facts and feelings about Dr Acer and whether he inadvertently infected his patients with HIV / AIDS. What have you learned and what do you hope readers will learn?
A. I think it’s easy for readers to see how it’s not just a story about this dental practice and these people, but a story that sums up what was happening in our country and culture with regards to AIDS. My book explores so many dynamics. As an example, I have a poem in the book about how while David was alive an article in the newspaper suggested distinguishing HIV positive people from the rest of the population with a tattoo.
I also hope that readers can see first-hand how damaging secrets can be. What happened to David Acer can happen to any of us. David was a shy, low-key man who lived in a small, conservative town. By not revealing much of himself, there was an information void that people could later fill. However, David was not the only one with secrets. Kimberly does not appear to have lived the life of the innocent and pure virgin she claimed. Barbara Webb, another accuser, had an extramarital affair.

Q. Tell us a bit more about your Thursday event.
A. It is fascinating to do a reading sponsored by Charis Books. Atlantians are fortunate to have such a literary institution in their backyard. I visited the store on trips to Atlanta. At one point in my life I only knew about bars and bookstores in a city and very little else. Charis has always been a highlight of my travels as a person living in a city that didn’t have a lot of literary and queer culture. Fortunately, Charis has an online ordering system, so those in small towns can get their cultural fix without having to travel. I am delighted to be in conversation with Carter Sickles. He is such a detailed and emotional writer. I think we’re roughly the same age and yet our latest books date back to around the same time in history, revisiting those early years of the AIDS epidemic. They both focus on a man struggling with death and his small town. I look forward to our dialogue and hope all your readers can join us.


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