American novelist and poet Erica Jong once said, “Everyone has talent. What’s rare is the courage to follow it to the dark places where it leads.” Baltimore-based poet Stephen Zerance embodies this courageous talent in its raw form. Zerance’s recent book Safe Danger (available on Amazon), is the author’s first collection of poetry released by Indolent Books. His skillfully-crafted poetry flawlessly evokes readers’ emotions. Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with Zerance about his recent publication, his attachment to Baltimore, and the inspiration behind many of his current works.

“I was inspired to write a lot of this book by the way culture has been going toward a very ‘true crime’-oriented place where we as a country right now are very obsessed with crime. I’ve seen several TV networks switch to just crime programming. I saw this ‘switch’ and I wanted to infuse my book with that. My book is a twist on day-to-day gay life infused up against a pop culture obsession of violence.”

For Hagerstown, Maryland, native Zerance, his path to Baltimore came right after high school. “I had completed my undergraduate degree at Towson University, so I was very familiar with Baltimore. I went on to receive my MFA at American University in Washington, DC. While completing my studies there, I realized how much I missed Baltimore, so during my time completing my master’s degree I moved back.”

“The thing I like about Baltimore,” Zerance continued, “is that I’m not a ‘large-city’ type of person. I enjoy a smaller city. Here in Baltimore, you can go outside and sometimes no one is on the street. The architecture and aesthetics of the buildings downtown is fantastic. There is a vibe different here from any other city I’ve ever been to. The community is small, but very connected. There’s a reason we call it ‘Smalltimore.’ All of those things just mesh really well with me.”

Zerance’s creativity was evident from an early age. “I guess I was always someone who needed some artistic outlet, whether painting or writing. I found that poetry came naturally to me. You know how novelists have a knack for plot and driving a story? I found I have more of a kind of tool that’s for poetry – creating these lyrical narratives. To me, poetry is almost like sculpture – you’re creating a body out of your words and experiences.”

Throughout his book, Safe Danger, Zerance drew from some of his life experiences. “In the book there are a lot of poems dealing with sexuality from a youth perspective.  There are some coming-out stories, as well. There’s a lot of adolescence in the book, from my experience, that is paired up to the now.”

The reviews and response from readers has been profoundly positive for Zerance. It wasn’t until the arrival of the finished product that the reality of what he had accomplished began to settle in. “I didn’t feel anything until I actually received the package of my author copies, and then suddenly it felt real. To have a book out feels a little like being exposed, but it’s nice to have something out there that people are relating to. It’s always nice to get messages from people who say, ‘I really enjoyed this poem in your book.’ It’s just really great feeling – like a mixture of you-want-to-almost-piss-your-pants in excitement and also of potential embarrassment.”

Be sure to find Zerance on Twitter @stephnz, or on Instagram @stephenzerance and @lvcifers_revenge

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Frankie Kujawa
Frankie Kujawa
Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.