LGBT Poetry

Today’s monthly poetry event is sponsored by Kelly at The Written World, so go over there and link up your poetry post for February!

After reading and reviewing Resilience edited by Eric Nguyen last week, I started thinking about all the poetry I’ve read and how universal it is.  I really pay little to no attention to what poets are LGBT and which poets are not.  Most of us know that Walt Whitman was gay, as was Oscar Wilde.  But what other classic and contemporary poets are/were LGBT? And could you tell by reading their poetry or were the verse more cryptic about it or more universal in scope?

While I am curious about how many published LGBT poets there are in contemporary society compared to those from the past, I’m more interested in whether we should bother categorizing our artists in this way.  Do we really need to know the sexual orientation of our poets in order to enjoy their art form?  Does it affect how we see their work and whether or not we enjoy it?  And does their poetry have to focus on the struggles of their oppressed minority or can it be broader in focus?

Just some food for thought.  I’d like to hear what everyone has to say.

For now, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems from Resilience edited by Eric Nguyen:

The Straight Boys Kiss by Rene Cardona

so they sit
and stare into the air
the secrets texted
make them nervous
more each second
so they lean in--
the smiles stop,
and stares shoot
like evening stars
to the lips of the one across.

For those in NYC:

On March 17 at 3-5PM, an Open Mic night will be held for contributors to the collection at WordUP Books.

For more information about the Resilience project, visit the blog.

I hope you’ll consider joining the 2012 Fearless Poetry Reading Challenge.

For those in the challenge who already have reviewed poetry volumes in February, please put your full links in the Mr. Linky below:


  1. doesn’t matter where it’s from it’s how it’s felt.

  2. I think in a way, it matters, but only to the poet. Your sexual orientation is going to inform the poetry you write, just like where you live informs your poetry, who your parents are, your culture, the language you speak. It’s a part of you. But I don’t know that we need to or ever did need to “classify” artists in any way. I believe we should let the poems speak for themselves. Perhaps some poetry benefits from knowing more about the poet, but certainly not all. The poet and the speaker of the poems are two very different things. Poetry and novels are not different in that sense. I guess that’s just a long way of saying that it depends on the poet and it depends on the poem.

    Thank you for participating again this month, Serena!

  3. Loved the poem that you shared. I honestly had no clue that Whitman was gay.

  4. James Eisenstein says

    Speaking of poetry were the winners announced for the independent awards? I voted for one of the books reviewed at this blog.

  5. I think there are at least three sides to this issue, having more to do with society at large, than the writers, themselves.

    LGBT writers love, fear, mourn, and long for things they cannot have – the same as all other writers. And I can be touched and moved by those emotions without knowing anything about the author.

    But knowing can add so much more to my experience of the writing, adding a powerful context. This is the same for the writing of any ‘minority’ group.

    And knowing can also help LGBT writing be noticed when it is vastly outnumbered by that of the mainstream.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t think knowing the sexual orientation of a poet is necessary, but I do think it’s important.

    • I think it is important to share it, but only if the poet wishes to share it. At least that’s what I think, but you make some valid points as to why it should be shared.

  6. James, I got your email. I agree. I also wonder if writers feel obligated to connect on a more personal level with their readers. I think part of it has to do with technology. Because information is so easily distributed, those writers who are more personable are able to connect this way via blogs, social media, etc. Will those writers end up with a larger readership? Maybe.
    I do, however, LOVE, LOVE,LOVE LGBT poetry. Poetry has always been a wonderful and safe way to convey feelings and beliefs. It’s a powerful tool for any social movement. Read “The Images” by Adrienne Rich. The sentiment in that particular piece must have brought so much comfort to lesbian women who were just beginning to step into themselves and embrace their beautiful sexuality.

    • I do agree that poetry always has been a safe outlet for emotions and passion. I think that there is a need for such a form and it provides a way for writers to find the connection they seek more so than fiction, I think, because readers tend to assume poetry is the poet speaking to them, rather than a character.

  7. james Eisenstein says

    It can be helpful to know personal information about a certain writer (poet or any other). I just wonder if it makes those writers who don’t want their personal lives in public view feel like they must in order to compete with their more open peers. I don’t just worry about this when it comes to sexuality. Many writers (this has always been the case) are private, shy people. However, if those who aren’t are getting more readers, the writers who would rather be private may feel compelled to give information they aren’t comfortable sharing in order to get more readers. I just wonder.

    • I agree that a lot of writers are shy, including myself. I like that there are those of us who are not and are willing to have it all out in the open.

  8. This is an interesting post and question. K.P. Kavafis comes to mind immediately. And as far as contemporary LGBT poets go, at least poets who identify themselves as such, I just read and reviewed books by two of them in February: The Horizontal Poet by Jan Steckel and He Will Laugh by Douglas Ray. What they all have in common is the timelessness of their prose… However, there seems to be a movement towards poetry within the LGBT community at the moment. I find it fascinating.

  9. I personally don’t think I need to know the author or poet’s sexual orientation, race, etc., etc. Especially with poetry, it’s about my reactions to the poems. I don’t think it’s necessary in order to enjoy what someone has written. Btw, I had no idea Whitman was gay. Not that it matters, but it just goes to show how I don’t pay attention to that kind of thing.

    • Thanks everyone for weighing in. Sorry about the blog trouble yesterday. The host had a major server issue and it took quite a while to fix.

  10. Like Kailana, I had a problem getting on your blog earlier today, but tonight it seemed to load fine.

    Like her, I also don’t know how to respond to the question exactly, but I don’t think I need to know a poet’s sexual orientation to enjoy his or her work. I also think it could be broader in focus: look at Whitman and Ginsberg as two prime examples.

  11. Normally I don’t pay much attention to the sexuality of the author unless it relates directly to that author’s work. With poetry though more than general fiction I think that the author’s life experiences can provide an interesting framework for interpretation, as the experience of reading poetry is very subjective.

  12. I don’t really think I need to know the sexuality of an author typically, but maybe it is different with poets… Where reading poetry it is more an interpretation, so it does sort of help knowing where the poet is coming from. Maybe. I think it also depends on the the poem, though. If it is a more personal poem knowing the poet helps, but who cares if it is about nature or whatever… I am basically thinking aloud here because it is not something I have thought about.

    Just a heads-up, but your blog seems to be loading VERY slow and one of the poetry readers on my blog can’t get on at all. She left you a comment. 🙂