Celebrate Pride: Must-read queer poets

National Poetry Month may be in April, but love for queer poets should be year-round. The list features poets both from the established literary canon as well as emerging poets worth getting to know better.

The Iowa City Pride Fest & Parade is June 15th. This year ICPL is curating lists of LGBQTIA+ books to support Iowa City Pride. This list is a part of that series of recommendations.

Live oak, with moss


Poetry, LGBTQ+

As he was turning forty, Walt Whitman wrote twelve poems in a small handmade book he entitled “Live Oak, With Moss.” The poems were intensely private reflections on his attraction to and affection for other men. They were also Whitman’s most adventurous explorations of the theme of same-sex love, composed decades before the word “homosexual” came into use. This revolutionary, extraordinarily beautiful and passionate cluster of poems was never published by Whitman and has remained unknown to the general public—until now. New York Times bestselling and Caldecott Award–winning illustrator Brian Selznick offers a provocative visual narrative of “Live Oak, With Moss,” and Whitman scholar Karen Karbiener reconstructs the story of the poetic cluster’s creation and destruction. Walt Whitman’s reassembled, reinterpreted Live Oak, With Moss serves as a source of inspiration and a cause for celebration.

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How awesome to be able to include this book 200 years after Walt Whitman's birth. Sing thyself, Walt!
- Melody

Collected poems

Constantine Cavafy

889.1 /Cavafy
Poetry, LGBTQ+

C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933) lived in relative obscurity in Alexandria, and a collected edition of his poems was not published until after his death. Now, however, he is regarded as the most important figure in twentieth-century Greek poetry, and his poems are considered among the most powerful in modern european literature. Here is an extensively revised edition of the acclaimed translations of Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, which capture Cavafy's mixture of formal and idiomatic use of language and preserve the immediacy of his frank treatment of homosexual themes, his brilliant re-creation of history, and his astute political ironies. The resetting of this entire edition has permitted the translators to review each poem and to make alterations where appropriate. George Savidis has revised and amplified the notes in keeping with his latest edition of the Greek text of Cavafy.

Complete poems of Hart Crane

Hart Crane

811.52 /Crane
Poetry, LGBTQ+

This edition features a new introduction by Harold Bloom as a centenary tribute to the visionary of White Buildings (1926) and The Bridge (1930). Hart Crane, prodigiously gifted and tragically doom-eager, was the American peer of Shelley, Rimbaud, and Lorca. Born in Garrettsville, Ohio, on July 21, 1899, Crane died at sea on April 27, 1932, an apparent suicide. A born poet, totally devoted to his art, Crane suffered his warring parents as well as long periods of a hand-to-mouth existence. He suffered also from his honesty as a homosexual poet and lover during a period in American life unsympathetic to his sexual orientation. Despite much critical misunderstanding and neglect, in his own time and in ours, Crane achieved a superb poetic style, idiosyncratic yet central to American tradition. His visionary epic, The Bridge, is the most ambitious and accomplished long poem since Walt Whitman's Song of Myself. Marc Simon's text is accepted as the most authoritative presentation of Hart Crane's work available to us. For this centennial edition, Harold Bloom, who was introduced to poetry by falling in love with Crane's work while still a child, has contributed a new introduction.

Jimmy's blues

James Baldwin

811.54/Baldwin
LGBTQ+, Poetry

Known for his relentless honesty and startlingly prophetic insights on issues of race, gender, class, and poverty, Baldwin is just as enlightening and bold in his poetry as in his famous novels and essays. The poems range from the extended dramatic narratives of “Staggerlee wonders” and “Gypsy” to the lyrical beauty of “Some days,” which has been set to music and interpreted by such acclaimed artists as Audra McDonald. Nikky Finney’s introductory essay reveals the importance, relevance, and rich rewards of these little-known works. Baldwin’s many devotees will find much to celebrate in these pages.

Howl, and other poems

Allen Ginsberg

811.54 /Ginsberg
LGBTQ+, Poetry

The prophetic poem that launched a generation when it was first published in 1956 is here presented in a commemorative fortieth Anniversary Edition. When the book arrived from its British printers, it was seized almost immediately by U.S. Customs, and shortly thereafter the San Francisco police arrested its publisher and editor, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, together with City Lights Bookstore manager Shigeyoshi Murao. The two of them were charged with disseminating obscene literature, and the case went to trial in the municipal court of Judge Clayton Horn. A parade of distinguished literary and academic witnesses persuaded the judge that the title poem was indeed not obscene and that it had “redeeming social significance.”

Selected poems, 1950-2012

Adrienne Rich

811.54 /Rich
LGBTQ+, Poetry

Adrienne Rich was the singular voice of her generation, bringing discussions of gender, race, and class to the forefront of poetical discourse. This generous selection from all nineteen of Rich’s published poetry volumes encompasses her best-known work—the clear-sighted and passionate feminist poems of the 1970s, including “Diving into the Wreck,” “Planetarium,” and “The Phenomenology of Anger”—and offers the full range of her evolution as a poet. From poems leading up to her feminist breakthrough through bold later work such as “North American Time” and “Calle Visión,” Selected Poems celebrates Rich’s prophetic vision as well as the inventiveness that shaped her enduring art.

Poems

Elizabeth Bishop

811.54 /Bishop
Poetry, LGBTQ+

Elizabeth Bishop is one of America's greatest writers, and her art is loved and admired by readers and fellow poets alike. The poems that make up Bishop's small and select body of work display honesty and humor, grief and acceptance, observing nature and human nature with painstaking accuracy. Her poems often start outwardly, with geography and landscape-- from New England and Nova Scotia, where she grew up, to Florida and Brazil, where she later lived-- and move inexorably toward "the interior," exploring as they do fundamental questions of knowledge and perception, love and solitude, and the ability or inability of form to control chaos.

Coal

Audre Lorde

811.54 /Lorde
LGBTQ+, Poetry

Coal is one of the earliest collections of poems by a woman who, Adrienne Rich writes, "for the complexity of her vision, for her moral courage and the catalytic passion of her language, has already become, for many, an indispensable poet." Marilyn Hacker captures the essence of Lorde and her poetry: "Black, lesbian, mother, urban woman: none of Lorde's selves has ever silenced the others; the counterpoint among them is often the material of her strongest poems."

I must be living twice : new and selected poems, 1975-2014

Eileen Myles

811.54 /Myles
Poetry, LGBTQ+

Eileen Myles's poetry and prose are known for their blend of reality and fiction, the sublime and the ephemeral, in which Myles not only lets her readers peer into existent places, like the East Village in her iconic Chelsea Girls, but also lifts them into dreams, imbuing the landscapes of her writing with the vividness and energy of fantasy. I Must Be Living Twice brings selections from the poet's previous work together with a set of bold new poems, through which Myles continues to refine her sardonic, unapologetic, and fiercely intellectual literary voice. Steeped in the culture of New York City, Myles's stomping grounds and the home of her most well-known work, she provides a wide-open lens into a radical life.

Collected poems

Federico García Lorca

861.62 /Garcia Lorca
Poetry, LGBTQ+

Federico García Lorca is the greatest poet of twentieth-century Spain and one of the world's most influential modernist writers. Christopher Maurer, a leading García Lorca scholar and editor, has substantially revised FSG's earlier edition of the collected poems of this charismatic and complicated figure, who-as Maurer says in his illuminating introduction-"spoke unforgettably of all that most interests us: the otherness of nature, the demons of personal identity and artistic creation, sex, childhood, and death."

Cenzontle : poems

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

811.6 /Hernandez Castillo
Poetry, LGBTQ+

In this lyrical, imagistic debut, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo creates a nuanced narrative of life before, during, and after crossing the US/Mexico border. These poems explore the emotional fallout of immigration, the illusion of the American dream via the fallacy of the nuclear family, the latent anxieties of living in a queer brown undocumented body within a heterosexual marriage, and the ongoing search for belonging. Finding solace in the resignation to sheer possibility, these poems challenge us to question the potential ways in which two people can interact, love, give birth, and mourn―sometimes all at once.

When I grow up I want to be a list of further possibilities

Chen Chen

811.6 /Chen
Poetry, LGBTQ+

"In this ferocious and tender debut, Chen Chen investigates inherited forms of love and family -- the strained relationship between a mother and son, the cost of necessary goodbyes -- all from Asian American, immigrant, and queer perspectives. Holding all accountable, this collection fully embraces the loss, grief, and abundant joy that come with charting one's own path in identity, life, and love. When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities. To be a season of laughter when my father says his coworker is like that, he can tell because the guy wears pink socks, see, you don't, so you can't, you can't be one of them. To be the one my parents raised me to be. A season from the stormiest planet. A very good feeling with a man. Every feeling, in pink shoes. Every step, hot pink."--

The world in us : lesbian and gay poetry of the next wave : an anthology

811.5408 /World
Poetry, LGBTQ+

The first substantial collection of gay/lesbian poetry to be published in over a decade, The World in Us features several established voices as well as emerging talents. Marilyn Hacker, J.D. McClatchy, Eileen Myles, Letta Neely, and Mark Wunderlich are but a few of the many artists included in this rich, varied, and contemporary anthology.

Take me with you

Andrea (Poet) Gibson

811.6 /Gibson
Poetry, LGBTQ+

"For readers of Rupi Kaur (Milk and Honey) and Atticus (Love Her Wild), a book small enough to carry with you, with messages big enough to stay with you, from one of the most quotable and influential poets of our time. Andrea Gibson explores themes of love, gender, politics, sexuality, family, and forgiveness with stunning imagery and a fierce willingness to delve into the exploration of what it means to heal and to be different in this strange age. Take Me With You, illustrated throughout with evocative line drawings by Sarah J. Coleman, is small enough to fit in your bag, with messages that are big enough to wake even the sleepiest heart. Divided into three sections (love, the world, and becoming) of one liners, couplets, greatest hits phrases, and longer form poems, it has something for everyone, and will be placed in stockings, lockers, and the hands of anyone who could use its wisdom"--

Don't call us dead

811.6/Smith
Poetry, LGBTQ+

Smith's unflinching poetry addresses race, class, sexuality, faith, social justice, mortality, and the challenges of living HIV positive at the intersection of black and queer identity. The collection opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved on earth. "Dear White America," which Smith performed at the 2014 Rustbelt Midwest Region Poetry Slam, has as strong an impact on the page as it did on the spoken word stage. Smith's courage and hope amidst the struggle for unity in America will humble and uplift you.