Happy LGBTQ+ History Month! This year’s theme is ‘Poetry, Prose and Plays.’ To recognize the value of LGBT+ poets in history, here are some excerpts and pieces from a few of the best:
I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
you’ve been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
our friend the poet comes into my room
where I’ve been writing for days,
drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
and I want to show her one poem
which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
and wake. You’ve kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . .
and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
to move openly together
in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
which carries the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.
– ‘Poem II’ from Twenty-One Love Poems, Adrienne Rich, 1976
It had nothing to do with hating my body,
I just love it enough to let it go,
I treat it like a house,
and when your house is falling apart,
you do not evacuate,
you make it comfortable enough to house all your insides,
you make it pretty enough to invite guests over,
you make the floorboards strong enough to stand on.
– ‘What it’s Like to be Transgender’ by Lee Mokobe, 2015
I have studied the tight curls on the back of your neck
moving away from me
beyond anger or failure
your face in the evening schools of longing
through mornings of wish and ripen
we were always saying goodbye
in the blood in the bone over coffee
before dashing for elevators going
in opposite directions
Do not remember me
nor as the keeper of secrets
I am a fellow rider in the cattle cars
you move slowly out of my bed
saying we cannot waste time
– Movement Song, Audre Lorde, 1973
At the dark street corner
where Guilt and Desire
are attempting to stare
each other down
(presently, one of them
will light a cigarette
and glance in the direction
of the abandoned warehouse)
Love came slouching along,
an exploded silence
standing a little apart
but visible anyway
in the yellow, silent, steaming light,
while Guilt and Desire wrangled,
trying not to be overheard
by this trespasser.
– ‘Guilt, Desire and Love,’ James Baldwin, 1983
And her light
stretches over salt sea
equally and flowerdeep fields.
And the beautiful dew is poured out
and roses bloom and frail
chervil and flowering sweetclover.
– From If not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, Sappho, ~600 BCE
Like two doomed ships that pass in storm
We had crossed each other’s way:
But we made no sign, we said no word,
We had no word to say;
For we did not meet in the holy night,
But in the shameful day.
A prison wall was round us both,
Two outcast men we were:
The world had thrust us from its heart,
And God from out His care:
And the iron gin that waits for Sin
Had caught us in its snare.
– The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Oscar Wilde, 1897
It wasn’t a bar
you went to
if you were
too poor, too queer, too young, too brown.
It was a bar
down the street.
We don’t know all their names,
the people in the bar
when the police went in.
And then things changed.
So make them up.
– ‘Stonewall’ by Roz Kaveney, 2012
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
– Harlem, Langston Hughes, 1951
What is your favourite work by an LGBTQ+ poet? Share the poems in the comments below!