Thinking about poetry often reminds me of senior year in high school trying to decipher William Shakespeare’s literary classics. I can immediately feel a sense of dread over my shoulders while I entertain these memories. Understanding poetry has always been tedious to me. I acknowledge the importance of epics such as Dante’s Inferno, the Iliad and the Odyssey acting as fundamental introductions to the structures and themes observed in poetry; however, there is a distinctive lack of personable content in the Eurocentric, heteronormative classics.
I was slightly disillusioned with poetry due to the overemphasis of analyzing European works and focusing primarily on heterosexuality to validate desirable romantic relationships. I felt that way until my freshman year at CSUB when I had the chance to read Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, and I realized that there was poetry that could speak to me while also understanding that there is an expansive collection of poetry waiting to be discovered for others.
From that moment, I yearned for depictions of love and loss, redemption and vengeance, and cultural representation in poetic works by people who lived in the United States who expressed their intersecting identities in their verses. In observance of National Poetry Month, in no particular order, I have compiled a list of ten LGBTQ+ poets who published poems from diverse perspectives and backgrounds.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but I also recommend visiting the Academy of American Poets, the Lambda Literary Foundation, and the Poetry Foundation websites for greater access to their literary database in order to help others find poets that speak to them. There are links below to view some of the poets’ websites as well as samples of their work, online shops, and clips of their live performances.
Want to continue supporting LGBTQ+ poets of color? Check out the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Journal: Nepantla, a “journal of multiplicity, of continual reinvention…[that] stand[s] against racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, xenophobia, etc…”
“The Black feminist, lesbian, poet, mother, warrior Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a native New Yorker and daughter of immigrants. Both her activism and her published work speak to the importance of struggle for liberation among oppressed peoples and of organizing in coalition across differences of race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age and ability. An internationally recognized activist and artist, Audre Lorde was the recipient of many honors and awards, including the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit, which conferred the mantle of New York State poet for 1991-93. In designating her New York State’s Poet Laureate, Governor Mario Cuomo observed: “Her imagination is charged by a sharp sense of racial injustice and cruelty, of sexual prejudice…She cries out against it as the voice of indignant humanity. Audre Lorde is the voice of the eloquent outsider who speaks in a language that can reach and touch people everywhere.”
– The Audre Lorde Project
Featured Poem: “A Woman Speaks” by Audre Lorde (1997)
“Evolve Benton (pronouns: they, them, theirs, or my name) is the Assistant Director to both the Multicultural and LGBT Resource Centers at the University of California, San Francisco. Evolve identifies as a black, queer, boi (born obviously incredible). Evolve is a prominent social & racial justice educator, writer, and consultant from Los Angeles, CA. In 2018 Evolve published their first poetry collection SIR: poetry dedicated to boihood & black queer love. Also, they co-produced their first independent film, "The BOI DOC". Evolve describes themselves as an artistic spirit using creativity as a form of liberation.”
– Black Queer Gold: Evolve Benton
Featured Poem: “A Dedication to Ermias Asghedom” by Evolve Benton (2019)
“Franny Choi is a queer, Korean-American poet, playwright, teacher, organizer, pottymouth, GryffinClaw, and general overachiever. She is the author of two poetry collections, Soft Science (Alice James Books, 2019) and Floating, Brilliant, Gone (Write Bloody Publishing, 2014), as well as a chapbook, Death by Sex Machine (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2017). She has received awards from the Poetry Foundation and the Helen Zell Writers Program, as well as fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Her poems have appeared in journals including Poetry Magazine, American Poetry Review, and New England Review, and her work has been featured by the Huffington Post, Ms. Magazine, PBS NewsHour, and Angry Asian Man.”
– Franny Choi: About
Featured Poem: “To the Man Who Shouted ‘I Like Pork Fried Rice” at Me on the Street” by Franny Choi (2014)
“Renowned poet, world traveler, spiritual seeker, founding member of a major literary movement, champion of human and civil rights, photographer and songwriter, political gadfly, teacher and co-founder of a poetics school. Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) defied simple classification…the foundation of Ginsberg’s work was the notion that one’s individual thoughts and experiences resonated among the masses. “It occurs to me that I am America”, Ginsberg wrote, and while the statement was intended to be humorous, it also illustrated his idea that democracy begins with the raising of a single voice…The “Howl” – Ginsberg’s most notable work - obscenity trial served as a catalyst in fomenting Ginsberg’s lifelong obsession with First Amendment issues in particular, and political activism in general. Using his fame as an international podium, Ginsberg spoke out on such controversial issues as the Vietnam War, gay rights (he listed his lifelong companion, Peter Orlovsky, as his spouse in his Who’s Who entry), and drugs (he was an early participant in Timothy Leary’s psilocybin and LSD experiments).”
– The Allen Ginsberg Project
Featured Poem: “Kaddish” by Allen Ginsberg (1959)
“Eileen Myles came to New York from Boston in 1974 to be a poet, subsequently a novelist, public talker and art journalist. A Sagittarius, their twenty books include evolution (poems), Afterglow (a dog memoir), a 2017 re-issue of Cool for You, I Must Be Living Twice/new and selected poems, and Chelsea Girls. Eileen is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Andy Warhol/Creative Capital Arts Writers grant, four Lambda Book Awards, the Shelley Prize from the PSA, and a poetry award from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. In 2016, Myles received a Creative Capital grant and the Clark Prize for excellence in art writing. In 2019 they'll be teaching at NYU and Naropa University and they live in New York and Marfa, TX.”
– Eileen Myles, Bio, 2019
Featured Poem: “our happiness” – by Eileen Myles (1949)
“This Chicagoan, born in Pakistan, has written gay-related poetry in Urdu said to be the first direct statement of “gay longings and desires” ever published in that language. The publication of Ifti Nasim‘s book of poetry, Narman (a Persian word for “hermaphrodite”, or half-man, half-woman), has initiated both wild praise and hateful criticism. Narman has also been distributed in Urdu in India and in the West (in England, Norway, Sweden, and Germany). In December 2000, he published Myrmecophile. [Narman’s] courageous publication met with revilement but critical acclaim and inspired other Pakistan poets. He co-founded Sangat/Chicago and has been president of the South Asian Performing Arts Council of America.”
– The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame
Featured Poem: “My Father” – by Iftikhar Nasim Ifti
“June Jordan (1936 - 2002) was a poet, activist, journalist, essayist and teacher. Prolific and passionate, she was an influential voice who lived and wrote on the frontlines of American poetry, international political vision and human moral witness. The author of many award-winning books, she traveled widely to read her poems and to proclaim a vision of liberation for all people. Dynamic, rebellious, and courageous, June Jordan was, and still is, a lyrical catalyst for change.”
– About June: Bio
Featured Poem: “Poem for Haruko” by June Jordan (2005)
“ALOK (they/them) is a gender non-conforming performance artist, writer, and educator. Their eclectic style and poetic challenge to the gender binary have been internationally renowned. They were recently the youngest recipient of the Live Works Performance Act Award granted to ten performance artists across the world. In 2017 they released their inaugural poetry chapbook FEMME IN PUBLIC. They have been featured on HBO, MTV, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New York Times, and The New Yorker and have presented their work at 400 venues in more than 40 countries.”
– Alok V Menon
Featured Poem: “i am used to this” – by Alok Vaid-Menon (2016)
“Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart's Traffic (Arktoi/Red Hen Press, 2009) and recombinant (Kelsey Street Press, 2017). Born of Chinese immigrants, they are a Kundiman, Lambda, Callaloo and Watering Hole Fellow and a member of the Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundations writing communities. A community organizer, they have worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston, as well as helped organize the third national Asian Pacific American Spoken Word and Poetry Summit in Boston. Chen is also the co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press, 2011) and Here Is a Pen: an Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Poets (Achiote Press, 2009).”
– Ching-In Chen: Bio
Featured Poem: “Simulacra” – by Ching-In Chen
Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano
“A Queer Xicano writer of Rarámuri descent, Herrera y Lozano is the author of Amorcito Maricón (Kórima Press, 2014) and Santo de la Pata Alzada: Poems from the Queer/Xicano/Positive Pen (Evelyn Street Press, 2005)…Along with Adelina Anthony and Dino Foxx, Lorenzo is a co-author of Tragic Bitches: An Experiment in Queer Xicana & Xicano Performance Poetry (Kórima Press, 2011), and the editor of Queer Codex: Chile Love(allgo/Evelyn Street Press, 2004), an anthology of visual and literary works by queer men of color from across the U.S.; and, Queer Codex: Rooted (allgo/Evelyn Street Press, 2008), a mix-genre anthology by queer women and trans-identified writers and visual artists.”
– Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano: Bio
Featured Poem: “You Bring Out the Joto in Me” by Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano (2011)
about the author: jennifer valencia
Cat dad, board game enthusiast and support class party member, Jennifer Valencia is a local volunteer blogger and staffer at The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity. With an interest in topics pertaining to critical diversity and feminist theory, Jennifer has completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Cal State, Bakersfield. Born and raised in Los Angeles, they have lived in Bakersfield for over a decade and considers Kern County home.
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