Choice Poem: Une Journee de Juillet
Often considered one of the leading figures of the 1950s and 60s ‘New York School’, O’Hara remains a hugely influential poetic voice despite his tragically short life. During his prolific fifteen years in the Big Apple, he often wrote several poems a day, many of which are still regarded as integral to the canon of 20th century American literature. His work is conversational, personal and witty while still retaining an element of shock value. Lines like “I suck off/ every man in the Manhattan Storage & Warehouse Co” display a wonderfully unabashed expression of queerness even by today’s standards and mark him as a seminal voice for exploring sexuality in the modern age.
Carol Ann Duffy
Choice Poem: After Orlando: Gay Love
It’s not unusual for a poetry listicle to include Duffy one way or another, but, as the first ever LGBTQ+ poet laureate and one of our country’s most admired poets, it would be almost sacrilegious to omit her here. After being inspired to write by one of her teachers, her accessible writing style has led to Duffy being an established fixture of the National Curriculum and is often part of many people’s first foray into the world of poetry. However, that is not to say her work lacks sophistication as her nuance effortlessly conveys depth and profundity, whether she is writing about love, loss or the lives of history’s obscured women.
Choice Poem: If Not, Winter
Although little is known about much of her life, Ancient Greek poet Sappho is renowned as the greatest lyric poet of her era and, with the word ‘lesbian’ deriving from her home island of Lesbos, she has become an immortal symbol for the love and desire between women. Unfortunately, out of around 10,000 lines of poetry that she likely wrote, only about 650 have survived. Yet, her use of sharply-drawn imagery, word play and hyperbole imbue her verse with a charm that has helped her poetry stand the test of time.
Choice Poem: If Not, Winter
Despite receiving little public acclaim during his lifetime, Whitman is retrospectively seen as the voice of 19th century American poetry. The father of free verse draws from humanist philosophy and pastoral imagery to deal with themes as wide-ranging as wounding, healing, death and sexuality. Some critics still debate the poet’s sexual orientation but for playwright Oscar Wilde it was beyond question; he was recorded saying “I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips”.
Choice Poem: One Cigarette
Before being named the Scots Makar, Scotland’s national poet, in 2004, Morgan had decades of inventive and dynamic poetry under his belt. His work has a deep connection to his home city of Glasgow and also explores romance, lust and unrequited love with quick intelligence and a sprightly energy. Be enraptured by the sheer tenderness of his verse this LGBTQ+ History Month.
Image Credit: Jia Sung, The Poetry Foundation