Some of the most important poetic figures have been writers who identify somewhere on the LGBT+ spectrum. Though centuries of censorship have worked to obscure our historic record of LGBT+ fiction and poetry, there is a strong range to pick from.
Christina Rossetti: The Victorian Pre-Raphaelite poet is best known for penning the Christmas carol ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’, but her greatest achievement, from the perspective of shaping a queer canon, is ‘Goblin Market’. Originally, the narrative poem was branded as a moralistic children’s tale warning of sexual transgressions. However, strongly hinted at instances of female/female desire allow it to be read in a whole other light. It is unclear whether Rossetti was gay herself, but it is perhaps unlikely given her Catholic upbringing, although some of her biographers seem to think so.
Frank O’Hara: An American writer, curator and art critic who is considered one of the leading figures in the New York School. His brief, intimate poems have gained popularity with the millennial generation due to their confessional tone and ironic wit. He famously had a long-term love affair with the painter Larry Rivers.
Edwin Morgan: A Scottish poet whose sensual, imagist poetry evokes tender moments. By using the first person (‘me’ and ‘I’) he avoids using gender pronouns (‘he’ or ‘she’ etc). This approach helps to create more of a sense of immediacy and the impression of closeness with the reader. However, it is also a means to disguise the homoerotic subject of much of his work.
Audre Lorde: While the writer, feminist and civil rights activist is most famous for her speeches and prose work, such as the ground-breaking ‘Sister Outsider’, her poetry expresses her anger and frustration at the homophobia, racism and sexism of the modern world and, as such, has struck a note with contemporary generations.