"The poet’s job is to put into words those feelings we all have that are so deep, so important, and yet so difficult to name, to tell the truth in such a beautiful way, that people cannot live without it."
— Jane Kenyon
Within the LGBTQ+ community, there’s a common thread that connects every member — a struggle to find acceptance and freedom. And like any art form, poetry and the written word offers the release of the very emotions we’ve been taught to suppress for years. Many queer individuals are unable to fully acknowledge their truth and instead look for spaces that provide an outlet for internal contemplation.
Poetry has fueled protest, formed communities and brought about change for many oppressed and discriminated minorities. For National Poetry Month, Shifter Mag wants to celebrate and acknowledge some iconic and incredibly queer poets that have used their work to shine some light on the problems and joys of being gay.
1. Danez Smith
Photo courtesy of Danez Smith
Danez Smith is a queer, black writer and author of "Homie" and "Don’t Call Us Dead." Smith has won a long list of awards — including the Forward Prize for Best Collection and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award — and was a finalist for the National Book Award. They work to authentically share their experience as a young black queer individual living in the United States.
Read "The 17-Year-Old & the Gay Bar" by Danez Smith
2. Franny Choi
Photo by Graham Cotten
Focusing on equality and social justice, Franny Choi is a Korean-American queer poet with two imaginative and cultivated poetry collections "Soft Science" and "Floating, Brilliant, Gone." In their collections, they write about growing into themselves and understanding more about the discrimination and fetishization of being Asian in the United States.
Read "To the Man Who Shouted 'I Like Pork Fried Rice' at Me on the Street" by Franny Choi
3. Audre Lorde
Photo via Lit Hub
A self-described Black, lesbian, mother, warrior poet, Audre Lorde was a pioneer of queer writing. She has multiple poetry collections and awards for her extensive library of work and she dedicated her writing and life to fighting injustices like racism, sexism and homophobia.
Read "Recreation" by Audre Lorde
4. Bryan Borland
Photo courtesy of Bryan Borland
His first poetry collection, "My Life as Adam," was selected by the American Library Association for its list of recommended LGBT-themed publications "Over the Rainbow." He is now a founder and publisher of Sibling Rivalry Press, an independent publishing house based in Little Rock, Arkansas which he runs with his husband Seth Pennington.
Read Bryan Borland’s "Selected Poems."
5. Fatimah Asghar
Photo by Cassidy Kristiansen
Fatimah Asghar is a Pakistani-Kashmiri-American poet and screenwriter. Her work has appeared in professional journals, including POETRY Magazine, Gulf Coast, The Margins and Academy of American Poets among others. Her work focuses on celebrating being a queer Muslim woman and how she’s grown to accept both herself and her passion for speaking out against injustices.
Read "If They Should Come For Us" by Fatimah Asghar
6. Richard Blanco
Photo courtesy of Blue Flower Arts
Raised in Miami, Richard Blanco is an award-winning Cuban-American poet with an extensive list of achievements. In 2013, he read his poem “One Day” at President Obama’s second presidential inauguration. Richard Blanco became the first Latino and youngest openly gay immigrant and writer to read at a presidential election.
Read "Burning in the Rain" by Richard Blanco
7. Sam Sax
Photo by B.A. Van Sise
Sam Sax is a queer, Jewish poet and educator. As the winner of the Gulf Coast Prize, the Iowa Review Award and the American Literary Award, sam sax is an accomplished poet. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Poetry magazine, Tin House and other journals.
Read "Hematology" by Sam Sax
8. James Baldwin
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates of Turkey
James Baldwin is a considerable renowned essayist, author and poet. His work explores racial, sexual, and class descriminations in the United States during the mid twentieth-century.
Read "The Giver (for Berdis)" by James Baldwin
9. Gloria Anzaldúa
Photo via Feministing
Throughout her career, Gloria Anzaldúa was a queer Chicana poet, writer and feminist theorist who explored both the collective identity and isolation of discrimination. She is the author of several books of poetry, children’s fiction and non-fiction.
Read "To Live in the Borderlands" by Gloria Anzaldúa
10. Adrienne Rich
Photo by Neal Boenzi
Adrienne Rich is one of America’s most influential queer poets. With a career spanning over seven decades, Adrinne Rich is also credited for the forming of post-war American poetry. Her poetry is widely acclaimed for its topics of politics, feminism, history and racism.
Read "What Kind of Times Are These" by Adrienne Rich
In spite of the differences in our experiences of life, we can come together and celebrate how extraordinary these writers are — how their bravery and passion led to countless opportunities for other queer poets. The more our voices are heard and recognized, the farther we’ll go in creating a world equal for all, a path the writers listed above paved for us to continue building upon.