National Poetry Month LGBTQ reading list

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday April 16, 2024
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National Poetry Month LGBTQ reading list

To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, April (aka National Poetry Month), is the queerest month. There are so many books from which to choose before April's end, and beyond, of course, that it's difficult to know where to begin. How about alphabetically?

South Florida-based Black homoflexible poet Jubi Arriola-Headley returns with his second book "Bound" (Persea Books, 2024) in which he addresses sexuality, race, gender, sex, and pleasure. Family also plays a prominent role in poems including "Questionnaire I," "Requiem," "Jack," "N'Jadaka's Appeal," and "Thanksgiving." Arriola-Headley's accessibly experimental side glows in "Letter to My Nether Regions" and "black (v.)."

Poet, queer literary authority, editor, and retired educator David Bergman has kept us waiting 25 years for the arrival of his new book of poetry "Plain Sight" (Passager Books, 2024). Baltimore-based Bergman's third full-length collection features "The Man Who" series consisting of more than a dozen poems (some grouped together, some interwoven into other sections), which, according to Bergman, developed from his "fascination with the case studies of Krafft-Ebing, Freud, and Oliver Sacks."

Like Arriola-Headley, gay poet Richard Blanco, the fifth presidential inaugural poet in our country's history, as well as a National Humanities Medal recipient, is based in South Florida (in addition to Maine). Blanco's lates book, "Homeland of My Body: New & Selected Poems" (Beacon Press, 2023) features more than 30 new poems, bracketing older poems culled from four of his earlier full-length collections.

Featuring poems that have previously been published in Poetry, The Adroit Journal, and Foglifter, as well as advance praise from Terrance Hayes, "Orders of Service" (Alice James Books, 2023), the debut collection from Black nonbinary poet Willie Lee Kinard III, winner of the 2022 Alice James Award, is one of the most eagerly anticipated books of the year. Deservedly so, because poems such as "The Sugar," "Barbicide," "A Tangle of Gorgons," "Aubade: Nocturne," and "Elegy," herald the arrival of a new and necessary queer voice in poetry.

Queer poet and historian Kim Roberts joins the collaboration club with her new cross-disciplinary chapbook "Corona/Crown" (Word Tech Editions, 2023). Roberts' project is particularly distinguished in that her collaborator is fine art photographer and foreign service officer Robert Revere. Co-created in response to the impact that the pandemic had on them individually regarding the sensation of being cut off from the cultural enrichment of visiting museums and other such venues. The pairing of Roberts' poems and Revere's photos creates a kind of gallery of the page.

The queer daughter of Cuban exiles, Leslie Sainz is the author of "Have You Been Long Enough at Table" (Tin House, 2023), a debut poetry collection worthy of your time and attention, particularly now with the increased focus on the ongoing migrant crisis. Indelible poems including "Ño," "Miguelito/Marielito," "Climate Feedback," "Notice to Appear," "Nature and Nurture, Miami, FL," will ring in your ears long after the book is closed.

While not a member of the LGBTQ community, the late poet Jean Valentine had a lasting impact on countless writers, gay and straight, and was praised by Adrienne Rich. The admirable "Light Me Down: The New & Collected Poems of Jean Valentine" (Alice James Books, 2024) spans a period of nearly 60 years. It also incorporates almost 30 new poems, including "Dear Adrienne," for Rich.

Winner of the 2024 William Meredith Book Award for Poetry, "The Porpoise in the Pink Alcove" (Forest Woods Media Productions, 2024) by lesbian poet and journalist Kathi Wolfe is as personal as it is geographical. Wolfe's poems sing of Hollywood and D.C. with the same starstruck (and occasionally jaded) red carpet reverence, along with a healthy dose of humor. When she writes of being disabled and queer, her tone may shift a bit, but it's no less effective, as exemplified in her William Carlos Williams homage "This Is Just to Say."

A legend in the spoken word scene since the early 1990s, prolific poet Emanuel Xavier's new book is "Love(ly) Child" (Queer Mojo/Rebel Satori, 2023). The book is bracketed by "Old Pro," in which Xavier writes about his "experiences as a queer poet of color and being sex positive," and "Fancy," featuring a direct reference to the collection's title. In between, the poems deal with themes of queerness and family in Xavier's distinctive voice.

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