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LGBTQIA+ Poetry for National Poetry Month

By Becca Binnie, Amy Blay, Shan Heyworth and Rosie Green


In the spirit of National Poetry Month, pick up a poetry collection and enjoy the warmth and delight a good poem can bring. Below are a few inclusive collections that represent the LGBTQIA+ community and celebrate identity and limitless love.


Felicity by Mary Oliver


“There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled. Like, telling someone you love them.” – Mary Oliver, Felicity


Winning both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, Mary Oliver was a celebrated American poet who found inspiration in nature and landscapes. With Felicity, readers get to delve into Oliver’s work on love and examine what it means to love another person. 


Boundless and beautiful, Oliver opens our eyes to the possibilities within our own hearts as she describes the joys, wonder and strangeness of human connection. Felicity reminds us to feel deeply and endlessly, to appreciate the warmth and light in all things. 


Mary Oliver’s poetry celebrates love, and her vividly inclusive and encompassing words feel familiar and peaceful. Her other work includes Blue Horses, Dog Songs and A Thousand Mornings


Lord of the Butterflies by Andrea Gibson


“Your name / is a gift / you can return / if it doesn’t fit.” – Andrea Gibson, Lord of the Butterflies


Andrea Gibson began their career in 1999 at an open mic in Colorado. They have since become well-known and beloved in the spoken word poetry scene after winning the first Womxn of the World Poetry Slam.


Lord of the Butterflies is a collection of poems and musings reflecting Gibson’s views on gender, queer romance, grief, mental health and politics. In just under one hundred pages, they cover a broad range of subjects while avoiding rushed or abrupt transitions between them. This collection surely contains at least one piece that will strike a chord in any reader. 


The simple language used by Gibson in their incredibly personal, evocative poems makes them accessible and easy to connect with for those new to poetry. They celebrate love, identity and acceptance and are unapologetic about their views towards war and prejudice. They pull no punches when delving into depression and anxiety. Lord of the Butterflies is a raw, moving collection that will stick with readers for years to come.



I cannot be good until you say it by Sanah Ahsan


Whenever my name leaves / her lips / I know that god / is here.” – Sanah Ahsan, I cannot be good until you say it


Sanah Ahsan released their debut poetry collection, I cannot be good until you say it, in March 2024. This comes after they won the Outspoken Performance Poetry Prize, with their work being shortlisted for several other poetry prizes and being published in magazines and anthologies, including The Poetry Review and Wasafiri. The fifty poems – split into four sections – explore themes including being queer, being South Asian and Muslim, as well as homophobia, racism, love and family. The poems vary greatly, not only in theme but also in their carefully constructed forms, from blackout poetry to ghazals, which add further meaning and impact to their content.


This collection brings together the mortal and the divine, prayer and poetry, and brings out the holy in the queer. Ahsan, who is also a clinical psychologist, references psychotherapists, feminist and postcolonial scholars, as well as hadith, other poets and hip-hop music. They weave together English and Urdu, and juxtapose worship, sex, violence and other aspects of everyday life. This is an extremely personal collection influenced by Ahsan’s experiences, identities and inspirations, which challenges binaries and oppression. I cannot be good until you say it is both meditative and bold, confrontational and tender and is sure to leave a strong impression on readers.


Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy 


‘And this ridged stone your hand in mine / and the curve of the turning earth your spine.’ – Carol Ann Duffy, Rapture


Carol Ann Duffy was the first female, first Scottish and first openly lesbian poet to hold the position of Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2019. Published in 2006, Rapture is a tender and emotional collection following a single relationship through its highs and lows, capturing the spectrum of emotions that can shift and change and sit side by side in love.


Duffy weaves between the miraculous and the mundane (“I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea”) and creates the sense that being in love with someone is being in love with the world, with everything a reminder of them.


Duffy uses a lot of evocative natural imagery – clouds, sun, grass and sky – that conjure feelings of rain trickling down skin, hands deep in soil and the scratch of sharp thorns. Beautiful, and at times vicious, nature mimics her view of her lover throughout the collection.

 

Concluding with a palpable feeling of loneliness, Duffy lyrically traces the experience of being in love, sometimes distant, sometimes desperate and always devoted, carrying through to the devastation of loss.


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