There’s something about queer poetry that soothes the soul. Poetry, by its very nature, breaks boundaries and pushes against what we’re taught as the “rules” for writing. And no one pushes the boundaries of society better than queer people, especially queer artists. When it comes to poetry, I don’t believe the poet’s queerness can be separated from their art. So while some of these collections focus more on explicitly queer themes than others, all are made queer by the glorious queerness of their creators. If you also love pushing the boundaries, let’s round out Pride Month with some amazing and wonderful LGBTQ+ poets and their queer poetry collections.
The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak by Grace Lau
This debut poetry collection explores the different identities contained in a single person, drawing on Hong Kong history, Canadian immigrant experiences, pop culture, and much more. Lau’s poetry is so smart and full of life, making her an up-and-coming queer poet to watch.
The poems in The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak explore the many identities, both visible and invisible, that a body contains. With influences from pop culture, the Bible, tech, and Hong-Kongese history, these pieces reflect and reveal how the stories of immigrants in Canada hold both universal truths and singular distinctions. From boy bands that show the way to become the kind of girl a girl could love to rich flavors that are just a few generations of poverty away, they invite the reader to meditate on spirituality, food, and the shapes love takes.
You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson
Award-winning poet Andrea Gibson is known for uplifting the queer community through their writing. Their seven poetry collections center around queer love, social reform, gender norms, mental health, and more.
You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson is a queer, political, and feminist collection guided by self-reflection. The poems range from a close examination of the deeply personal to the vastness of the world, exploring the expansiveness of the human experience from love to illness, from space to climate change, and so much more in between. In her work, she has trademarked honesty and vulnerability, both of which are on full display in this amazing collection. It’s the epitome of a collection, allowing readers to be just as they are.
Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans
This stunning poetry collection plays with form and visual impact in ways that will leave you breathless. Jasmine Mans, also known for her spoken word poetry, uses these poems to navigate Black girlhood, family ties, queer identity, feminism, and much more.
This unforgettable poetry collection about race, feminism, and queer identity is an accessible collection for readers new to poetry and experienced poetry lovers. With echoes of Gwendolyn Brooks and Sonia Sanchez, Mans writes to call herself—and us—home. Each poem explores what it means to be a daughter of Newark, NJ, and America—and the painful, joyous path to adulthood as a young, queer Black woman. Black Girl, Call Home is a love letter to the wandering Black girl and a vital companion to any woman on a journey to find truth, belonging, and healing.
If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar
This is a breathtaking collection, overflowing with rage and pain and healing and joy. Asghar tells a powerful story of being a Pakistani Muslim orphan in America, coming of age surrounded by love but feeling untethered.
She grapples with violent histories, with a lack of memory of her family and her homeland, and with racial, religious, and queer micro- and macro-aggressions. These poems at once bear anguish, joy, vulnerability, and compassion while also exploring the many facets of violence: how it persists within us, how it is inherited across generations, and how it manifests itself in our relationships. In experimental forms and language, both lyrical and raw, Asghar seamlessly braids together marginalized people’s histories with her own understanding of identity, place, and belonging.
Bodymap by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha is a poet and activist known for writing at the intersection of everyday life and calling for social change.
Their poetry collection, Bodymap, is a love letter to queer disabled femmes of color, exploring the homes we make inside and outside of our own bodies. This collection sings a queer disabled femme-of-colour love song filled with hard femme poetics and disability justice. In this volume, Leah Lakshmi maps hard and vulnerable terrains of queer desire, survivorhood, transformative love, sick and disabled queer genius, and all the homes we claim and deserve.
Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith
Danez Smith is writing some of the most compelling contemporary poetry today, and their writing absolutely cannot be missed. This collection, a Lambda Literary Award winner and National Book Award finalist is truly unforgettable.
Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality—the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood—and a diagnosis of HIV positive. It’s an astonishing and ambitious collection that confronts, praises, and rebukes America, where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.
Cenzontle by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
Castillo plays with poetry and imagery in his groundbreaking work Cenzontle. The collection depicts life before, during, and after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, and focuses on the fallacy of the American dream, immigrant experiences, and being a queer man married to a cis woman.
These poems explore the emotional fallout of immigration, the illusion of the American dream via the fallacy of the nuclear family, the latent anxieties of living in a queer brown undocumented body within a heteronormative marriage, and the ongoing search for belonging. Finding solace in the resignation to sheer possibility, these poems challenge us to question the potential ways in which two people can interact, love, give birth, and mourn―sometimes all at once.
For more queer literature, read here!