Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sappho! Lesbian Poet of Ancient Fame

I saved Sappho and her work for this, the final entry of our month-long GLBTQ Poetry party to celebrate National Poetry Month.

Sappho pictured reading, 440-430 BC

Sappho lived in the early sixth century B.C. on the island of Lesbos, where she was the leader of a group of women who gathered to compose and recite poetry. She was considered the greatest of the early Greek lyric poets.

Plato called her the "tenth muse."

She wrote about her love for other women, and her name (Sappho) and the island she lived on (Lesbos) have both become synonyms in various forms (sapphic, lesbian) with womyn who love womyn.

Only fragments of Sappho's poetry survive to this day - here are two that are amazing, translations from the Isle of Lesbos website:

I have not had one word from her

Frankly I wish I were dead
When she left, she wept

a great deal; she said to me, "This parting must be
endured, Sappho. I go unwillingly."

I said, "Go, and be happy
but remember (you know
well) whom you leave shackled by love

"If you forget me, think
of our gifts to Aphrodite
and all the loveliness that we shared

"all the violet tiaras,
braided rosebuds, dill and
crocus twined around your young neck

"myrrh poured on your head
and on soft mats girls with
all that they most wished for beside them

"while no voices chanted
choruses without ours,
no woodlot bloomed in spring without song..."

--Translated by Mary Barnard


Come back to me, Gongyla, here tonight,
You, my rose, with your Lydian lyre.
There hovers forever around you delight:
A beauty desired.

Even your garment plunders my eyes.
I am enchanted: I who once
Complained to the Cyprus-born goddess,
Whom I now beseech

Never to let this lose me grace
But rather bring you back to me:
Amongst all mortal women the one
I most wish to see.

--Translated by Paul Roche

There's a very scholarly analysis of her poems that you can download here (scroll down, the link is at the bottom of the page) by William Harris, Professor Em. Classics, Middlebury College

And for more general info on Sappho, check out this entry on her at

I hope you all enjoyed this month's celebration of the Queer in Poetry! Thanks for sharing and exploring it with me.

Tomorrow we'll be back to books!



Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Quentin Crisp's World War Two Gay Experiences in London: Poetry where you don't expect it!

Sometimes poetry comes at you from unexpected places and at unexpected times. Sometimes it offends, sometimes it shocks, but even then, if it's really good - it can make you think.

Like this summary below by Quentin Crisp, (effeminate iconoclast and author of, among other books, "The Naked Civil Servant"), of his experience of London during World War II - a perspective I've certainly never heard before.

A little background: Quentin (born 'Denis' but he explained to people that he had "dyed" his name) was told (because of his non-conforming appearance and effeminate mannerisms) that the army would never want him, so during the war he worked as an artist's life model...

[I]nto the feast of love and death that St. Adolf had set before the palates of the English - parched these long dark twenty-five years - Mr. Roosevelt began, with Olympian hands, to shower the American forces. This brand new army of (no) occupation flowed through the streets of London like cream on strawberries, like melted butter over green peas. Labelled "with love from Uncle Sam" and packaged in uniforms so tight that in them their owners could fight for nothing but their honor, these "bundles for Britain" leaned against the lamp posts of Shaftesbury Avenue or lolled on the steps of thin-lipped statues of dead English statesmen. As they sat in cafés or stood in the pubs, their bodies bulged through every straining khaki fiber toward our feverish hands. Their voices were like warm milk, their skins as flawless as expensive India rubber, and their eyes as beautiful as glass. Above all it was the liberality of their natures that was so marvellous. Never in the history of sex was so much offered to so many by so few.


Now I admit, there are parts of this that I find really offensive (so much so that I went back and forth over whether or not to include it in this celebration of Queer Poetry), but other parts are beautiful and evocative, and I find the whole thing thought provoking - almost like a time-travel machine into a completely different wartime London than the one I've heard and learned about (and I have spent years of my life studying this dark period of history.)

I love the notion of Queer souls brought together across national boundaries, but I hope for a day when it happens because of peace...



I found this quote in a great overview essay on Quentin Crisp, pgs. 261-264 of "The Gay 100: A ranking of the most influential gay men and lesbians, past and present" by Paul Russell.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh I Love Gay Poetry! Walt Whitman's "We Two Boys Together Clinging" From Calamus

Okay, so you'll have to forgive me, but there are only three days left in our GLBTQ Poetry celebration, and I have one more poem by Walt Whitman that I just have to share:


We two boys together clinging
One the other never leaving
Up and down the roads going, North and South excursions making,
Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching,
Arm'd and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving,
No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving, threatening,
Misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, water drinking, on the turf or the sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, feebleness chasing,
Fulfilling our foray.


Check out my other posts on Walt Whitman's poetry here.

Also, check out the page on his life and writings here.



I found this poem on page 95 of "Complete Poetry and Selected Prose by Walt Whitman" edited by James E. Miller, Jr.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

American Idol HUG OF SHAME: David Archuleta, Fans, and the Heterosexist Machinery of FAME

Okay, I just can't stay silent even a second longer. I know I don't normally post on the weekends, but I saw this last week, and it's been bothering me since then.

Watch this, and tell me if it doesn't creep you out just a bit.

No, not the singing part - this kid David Archuleta is amazingly talented.

I'm talking about the fan hug part. Where Ryan calls up five girls from the audience and invites them to "hug" David Archuleta, who is sweet and embarrassed and trying to hide how horrified he is.

There is so much that is WRONG with this.

First off, could we give the kid a break? Is it not awkward enough to sing in front of millions of people live, but you have to let some fans come up into his space, right before he's going to sing, and invite them to hug him? WHOA!

I know it's a sad trade off for famous people to give up their privacy, but this felt like it crossed the line as being inappropriate. Do you really want every pre-teen and teenager who really likes a celebrity to think they deserve to go up and touch and hug that person? That's not a great thing to model, is it?

I know David Archuleta is all cute and innocent. And this isn't about his being gay or straight or questioning or whatever he ends up recognizing as his own personal sexual identity down the road.

Right now David Archuleta has NO sexual oomph! at all, which is clearly what America wants, since the voters got rid of the Australian hottie Michael Johns, who was a MAN!

Remember him?

No, David is a BOY, see?

and the girls who screamed and got to hug him were just little pre-teen girls with adolescent crushes on a cute boy with talent. So it was all innocent, right?


Where were the little pre-teen boys with crushes on David? How come they didn't get to come up and hug him, too?

It is amazing the MARCH IN STEP heterosexist attitude that this supposedly "sweet" fan moment fed into.

What about all the pre-teen gay boys? The ones watching at home, who are rooting for David Archuleta and who wished THEY were in the audience to scream and let him know how much they like him, too? How about their wishing to be there to hug him? Okay, that would still be inappropriate, but my point is...

shouldn't gay kids get to dream, too?

And why is American Idol so intent on building up the facade of hetero-normative culture?

Money, probably. But really, in addition to working on providing for food and education for kids in Africa, how about working to INCLUDE queer Kids here at home and around the world in the pop-love-fest that is American Idol?

How about acknowledging that there are gay fans, and gay contestants?

How about making our world a bit kinder and more inclusive?

Don't they make enough money, being the top show and all?

Isn't sometimes doing the right thing more important than doing the most expedient and most lucrative thing?

It was a HUG of SHAME.

And I'm embarrassed for Ryan. I feel bad for David Archuleta.

I love this show.

But going forward, I'm hoping for better.

Namaste, and enjoy watching,


ps- If you can't see the video clip above - some of the feeds are being "pulled" by the powers that be (go figure...), go to and search "David Archuleta Webber" (that's for the composer of the song he sang that week) and you can watch the video there!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tomorrow is the National Day of Silence: Teen-Led Civil Disobedience to address Homophobia in Schools and our Culture!

The National Day of Silence brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools by having students use the power of silence.

This year's event will be held in memory of Lawrence King, the California 8th grader
who was shot and killed February 12th of this year by a classmate - Larry had told the boy he had a crush on him. (Check out my original post on the murder and my reaction.)

Tomorrow, Friday April 25, hundreds of thousands of students will come together

"to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior."

When I first heard about this, it hit me wrong - after all, I think the problem is that we are TOO silent, and that GLBTQ people have long been too closeted, and that that lack of visibility and that lack of standing up and asserting ourselves plays into the culture of marginalizing queer people.

But, when I remembered how powerless I felt as a teenager; how I couldn't drive anywhere from where we lived in the suburbs to join in any marches (nor did I have the guts, probably...), how I didn't have any money to contribute to causes I cared about or pay for anything, and how there was no way I was going to do any kind of hunger strike (Yom Kippur was torture enough!) -- when I remembered I felt like I could do NOTHING to change the world - the idea behind the Day of Silence kinda grew on me.


Rosa Parks.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

The power of civil disobedience is awesome - it has brought nations to their knees, it has changed the world, and every Teenager HAS that power right now. The power to be silent, intentionally silent when everyone expects you to speak. The power to be silent can SCREAM louder than any voices raised in anger.

As long as people know WHY we are silent, it can change lives for the better.

So, I'm all for this National Day of Silence.

But once the day is over, let's NOT be silent any more. Let's talk with our teachers, librarians, school administrators, our families, and our friends about how things need to change to make all of us - including those of us who identify as GLBTQ - feel safe.

Safe to learn. To grow. And to live our lives with gusto.

If the Day of Silence sounds like something you're interested in being part of, check out the Day of Silence website, and note that GLSEN, the sponsoring organization behind the event, advises that:

The day is most successful when schools and students work together to show their commitment to ensuring safe schools for all students. Many schools allow students’ participation throughout the day. Some schools ask students to speak as they normally would during class and remain silent during breaks and at lunch. There is no single way to participate, and students are encouraged to take part in the way that is the most positive and uplifting for their school.

So go ahead, and dare to be part of changing things for the better.

Tomorrow, it won't take a single word.



Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Leonardo Da Vinci: He Painted the Mona Lisa, He was a Genius, and He was Gay.

Okay, it didn't come up in the Da Vinci Code, but the great scientist/artist Leonardo Da Vinci was gay.

And he had this amazing comment about art and poetry, that I thought was pretty wonderful for this month's celebration of poetry:

“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen”

Here's a great website that goes into Leonardo Da Vinci's sexuality in more detail, from which I'm sharing this:

In 1476, just as Leonardo was becoming a master in his own right, probably functioning as a partner toNotebook sketch Verrocchio, he was suddenly plagued by scandal. Along with three other young men, he was anonymously accused of sodomy, which in Florence was a criminal offense, even though in most cases the authorities looked the other way and the general culture attached little social stigma to homosexuality.

Leonardo was 24 years old at the time. The accusation specifically charged him with a homosexual interaction with one Jacopo Saltarelli, a notorious prostitute. The charges were brought in April, and for a time Leonardo and the other defendants were under the watchful eye of Florence's "Officers of the Night"--a kind of renaissance vice squad.

However, the charges were dismissed in June, due to a lack of witnesses and evidence. It is probable that the Medici family brought had something to do with this outcome, as another of the defendants was Lionardo de Tornabuoni, and Lorenzo de Medici's mother had been a Tornabuoni.

More on Leonardo:
Little is known about his private life, except that he was devoted to an array of beautiful young men whom he made his assistants: Cesare de Sesto, Boltraffio, Andrea Salaino, and a young aristrocrat named Francesco Melzi, whom Leonardo adopted and made his heir




The last quote is from the Leonardo da Vinci essay in "The Gay 100: A Ranking of the most influential gay men and lesbians, past and present" by Paul Russell.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Gay Joke for National Poetry Month

Alright, is it too much of a stretch to include a joke in this GLBTQ celebration of National Poetry Month?

Jokes, like poems, have to...

Well, you know, on second thought I'm NOT going to try to justify it. This may be a bit off-topic, and kind of old-fashioned, but it made me laugh out loud, and hopefully you'll enjoy it, too.

It's from a list of "classic gay graffiti"

"My mother made me a homosexual."

"If I send her some yarn, will she make me one too?"

I guess all that old-fashioned psycho-babble about gay men's childhood relationships with their mothers being at "fault" for our being gay is what makes this so funny to me, especially since it's pretty universally understood now that being gay is genetic - it's our nature. It's the being HONEST about being GLBTQ or not that seems to be the "nurture" part of the equation.

Anyway, I hope it cracked you up, too.



I found this in the list of "19 classic gay graffiti" in Leigh Rutledge's "The Gay Book of Lists", pg. 44

Monday, April 21, 2008

SHAKESPEARE: The Bisexual Poet and his Two Loves!

Bisexuality often gets overlooked, sidelined, and put-down - the perception of many being, I guess, that if a bisexual person is with a same-sex partner, then for that period of time they are gay, and if they are with an opposite-sex partner, then while they are with them they must be straight.

But for people who identify as Bisexual, it doesn't work like that. Their identity is constant - a pan-sexual and emotional attraction to both sexes, it is society's boundaries that make it appear they are shifting about, or unable to commit, or just haven't come out yet, or any number of other clichéd stereotypes we put on our Bisexual friends.

William Shakespeare

It's fascinating to learn that perhaps the most famous author in our Western Culture, William Shakespeare, was bisexual. It doesn't come out so much in his plays, but in his sonnets (written around the 1590s) it does (or perhaps I should say, 'William does.')

154 Sonnets are dedicated to a mysterious "Mr. W.H."

The first 126 are addressed to a young man of great charm and beauty, whom the poet in sonnet 20 called "the master-mistress of my passion;

the last 28 to a "dark lady." The two groups seem to intersect in sonnets 40-42 and 133-136, where an intrigue between the young man and the dark lady causes both to be untrue to the poet. Sonnet 144 is perhaps clearest in its delineation of the "plot" of the sequence:

Two loves have I, of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man fair right,
The worser spirit a woman colored ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turned fiend
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another's hell.

Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

(The last line apparently refers to the syphilis the poet fears his young man may contract from the dark lady.)

Now get this - Records exist to show William Shakespeare was married and had a child with Anne Hathaway. But for any who might have doubted his affection for his young man as well, read this, Shakespeare's Sonnet 20:

A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;
A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted
With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
Much steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.
But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,
Mine by thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

Oooh, He's good.

And isn't that cool to know? Shakespeare, on our GLBTQ team! Yeah!



The commentary and sonnet 144 were found on pg. 82 of "The Gay 100: A Ranking of the most influential gay men and lesbians, past and present" by Paul Russell.

Sonnet 20 is all over the web, with some interesting "analyses" of the poem out there, as well.

I found the image of Shakespeare (I thought it was fun to see a different one) at this cool site.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Celebrate Gay Poetry! Dennis Cooper's "James Kelly"

Isn't it cool how Poetry (and stories as a whole, for that matter) can transcend the boundaries of time? I love how this poem evokes us, its future readers, from a past 24 years ago...


He's dancing tonight in the girls' gym,
giving his all, seeing the long road
ahead, miming a long line of mentors
stretched back to notorious dressing rooms
closed to this small crowd of dancers,
parents and friends of friends.

We who care about dance
are impressed by him.
We who care about him
are proud of him.
We who care about sex
are pressed for words
and cannot shake his hand.

Turn to the side, nose too big.
Face forward, perfect.
Those are some details which,
if this is read in the future,
will be mystery spots on the earth
but hopefully touch a raw nerve.

You, for example, who'll never know
him, just his presence, if that.
I hid it here, took my sweet time,
made it hard so it would last the cold
eye of a distanced observer :
You, in the space suit or not.

A blue spotlight falls for a blond
dressed in tights, pushed from behind
onto a stage when he was twelve
with grace too great for a typical life.
It's ours by the time of his early twenties,
winding up craft I set to the future :
You, who'd desire him or not.

He's backstage just now, in the makeshift
dressing room behind a neutral black curtain
used as the "darkened sky." There's a dim
bulb on the ceiling and semi-admirers await him
outside. Others give up and walk to their cars.

He grows old and dies. We, for the most
part, are already dead. But you in our
future may find him, though some ways away,
through my restraint, in the presentable part
of your eyes: cool, blue, and lit up for you.

This poem is from the collection "He Cried" by Dennis Cooper, published in 1984.

Huge thanks to Dennis for letting me share this with you all!

Clicking on his image above will take you to Dennis' website. From there you can get to his blog, which he updates more regularly. A Disclaimer: I'm linking to his website because the blog (as great as it is) contains some sexualized content.

Last Call! Do YOU still have a favorite Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning Poem you want to share? Send me a "comment" or click on "contact me."



Thursday, April 17, 2008

Poems can be Laser-like, cutting to the core: Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet"

It is amazing how powerful just a few words can be. (Think of haiku, and other brief forms of the art of wordsmithing)

And there are some poems that transcend boundaries of group (beyond Gay or Straight, Republican or Democrat, Us and Them) and speak to every one of the almost six billion of us - as humans.

Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet" includes this poem, which does all that, and more:

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:

Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

I can barely express how great I think that is. Awesome.

Here's a pic of the author:

(If you want to know more about him, click on it to link to the Khalil Gibran wikipedia page.)



I found this gem on page 69 of "In Your Eyes: Quotations of Gay Love" Edited by Richard Derus.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Gay Pocahontas? A Beautiful Native American Man IS a Poem in Theodore Winthrop's "John Brent!"

I think there's poetry in the best novel writing. And sometimes, the author's themselves think so, too.

Get this excerpt from chapter 4 of Theodore Winthrop's "John Brent" (written in 1862):

"The Adonis of the copper-skins!" I said to myself. "This is the 'Young Eagle,' or the 'Sucking Dove,' or the 'Maiden's Bane,' or some other great chief of the cleanest Indian tribe on the continent. A beautiful youth! O Fenimore, why are you dead! There are a dozen romances in one look of that young brave. One chapter might be written on his fringed buckskin shirt; one on his equally fringed leggings, with their stripe of porcupine-quills; and one short chapter on his moccasons [sic], with their scarlet cloth instep-piece, and his cap of otter fur decked with an eagle's feather. What a poem the fellow is! I wish I was an Indian myself for such a companion; or, better, a squaw, to be made love to by him."

Man, I love that.

John Smith and Pocahontas is a good story. But I'm still waiting for the GAY romance version... And while "John Brent" isn't that, this piece of it gave me a small taste of something I crave, a re-casting of a profound archetype in our culture to make it Gay and, well - okay, I'll say it: poetic.

I hope you enjoyed it, too.



I found this excerpt on page 309 of "Pages Passed From Hand To Hand: The Hidden Tradition of Homosexual Literature in English from 1748 to 1914" An Anthology edited by Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Celebrate Ancient Epic Gay Poetry! Homer's "The Iliad"

I know it might sound dusty and boring to read an epic poem that was written back sometime around 850 B.C., but read this bit about the passion Achilles had for his lover Patroclus...

from The Iliad

Thus like the rage of fire the combat burns,
And now it rises, now it sinks by turns.
Meanwhile, where Hellespont's broad waters flow,
Stood Nestor's son, the messenger of woe:
There sat Achilles, shaded by his sails,
On hoisted yards extended to the gales;
Pensive he sat; for all that fate design'd
Rose in sad prospect to his boding mind.
Thus to his soul he said: 'Ah! what constrains
The Greeks, late victors, now to quit the plains?
Is this the day, which heaven so long ago
Ordain'd, to sink me with the weight of woe?
(So Thetis warn'd;) when by a Trojan hand
The bravest of the Myrmidonian band
Should lose the light! Fulfilled is that decree;
Fallen is the warrior, and Patroclus he!
In vain I charged him soon to quit the plain,
And warn'd to shun Hectorean force in vain!'

Thus while he thinks, Antilochus appears,
And tells the melancholy tale with tears.
'Sad tidings, son of Peleus! thou must hear;
And wretched I, the unwilling messenger!
Dead is Patroclus! For his corse they fight;
His naked corse: his arms are Hector's right.'

A sudden horror shot through all the chief,
And wrapp'd his senses in the cloud of grief;
Cast on the ground, with furious hands he spread
The scorching ashes o'er his graceful head;
His purple garments, and his golden hairs,
These he deforms with dust, and these he tears;
On the hard soil his groaning breast he threw,
And roll'd and grovell'd, as to earth he grew.
The virgin captives, with disorder'd charms,
(Won by his own, or by Patroclus' arms,)
Rush'd from the tents with cries; and gathering round,
Beat their white breasts, and fainted on the ground:
While Nestor's son sustains a manlier part,
And mourns the warrior with a warrior's heart;
Hangs on his arms, amidst his frantic woe,
And oft prevents the meditated blow.

[XVIII: 1-40]

He, deeply groaning - 'To this cureless grief,
Not even the Thunderer's favour brings relief.
Patroclus - Ah! - say, goddess, can I boast
A pleasure now? revenge itself is lost;
Patroclus, loved of all my martial train,
Beyond mankind, beyond myself, is slain!
Lost are those arms the gods themselves bestow'd
On Peleus; Hector bears the glorious load.
Cursed be that day, when all the powers above
Thy charms submitted to a mortal love;
O hadst thou still, a sister of the main,
Pursued the pleasures of the watery reign;
And happier Peleus, less ambitious, led
A mortal beauty to his equal bed!
Ere the sad fruit of thy unhappy womb
Had caused such sorrows past, and woes to come.
For soon, alas! that wretched offspring slain,
New woes, new sorrows, shall create again.
'Tis not in fate the alternate now to give;
Patroclus dead, Achilles hates to live.
Let me revenge it on proud Hector's heart,
Let his last spirit smoke upon my dart;
On these conditions will I breathe: till then,
I blush to walk among the race of men.'

[XVIII: 99-122]

Anyone who says rhyming can only be silly, like "Dr. Seuss," should take note of how amazingly powerful this is! And try reading it out loud...

This translation of Homer's "The Illiad" was by Alexander Pope and I found it on page 197-198 of "Gay Love Poetry" edited by Neil Powell.

Monday, April 14, 2008

CELEBRATING YOUR POEMS! "For Him, Disappearing Before Dawn" by j.e. robinson

I received this wonderful poem from one of the readers of this blog. I'm delighted to share it with you all, in a continuing celebration of GLBTQ Poetry for this National Poetry Month!


"You bruise easily." Indeed, I do, and
your sable skin grows more tender each time
I pinch it, because it is nice to the
touch. How is that so? We are of the same
forest, our ancestors' origins within
days of each other, perhaps, yet with odd
admixtures by comparison. My loves
to date have been younger Jewish men. You
are queer for me, but I will not complain:
blackberry juice is Kosher, still. Who knows?
Maybe corned beef or snitzel are in my
future. I hope they are as sweet as this
feast, and those nights ought to be as pleasant
as this time, spent growing fat on stars.


j. e. robinson

While I don't have a link for the author (j.e., you can share a contact or link in "comments" below and I'll add it to this post) I applaud their bravery for sharing this poem. I think it's great!

Are YOU brave enough to share one of your poems?

For that matter, am I brave enough? Hmmm...



Friday, April 11, 2008

Celebrate Gay Poetry! Walt Whitman's "Calamus"

So far we've done two weeks of GLBTQ poems here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" and to celebrate this milestone in true National Poetry Month style, here's a poem I absolutely love:

from Calamus

When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been
receiv'd with plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy
night for me that follow'd,
And else when I carous'd, or when my plans were accomplish'd,
still I was not happy,
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect
health, refresh'd, singing, inhaling the ripe breath of
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear
in the morning light,
When I wander'd alone over the beach, and undressing bathed,
laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,
And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his
way coming, O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food
nourish'd me more, and the beautiful day pass'd well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening
came my friend,
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly
continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to
me whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same
cover in the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined
toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast - and that night
I was happy.

It's so wonderful to read this un-straightened poem above, in contrast to the self-censored "Once I Pass'd Through a Populous City."

And here's a link to the entry on Walt Whitman for you to check out.

I found this excerpt from "Calamus" on pg 31 of "Gay Love Poetry" edited by Neil Powell

What are some of your favorite Gay poems that we can celebrate?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Celebrate Transgender Poetry! Aaron Shurin's "Woman on Fire"


Using these words
not to belittle women
not to mock them.
Not to speak about women at all;

to speak of ourselves.
Unnamed regions -
rose-pink and rust-fire --
beyond the stern
and arrogant borders of manhood.

A shortage of terms, perhaps.
language caught
in the vice of opposites, of only
two, so that what is not
man in us
we call woman.

From "Woman on Fire" by Aaron Shurin.

I found this amazing poem that explores gender expression on page 85 of the mind-blowing "Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds" by Judy Grahn.

What are some of your favorite Transgender and Gender Expression poems that we can celebrate?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

GAY POETRY IS ALIVE! Steven Reigns' "Joe!"

Okay, sometimes I think the word "poetry" has this patina of PAST on it - the very word sounds dusty and formal... But poetry doesn't have to be that - it can be vibrant, exciting, and full of life!

Steven Reigns

Steven Reigns is a Los Angeles based poet working today whose work is vital and urgent. His work sings to me as only the best poetry does. And he's been kind enough to let me share with you one of his amazing poems to celebrate National Poetry Month:


During the sleepover,
fourteen and in his basement,
we swapped stories of the girls we kissed.
He asked how I did it,
wanted me to show him
on the side of a glass cup.

Lying down in darkness,
before sleeping,
he reached out his hand
over the pillow distance
between us.
Touched me and asked,
What is that?
I laid there still,
answered his question.
My shoulder.
He kept moving his hand,
repeating the question
as I answered.

Check out this Link to Steven being interviewed on the public radio station kpfk for National Poetry Month, about 30 minutes into the segment. He talks about his background and what brought him to poetry. He reads "Joe" and two other poems as well. Really good stuff.

Hurray for Steven and all Queer Poets working today!

Do YOU have a poem you've written you want me to post? If it's GLBTQ, and Teen-appropriate, send it to me via "comments" or "contact me!" Make sure to include your e-mail so I can get back to you...

And let's keep celebrating all this amazing GLBTQ Poetry!



Tuesday, April 8, 2008

YOUR favorite Queer Poems: Mark Doty's "TIARA" and CP Cavafy's "THE GOD ABANDONS ANTONY"

Continuing the exchange of favorite poems to celebrate the Queer in National Poetry Month, today's post is a GUEST contribution by the extravagant Bennett Madison, who shares with us his two favorite poems...

mine is TIARA by Mark Doty. I don't know if it exactly qualifies as a GLBTQ poem, but I think it's beautiful...

Peter died in a paper tiara
cut from a book of princess paper dolls;
he loved royalty, sashes

and jewels. I don't know,
he said, when he woke in the hospice,
I was watching the Bette Davis film festival

on Channel 57 and then—
At the wake, the tension broke
when someone guessed

the casket closed because
he was in there in a big wig
and heels, and someone said,

You know he's always late,
he probably isn't here yet—
he's still fixing his makeup.

And someone said he asked for it.
Asked for it—
when all he did was go down

into the salt tide
of wanting as much as he wanted,
giving himself over so drunk

or stoned it almost didn't matter who,
though they were beautiful,
stampeding into him in the simple,

ravishing music of their hurry.
I think heaven is perfect stasis
poised over the realms of desire,

where dreaming and waking men lie
on the grass while wet horses
roam among them, huge fragments

of the music we die into
in the body's paradise.
Sometimes we wake not knowing

how we came to lie here,
or who has crowned us with these temporary,
precious stones. And given

the world's perfectly turned shoulders,
the deep hollows blued by longing,
given the irreplaceable silk

of horses rippling in orchards,
fruit thundering and chiming down,
given the ordinary marvels of form

and gravity, what could he do,
what could any of us ever do
but ask for it.


I also really like THE GOD ABANDONS ANTONY by CP Cavafy. It's not explicitly a gay poem, but Cavafy was totally gay, and is a major influence on Doty. (Not sure who this translation is by...)

The God Abandons Antony

When suddenly, at midnight, you hear
an invisible procession going by
with exquisite music, voices,
don't mourn your luck that's failing now,
work gone wrong, your plans
all proving deceptive — don't mourn them uselessly.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
say goodbye to her, the Alexandria that is leaving.
Above all, don't fool yourself, don't say
it was a dream, your ears deceived you:
don't degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.
As one long prepared, and graced with courage,
as is right for you who were given this kind of city,
go firmly to the window
And listen with deep emotion, but not
with whining, the pleas of a coward;
listen — your final delectation — to the voices,
to the exquisite music of that strange procession,
and say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.

C. P. Cavafy

Thanks, Bennett - those are deep and lovely. I didn't know either of them, so it was great to experience reading them for the first time!

What amazing imagery in "TIARA!" I keep reading the last three stanzas over and over - they're gorgeous.

And just a thought: For the second poem, "The God Abandons Antony," if you think about how Alexandria was the city named after Alexander the Great, and how his gay love Hephaestion died and then Alexander named a city after him, it reads (at least to me) much more as a poem of gay love lost.

How about YOU? Share with us all one (or two) of YOUR favorite GLBTQ poems!



ps: find out more about the poet Mark Doty at this link to, and check out this one on C.P. Cavafy!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Celebrate Bisexual Poetry! Rumi's "The King and The Handmaiden and The Doctor"

Continuing our National Poetry Month Celebration...

This full poem/story by Rumi is long and wonderful with some horrible, fascinating, and mystical elements - what's cool is that the King is emotionally and lustfully enthralled by both a woman and a man during the course of the adventure. Here's some choice excerpts:


Do you know why your soul-mirror
does not reflect as clearly as it might?

Because rust has begun to cover it.
It needs to be cleaned.
Here's a story
about the inner state that's meant by soul-mirror.

In the old days there was a king
who was powerful in both his kingdoms,
the visible as well as the spiritual.

One day as he was riding on the hunt, he saw a girl
and was greatly taken with her beauty.
As was the custom,
he paid her family handsomely and asked that she come
to be a servant at the palace. He was in love with her.

The feelings trembled and flapped in his chest
like a bird newly put in a cage.

But as soon as she arrived, she fell ill.
The king was like the man who had a donkey,
but no saddle for the pack. Then he bought a saddle,
and wolves killed the donkey.
He had a waterjar,
but no water. Then he found water, but the pitcher
fell and broke.
He brought his doctors together.
"You have both our lives in your hands. Her life
is my life. Whoever heals her will receive
the finest treasure I have, the coral inlaid
with pearls, anything!"

The king's doctors fail to heal the girl, so he ran to the mosque to pray...

He cried out loud for help, and the ocean of grace
surged over him. He slept in the midst
of his weeping on the prayer rug.

In his dream an old man appeared.
"Good king,
I have news. Tomorrow a stranger will come.
I have sent him. He is a physician you can trust.
Listen to him."
As dawn came, the king was sitting up
in the belvedere on his roof. He saw someone coming,
a person like the dawn. He ran to meet this guest.

Like two swimmers who love the water, their souls knit
together without being sewn, no seam.
The king said,
"You are my beloved, not the girl! But actions
spring from actions in this reality.
What should I do?"

I won't ruin the ending for you, but the physician knows how to heal the girl, there's a secret kept from the King, and - get this - a murder...

I found this poem/story on pgs. 225-233 of "The Essential Rumi" translation by Coleman Barks with John Moyne.

Okay, YOUR turn. What are some of YOUR favorite Bisexual poems? The best way to celebrate them - is to share them!

Friday, April 4, 2008

YOUR favorite Gay Poems: Lord Byron's Love Poems to John Edleston

Continuing the Celebration of GLBTQ poetry here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?" for this National Poetry Month, Today's post is our first GUEST contribution:

Hayden Thorne, author, blogger, and romantic spirit, shares with us all her two favorite poems from the "Canon of Queer," by Lord Byron...

I've got two, how's that? :D Both from Lord Byron, both dedicated to John Edleston, a choirboy from Byron's Cambridge university days with whom Byron was in love and whom some scholars believe is the real subject of Byron's Thyrza poems. For the first poem, Edleston gave Byron a Cornelian as a gift, and it's safely kept in a private collection.


The Cornelian

No specious splendour of this stone
Endears it to my memory ever;
With lustre only once it shone,
And blushes modest as the giver.

Some, who can sneer at friendship’s ties,
Have, for my weakness, oft reprov’d me;
Yet still the simple gift I prize,
For I am sure, the giver lov’d me.

He offer’d it with downcast look,
As fearful that I might refuse it;
I told him, when the gift I took,
My only fear should be, to lose it.

This pledge attentively I view’d,
And sparkling as I held it near,
Methought one drop the stone bedew’d,
And, ever since, I’ve lov’d a tear.

Still, to adorn his humble youth,
Nor wealth nor birth their treasures yield;
But he, who seeks the flowers of truth,
Must quit the garden, for the field.

‘Tis not the plant uprear’d in sloth,
Which beauty shews, and sheds perfume;
The flowers, which yield the most of both,
In Nature’s wild luxuriance bloom.

Had Fortune aided Nature’s care,
For once forgetting to be blind,
His would have been an ample share,
If well proportioned to his mind.

But had the Goddess clearly seen,
His form had fix’d her fickle breast;
Her countless hoards would his have been,
And none remain’d to give the rest.


To Eddleston

Thou too art gone, thou loved and lovely one!
Whom Youth and Youth’s affections bound to me;
Who did for me what none beside have done,
Nor shrank from one albeit unworthy thee,
What is my Being! thou hast ceased to be!
Nor staid to welcome here thy wanderer home,
Who mourns o’er hours which we no more shall see--
Would they had never been, or were to come!
Would he had ne’er returned to find fresh cause to roam!

Oh! ever loving, lovely, and beloved!
How selfish Sorrow ponders on the past,
And clings to thoughts now better far removed!
But Time shall tear thy shadow from me last.
All thou couldst have of mine, stern Death! thou hast;
The Parent, Friend, and now the more than Friend:
Ne’er yet for one thine arrows flew so fast,
And grief with grief continuing still to blend,
Hath snatched the little joy that Life had yet to lend.

* Edleston died while Byron was away on his first tour of the continent *

Thanks Hayden, for sharing these - they're really amazing. I'd never read them before, and it's great to learn about Lord Byron's and Edleston's relationship. I especially like that it was Edleston who gave Byron the gift of the stone (and not the other way around...)

I'm also curious as to what private collection the stone is in now.... (hmmm, maybe there's a mystery book in that?)



ps: For more info on Lord Byron, check out this entry on him at

Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Gayest Look: Jay Leno's Gaffe & Ryan Phillippe's Missed Opportunity

Okay, so there's this controversy going on about how on the "Tonight Show," Jay Leno was talking to actor Ryan Phillippe about Ryan's first acting job, playing a gay teen on a soap opera.
He then asked Ryan to give his "gayest look" to the camera. Ryan got all embarrassed, Jay sort of insisted, Ryan demurred, and they ended up moving on to continue to embarrass Ryan by having Jay ask him about the nude commercial Ryan shot when he was 19.

You can check out the video of the appearance at this well-intentioned site,, which has some additional background and also a ton of GLBTQ people and our allies flipping Jay the bird to show him that what he said was offensive and that there are so MANY different "looks" to being gay.

Check it out by clicking on their logo here:

But I think everyone's missing the point - and that there was a huge opportunity that was missed.

Ryan got all embarrassed when Jay asked him to show him how he acted "gay."

All Ryan needed to do was look like himself.

Imagine if Jay had asked Ryan to show the camera how he might look "Jewish."

Give me your best "Jewish Look."

Or what if Jay had asked him to demonstrate how he might look "Buddist."

Give me your best "Buddist Look."

Ridiculous, right?

That's the point. It's called ACTING, and you can't act an identity. You can act an emotion. You can act a desire. But you can't give a "Christian" look or a "Black" look or a "Gay" look, unless you're trying to dive into stereotypes.

What was Jay Leno after when he asked Ryan to imagine his cowboy boyfriend had just hopped off his horse and was approaching him, and to give the camera his "best gay look?" A smoldering look of lust for the camera? A limp-wristed lisping kiss to the camera? Beyond embarrassing the guy, what was the point?

I wish Ryan had had the presence of mind to call Jay on the stupidity of the request - to point out that there is no "gay look." To point out how many different roles he's been cast as - and that clearly he can inhabit many different roles. It would have embarrassed Jay Leno, and made a point.

And while it was stupid of his writers and producers and Jay himself, it wasn't exactly gay-bashing. It was actor-baiting, which as a comedian Jay probably sees as his job.

At the same time, stereotypes are hurtful, and Jay Leno wasn't helping the world get to a better place. Which is the point of all the good folks over at

So what do you think? Does Jay deserve the finger? Watch the video for yourself, and then let me know: what's your take on it?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Celebrate Lesbian Poetry! Paula Gunn Allen's "Some Like Indians Endure"

Continuing this National Poetry Month's celebration, here's a really powerful one:

dykes remind me of indians
like indians dykes
are supposed to die out
or forget
or drink all the time
or shatter
go away
to nowhere
to remember what will happen
if they dont

they dont
even though it
and they remember
they dont

because the moon remembers
because so does the sun
because so do the stars
and the persistent stubborn
of the earth

from "Some Like Indians Endure,"
Paula Gunn Allen (Laguna/Sioux)

Check out this great link to an entry on the poet Paula Gunn Allen at

I found this poem on pg. 49 of the amazing "Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds" by Judy Grahn

What are some of your favorite Lesbian poems that we can celebrate?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Celebrate Queer Poetry! YOUR Favorites and Mine: Robert Friend's "Shirts"

It's National Poetry Month, and while there are a world of poems and blogs and other poetry-happy sites up, I had to include some great Queer Poems here at "I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell do I Read?"

And I'm curious - what are some of YOUR favorite GLBTQ poems of all time? Let me know (in "comments" or in "contact me"), and I'll post some of YOUR favorite Queer poems this month, along with some of MY favorites.

To start the month's celebration off right, here's one I love:


Rereading Cavafy I suddenly remembered
my own Ionian Sea, and a steamer
plying between the islands.
And I remembered, amidst the passengers
crowding the deck of the steamer,
a handsome young Greek
wearing a shirt I very much admired,
and he in turn admiring mine.

We took off our shirts then and there
and exchanged them.

I wore his shirt next to my skin
for many years.
But it was never the same on my body
as on his, and he was not there
to take it off.

Robert Friend was a poet and translator, whose longing for and love of men soaked into some amazing poems. There's a great entry here at on his life.

I found this poem on pg. 144 of "Gay Love Poetry" edited by Neil Powell. The copyright is held by Jean Shapiro Cantu.

Now it's your turn! What are some of YOUR favorite Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Poems of all time? Let's celebrate them - by sharing them!