Twelve Poems to Help Celebrate Pride Month

We’re in the midst of Pride Month, and with it comes an opportunity to celebrate the creativity of the LGBTQ+ community’s many, many poets. Being part of the queer community can mean facing numerous challenges—especially in parts of the world where there are no legal protections (yet)—but it is also an honour: one that connects you to a large and powerful legacy of art, expression, passion, and love.

This month I’ve selected twelve poems that radiate queer joy and encapsulate different facets of queer experience… although they are just the tip of a very large iceberg, and if you go digging, you will find much, much more. Whether you’re an ally to the community, hoping to learn from our perspectives, or you fall somewhere under the queer umbrella yourself, I hope you find something here that resonates with you.

Jesus at the Gay Bar” by Jay Hulme

He’s here in the midst of it –
right at the centre of the dance floor,
robes hitched up to His knees
to make it easy to spin…

The first poem I’ve selected is by transgender performance poet Jay Hulme, best known for his work as an LGBTQ+ activist and writer in Christian spaces (notably old churches, which he explores and writes about in loving detail on Substack). “Jesus at the Gay Bar”acknowledges the common belief amongst religious communities that queerness is something one must cure, and gently but firmly assures the reader otherwise.

Fragment” by Sappho

I said: ‘Go with my blessing if you go
Always remembering what we did. To me
You have meant everything, as you well know…’

It wouldn’t be a list of queer poetry without acknowledging Sappho: the poetess whose legacy birthed the terms “Sapphic” and “Lesbian” as ways of talking about women who love women. The above excerpt—one of many suffused with gay undertones—is translated by Aaron Poochigan. If you’re interested in exploring a unique angle on the ancient poet and the symbol she has become in modern culture, lesbian fashion historian Eleanor Medhurst talks further about Sappho’s significance in this article.

i love you to the moon &” by Chen Chen

not back, let’s not come back, let’s go by the speed of 
queer zest & stay up 
there & get ourselves a little 
moon cottage (so pretty), then start a moon garden…

This gorgeously romantic poem was included in Poem-a-Day in 2021, and breathlessly captures the whirlwind of a new love. Chen Chen’s writing is a joy, frequently exploring queerness as a theme.

Warming Her Pearls” by Carol Ann Duffy

Next to my own skin, her pearls. My mistress
bids me wear them, warm them, until evening
when I’ll brush her hair. At six, I place them
round her cool, white throat. All day I think of her…

As a lesbian myself, with a proclivity for historical fiction, Warming Her Pearls is probably one of my all-time favourite queer poems, so I had to give it a spot on this list. In elegant verse, Carol Ann Duffy—the first female poet, first Scottish-born poet, and first openly lesbian poet to be appointed Poet Laureate—tells a story of forbidden and subtle romance between the maid and mistress of a historical house, which feels as though it could have slipped from between the pages of a Sarah Waters novel.

Statue of David with Top Surgery Scars” by Devin S. Turk

I see the smooth dip in surface
where pectorals meet a ribcage
and I envision into existence two scars
perhaps still fresh with stitch marks…

This playful poem re-imagines Michelangelo’s David—a symbol of high art and traditional beauty in the Western world—as an emblem of transness: this figure is, after all, a man that had to be created, chiselled free, in much the same way that a trans man carves himself into the world. There is something fiercely beautiful about that, isn’t there?

Romance of Possible Contrasts” by Alison Rumfitt

They met in a no-good gay nightclub in Kemptown
and the Sea danced with the Forest
to Madonna, twirling around each other, laughing
up to the top where the smoking area was…

This sixth poem makes the ordinary extraordinary, weaving a fantastical love story between two forces of nature who happen to meet for the first time in a Brighton nightclub. Rumfitt’s use of magical realism here elevates the mundane to match the heady sensations evoked from queer connection.

Home Wrecker” by Ocean Vuong

And this is how we danced: with our mothers’
white dresses spilling from our feet, late August

turning our hands dark red. And this is how we loved:
a fifth of vodka and an afternoon in the attic, your fingers

sweeping though my hair—my hair a wildfire…

Perhaps best known for his debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong writes lyrically in poetry and prose. “Home Wrecker,” whichappears in his poetry collection, Night Sky With Exit Wounds, tells a tantalising and dangerous queer love story.

Seeking Trans Ancestors in Old Provincial Graveyards” by Jay Hulme

Every day breaks like a man,
and every night falls like a woman,
and the dawn arises and the moon
in the daytime hangs silent and awkward,
like the rest who’ve never belonged…

Yes, Jay Hulme gets two spots on my list. Sue me, he’s fantastic! This poem—which appears with “Jesus at the Gay Bar”in Jay’s collection, The Backwater Sermonsfollows its narrator through the winding path of a graveyard, musing on the unknown and unspoken queer history that came before.

The Moon Is Trans” by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

From this moment forward, the moon is trans.

You don’t get to write about the moon anymore unless you respect that.

You don’t get to talk to the moon anymore unless you use her correct pronouns.

You don’t get to send men to the moon anymore unless their job is

to bow down before her and apologize for the sins of the earth…

This gorgeous, emotive poem takes the moon and personifies her as a trans woman. (“Scientists theorize the moon was once a part of the earth that broke off when another planet struck it. Eve came from Adam’s rib.” Who can argue with that logic?) In the writing of it, Espinoza expresses her feelings about womanhood and personhood with powerful clarity.

Poem For My Love” by June Jordan

How do we come to be here next to each other   
in the night
Where are the stars that show us to our love   

June Jordan was a prolific and highly-acclaimed Jamaican American poet, who identified herself within her poetry as bisexual, even when the label was stigmatised. This tender, romantic poem is one of many in her oeuvre.

If You’re Staying, I’ll Stay Too” by Meg Day

I know a girl like you
who used to be a thing she isn’t anymore
            but hasn’t changed at all.
Whose orbit didn’t circle straight—whose
            size & distance never quite
seemed right—but no one cared til now…

Just as Espinoza reaches into space to express a her identity with The Moon Is Trans, Meg Day chooses Pluto as a locus for expressing theirs as a genderqueer poet. No two celestial bodies are the same, even within the bounds of their categorisations, and isn’t that a wonderful thing?

Boy in a Stolen Evening Gown” by Saeed Jones

In this field of thistle, I am the improbable
lady. How I wear the word: sequined weight
snagging my saunter into overgrown grass, blonde
split-end blades. I waltz in an acre of bad wigs.

This final poem by Saeed Jones uses vivid, tactile imagery to play with gender and sexuality. Elegant and fanciful, deliberately strange and yet simultaneously earnest, each word paints a picture of hope, desire, and possibility.

As always, please do feel free to share your own favourite queer poems in the comments. (And if this article has left you yearning to read more by queer writers, why not check out this interview with three of this year’s finalists for the Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ+ speculative fiction?) icon-paragraph-end

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