These poems were written by poets like Walt Whitman and Audre Lorde. Through a wide variety of techniques and with different intentions, the poets on this list help define LGBTQ+ literature. No matter one’s background, there is a great deal to learn and appreciate when exploring the work of these poets.
Best LGBTQ Poems
- 1 I Sing the Body Electric by Walt Whitman
- 2 A Litany for Survival by Audre Lorde
- 3 Poem about My Rights by June Jordan
- 4 The Aureole by Nikky Finney
- 5 What Kind of Times Are These by Adrienne Rich
- 6 One Girl by Sappho
- 7 A Lady by Amy Lowell
- 8 Homosexuality by Frank O’Hara
- 9 The Lyric In a Time of War by Eloise Klein Healy
- 10 Who Said It Was Simple by Audre Lorde
- 11 FAQS
I Sing the Body Electric by Walt Whitman
‘I Sing the Body Electric’ by Walt Whitman is one of the poet’s well-known and celebrated early poems. It was published in 1855 in the first edition of ‘Leaves of Grass.’ In this poem, Whitman celebrates the glories of existence, explores the body as a whole and its parts, and the interconnectedness of body and soul, and the interconnectedness of all irrespective of their race. Consider these lines:
I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.
Read more Walt Whitman poems.
A Litany for Survival by Audre Lorde
This piece describes the lives of those who do not have the luxury to enjoy passing dreams. They must fight for their survival. There are men and women worldwide who have to work throughout their lives, making crucial choices. There is no spare time if they want to maintain the dreams of their children. Here are a few lines from the poem:
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
Explore more Audre Lorde poems.
Poem about My Rights by June Jordan
‘Poem about My Rights’ by June Jordan is a free verse poem about a woman facing racial oppression in the United States and countries struggling against it in South Africa. The speaker takes the reader through the wrongs within her and around her. Society is willing to infringe upon the rights, and it is through the words of ‘Poem about My Rights’ that the speaker pushes back. Take a look at these lines from this poem:
Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
Read more June Jordan poems.
The Aureole by Nikky Finney
‘The Aureole’ is a love poem that beautifully describes the passion of an intimate moment. It explores a lover’s gaze and presence. The poem also suggests that their connection is the first time the speaker has ever felt “endless.” It’s transported her to a new place. The poem is a celebration of LGBTQ love. Consider these lines:
I stop my hand midair.
If I touch her there everything about me will be true.
The New World discovered without pick or ax.
I will be what Brenda Jones was stoned for in 1969.
What Kind of Times Are These by Adrienne Rich
‘What Kind of Times Are These’ by Adrienne Rich is a poem about modern-day problems. It suggests that when a new issue arises, or one is faced with an age-old problem, that it’s important to listen and to speak up. Here are the last few lines from the poem:
And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.
Discover Adrienne Rich’s poetry.
One Girl by Sappho
Sappho, the famed lesbian poet from the island of Lesbos, Greece, lived from 630-570 BCE. ‘One Girl’ is one of several poems she wrote that appear dedicated to a female love interest. Sappho’s skills with language and imagery are on display in this piece as well. The following lines were translated from the original by Dante Gabriel Rossetti:
Like the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost bough,
Atop on the topmost twig, — which the pluckers forgot, somehow,
Explore Sappho’s poetry.
A Lady by Amy Lowell
This thoughtful poem contains a speaker’s analysis of the life, appearance, and worth of an older woman. She spends the poem’s lines describing an older woman as an “old opera tune” and “sun-flooded silk.” The older woman also carries on her person the scent of all her previous days. It is made real through a comparison to “sealed spice-jars.’
Take a look at these lines from this poem:
My vigor is a new-minted penny,
Which I cast at your feet.
Gather it up from the dust
That its sparkle may amuse you.
Read more Amy Lowell poems.
Homosexuality by Frank O’Hara
‘Homosexuality’ describes the act of coming out as gay through the metaphor of an actor taking off his mask. He suggests that prior to revealing his true identity, he was hidden, pretending to be someone he wasn’t. The “old cow[s]” who judge him and others like him cause a great deal of suffering. They make coming out and living as a gay man or woman a much harder task than it needs to be. Consider these lines from the beginning of the poem:
So we are taking off our masks, are we, and keeping
our mouths shut? as if we’d been pierced by a glance!
The song of an old cow is not more full of judgement
than the vapours which escaped one’s soul when one is sick;
Explore Frank O’Hara’s poems.
The Lyric In a Time of War by Eloise Klein Healy
‘The Lyric In a Time of War’ was dedicated to Sappho, the Greek poet from the island of Lesbos who is considered to be the first lesbian poet. The speaker uses repetition to ask that she be “found loving” and that her music be “found wanting.” Her poetry, she knows, is “wanting / in comparison” to Sappho’s, but she hopes she’ll be as loving and feel a connection between the two across time. Take a look at these lines from this poem:
Let my music be found wanting
to yours (as it must)
Who Said It Was Simple by Audre Lorde
This moving poem was published in From A Land Where Other People Live in 1973. It touches on Lorde’s identity and her role within the Black and LGBTQ communities. She expresses a concern for “which me will survive / all these liberations” as she navigates a world in which she’s bound “by [her] mirror / as well as [her] bed.” Lorde was also attempting to address those who identify with one group but continue to oppress another. This relates to the problems around whites-only feminism. Here are the first lines of the second stanza:
Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
Discover Audre Lorde’s poetry.
Some of the best-known LGBTQ poets are Carl Ann Duffy, Walt Whitman, Audre Lorde, Allen Ginsberg, and Elizabeth Bishop.
An LGBTQ poem is a piece of poetry written by or about a member/s of the LGBTQ community. These poems often explore the life experiences of the author, or other members of the community, and how their sexual identity influences their day-to-day life.
Themes commonly found in LGBTQ poetry include identity, equality, love, and freedom. These are explored in a wide variety of ways and influenced by the writer’s personal background.
Some famous LGBTQ poems are ‘I Sing the Body Electric’ by Walt Whitman and ‘Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg.
Writers create LGBTQ poetry when they want to explore their personal identities or the lives and experiences of those close to them. These poems are often emotional and thought-provoking, inspiring readers to reconsider those around them and work towards equality.