These 12 Gay Poems Explore Queer Love (and Raunchy Lust)
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From poetry tackling the complexities of affection to pieces about fellatio (yes, seriously), this look at some of our favorite gay poems will inspire you to give into that springtime lust — and then write about it afterward.
Some of the below gay poems are from writers you’ve likely heard of — Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Rimbaud, Walt Whitman, James Baldwin — while others may introduce you to a new favorite writer or two.
Check out some of our favorite gay poems below:
1. Danez Smith, “The 17-Year-Old & the Gay Bar”
Smith is a black, queer, poz poet from St. Paul, Minnesota, and he embraces his identity in his work. This poem specifically recalls a feeling we’ve all had — our first time inside a gay bar.
2. Allen Ginsberg, “Howl”
Arguably the most famous queer poet of the 20th century, Ginsberg and his band of Beat poets tore apart the standard conventions of poetry. Howl is Ginsberg’s most well-known and notorious (longform) poem, having gone through an obscenity trial for its brazen, provocative content.
3. Ocean Vuong, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”
Born in Saigon, Ocean Vuong has made quite a name for himself in the literary world over the past few years. Vuong’s vivid imagery and emotive language transport you to the exact place, and the exact emotion he is writing about.
4. Arthur Rimbaud, “Novel”
Lauded as one of the greatest French poets in history, Rimbaud has inspired generations of poets to follow. He also wrote the bulk of his poetry in his teens and gave up on writing altogether at 21, after finishing one of his most revered pieces, Illuminations.
5. Dennis Cooper, “After School, Street Football, Eighth Grade”
You definitely won’t have read any of Dennis Cooper’s work in your high school lit class. Known for his punk, DIY aesthetic, Cooper’s work of gay poems are highly graphic and raw. How many poets can get away with talking about kissing sweaty armpits and still sound so damn cool?
6. Walt Whitman, “Whoever You Are Holding Me Now in Hand”
One of America’s great writers, Whitman helped shape modern poetry as we know it today by dismantling poetry’s form, but also with his frank discussion of sexuality.
7. Frank O’Hara, “Steps”
Frank O’Hara and the New York School of Poets coexisted with the Beat poets but did something completely different yet equally magnificent. O’Hara was at the center of it all. He could find the beauty in just about anything, and his work resonates today as it did the day he wrote it.
8. Timothy Liu, “Winter”
Liu’s accomplishments over the past 30 years as a writer and teacher are fairly immense. In his poetry, Liu has a way of making his highs high and his lows low, as both the beauty of love and longing in loss are present. He’s also the editor of Word of Mouth: An Anthology of Gay American Poetry.
9. James Baldwin, “Guilt, Desire and Love”
James Baldwin tackled issues of race and sexuality in his poetry, constantly challenging society around him. Baldwin’s lifetime of work also includes the famous queer novel Giovanni’s Room, Remember This House (adapted into the Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro) and If Beale Street Could Talk (also adapted into an Oscar-winning film).
10. Fredrico Lorca, “[To find a kiss of yours]”
Lorca helped bring surrealism and futurism back to poetry in Spain, yet regardless of his poetry’s mystery, the passion behind his language cuts deep. Lorca was executed by Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War.
11. Ruben Quesada, “Matthew 5:4”
A teacher of Latinx literature and poetry, Quesada brings both his Latino and queer identities to the forefront of his poems.
12. W.H. Auden, “The Platonic Blow”
W.H. Auden is one of the greatest queer writers in modern literature, and while the below is not his best work, it is a poem about gay sex. (Rather graphic gay sex, at that.) The stanzas below are among his tamest. Other lines include, “‘Shall I rim you?’ I whispered. He shifted his limbs in assent. / Turned on his side and opened his legs, let me pass.”
What do you think of these 12 gay poems? Have they inspired you to start writing gay poems of your own? Sound off in the comments below.
This article was originally published on April 13, 2020. It has since been updated.