As National Poetry Month comes to an end, we’re taking a look at some of the best gay poems that capture queer male love in its purest form. From poetry tackling the complexities of affection to poems about fellatio (yes, seriously), this list will inspire you to give into that springtime lust— and then write about afterward.
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 embraces his identity in his work. This poem in specific recalls a feeling we’ve all had— the first time at a gay bar.
2. Allen Ginsberg, “Howl”
Arguably the most famous queer poet of the twentieth century, Ginsberg and his band of Beat poets tore apart the standard conventions of poetry. “Howl” is Ginsberg most well know and notorious 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 Franch poets in history, Rimbaud has inspired many generations of poets. 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, for sure. Known for his punk, DIY aesthetic, Cooper’s work is 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 greatest writers, Whitman helped shape modern poetry as we know it today by dismantling poetry’s form, but also in 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 some completely different, yet equally magnificent; O’Hara was at the center of it all. O’Hara could find the beauty in just about anything. His work resonates today as well as it did the day he wrote it.
8. Timothy Liu, “Winter”
Liu’s accomplishments over the past 30 as 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 is 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 the society around him. Baldwin’s lifetime of work also includes’ the famous queer novel Giovanni’s Room and Remember This House, which was recently adapted into the Academy Award-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro.
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. So let us be frank— this is not his best poem by any means. It is, however, a poem about gay sex. Very, very, very, very graphic gay sex. 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.