Journal of Writing & Environment

Web Rove: LGBT poetry

by William Bonfiglio

My younger brother and his partner, Liam, are approaching the second year anniversary of their relationship.  Liam is an upstanding fellow, a man of clear integrity and character who effuses a calm wisdom whenever he enters my family’s home.  I thought of my brother and Liam last Friday, when Liam’s home state of Michigan legalized same-sex marriage.

The reading world has witnessed a tempered growth in literary journals specializing in LGBT literature.  Within their pages are poems that give shape and color to a world not all of us will experience firsthand, but one that is increasingly and fortunately becoming more transparent.

The developments in Michigan give us a reason to celebrate.  Here, I offer five others.

Desire” by Blas Falconer (From BLOOM)

Adolescence is a frightening period for any youth, fraught with conflicts of identity.  For the narrator of “Desire,” these questions have a profoundly widened scope.  The Who in questions like Who am I? is replaced with a What?.  Falconer writes, “This / was my father’s razor, but / who was my father, / a man? And what / was that?”  Perhaps it is this perception that prevents the speaker from taking what he wants, even when able to recognize exactly what that is.

Knot” by Joan Larkin (From NarrativeNortheast)

When I first began to suspect my brother was gay, I was terrified by the possibility he could one day be victim to a violent hate crime.  “Knot” illustrates one such act on only the most outward dimension, leaving the speaker, and the reader, to consider the underlying explanations left unilluminated in the night.

Ah Love, you smell of petroleum” by Judy Grahn (From Lavender Review)

Judy Grahn is a poet widely recognized for her focus on the feminist and lesbian aesthetic.  Her name and the poem’s publication in a predominantly LGBT journal is all the reader needs to assume that the characters described within the piece are gay.  However, neither gender nor sexuality are explicitly mentioned in the text.  What is described is not a straight relationship or a gay relationship, but, plainly, a relationship, encompassing the same problems, desires, and love that grace all couples.  It this regard, “Ah Love…” is a poem of equality.

A Transgendered Life” by Julie Peters (From Polari Journal)

In considering LGBT issues, the transgendered seem to be comparably on the periphery. This epic poem brings the transgendered to the forefront, and serves as a bildungsroman for a speaker courageous enough to embrace ver sexuality and identity, as unconventional as the world might perceive each to be.

Freshman Lit” by Justin Vicari (From Lodestone Quarterly)

Lodestone Quarterly ceased publication in 2006, and, for the LGBT community, this represented a great loss to an already limited forum.  How fitting it was that one of the last poems printed in its pages detailed one of the ubiquitous struggles faced by gay youths.  The speaker in “Freshman Lit” pines for a peer through a full semester, only to allow him to depart from his life unapproached.  Loneliness continues to be one of the greatest fears of the LGBT community, as this piece makes perfectly, wonderfully, and tragically clear.