Queer Poetry Corner: Two Books to Look At
by Jeff Baker
And you, whate’er your Fav’rite does approve
For Condescension leads the way to love
Go with him where he goes, tho’ long the way
And the fierce Dog-Star fires the sultry Way
—-from “Odes” by Tibullus (60-90 B.C.)
The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse
Poetry can be a fleeting art.
Sometimes the lines and stanzas are brief, sometimes the impact of a poem is less brief than that. But other times a poem can last for a millennia and shine a light on the lives of the poets and the other people who lived the words.
In the case of LGBT poetry, two collections shine that light on poems of our community.
The newest: “100 Queer Poems” edited by Mary Jean Chan (Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House UK) published in 2022. https://www.amazon.com/100-Queer-Poems/dp/1529115329/ref=sr_1_1?crid=24JRU0DF1WYTK&keywords=100+Queer+Poems&qid=1689122808&s=books&sprefix=100+queer+poems%2Cstripbooks%2C135&sr=1-1
The fine introduction clued me to the earlier collection; “The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse” published 1983 by Penguin and edited by Stephen Coote. https://www.amazon.com/Homosexual-Verse-Penguin-Book-poets/dp/0140585516/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3AZMK8TX4OW1J&keywords=the+penguin+book+of+homosexual+verse&qid=1689122976&s=books&sprefix=The+Penguin+Book+of+Homosexual+Verse%2Cstripbooks%2C147&sr=1-1
“100 Queer Poems” obviously features some of the newer work with a good deal of the contents from the 21st Century. The poems are in themed sections with such headings as “Queer Domesticities,” “Queering the City” and “Queer Futures.”
Poet Wilfred Owen died in WWI. His poem “Shadwell Storm” was not acknowledged as Queer during his lifetime and probably neither was he. “Shadwell” appears in “100 Poems” and appears in “Penguin Book of…” as well.
Some of the poems are ambiguous as to the sexuality but others couldn’t be anything other than LGBT. W. H. Auden’s “Funeral Blues” is a movint (and brief) evocation of personal loss, the loved one identified as another man, but the emotions are universal.
And that’s the secret of the appeal of poems; they can be very universal in conveying feeling, whether “gay-themed” or not. And poems help us to see who the people of the time were.
Jeff Baker’s fiction and non-fiction have appeared in the online ‘zine “RoMMantic Reads” https://rommanticreads.wordpress.com/ and the Amazing Stories site. He blogs about reading and writing sci-fi, fantasy and horror around the thirteenth of each month in this same space. He was reading poetry from before he knew what Gay was. Jeff regularly posts fiction on his blog https://authorjeffbaker.com/ and wastes time on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=679510827