6 Modern-Day Queer Poets You Must Read
Poetry is dead… Yes? No? HELL NO! And that’s not because I write crappy poems myself, but because I literally drool over lit social media accounts like Words Dance, Beau Taplin, Nayyirah Waheed, and Button Poetry that I can say poetry so alive. These are not “for gender noncomforming individuals only” or “made by and for queer rabbits” but they do feature poets from the LGBTQ+ community. And I must say, I found a lot of pieces from Taplin and Waheed that are so validating.
See, the thing about poetry is that a lot of people think it’s synonymous to Shakespeare. It’s not. And don’t get me wrong, I love Shakespeare. He’s even suspected to be bisexual. But poetry doesn’t really have to be all sonnets and rhymes and meter.
In fact, I see it as the gayest form of art – it’s never straight. It bends the traditional rules and it bends with and for you. In a poetic realm, you can sit behind metaphors and poetry books or lay yourself open or do cartwheels in between lines and you won’t get judged or reprimanded. There’s no limit, proper pronoun or right grammar (okay, maybe right grammar is sort of necessary). But seriously, it’s like the traditional Dear Diary but more therapeutic, because art.
And the best thing is that there are so many poems extracted from the ribs of genderqueer humans. Personally, I have so much appreciation for LGBTQ+ individuals who put their work out there because it reminds me that it’s okay to be queer and a poet the same time. Their work tells us that our life is ours and we can be as loud or as silent as we want to. And in a world where we’re so used on being told what to do, to be reminded that we’re permitted to just be is gravely important.
So now, we’re going to talk about poets who (1) identify as queer and (2) wrote badass poetry. And that poems written by these people are not always about love, coming out, or exploring and/or breaking the gender binary. Trust me, these are going to hit home in one way or another.
[insert] boy by Danez Smith
You may have known him from YouTube spoken word performances, but in case you have zero idea who he is, Danez Smith is a black, queer, HIV-positive man. I describe him that way because that’s how his poems are: Crucial and important and often about the things we feel ashamed or uncomfortable about. I haven’t had a chance to read this whole book yet, but this line from this piece is making me want to buy [insert] boy rn: “dear you, he called me your name once, Kate.”
Never Coming Home by Tyler Vile
I stumbled upon this book on Goodreads and to be honest, I had that split-second moment on whether or not to click it and (cliché alert) learn more. Mainly because I’m a person who judges books by title. Sort of. But I’m glad I did check it out because it turns out, Never Coming Home is a novel-in-verse. That alone is already making this book interesting enough. Plus, these lines from Creation are so haunting there’s a great need for more of Tyler’s words: “She doesn’t have flesh yet, // but I’m thinking of making // her labia out of three different foreskins.” Because Amazon says Never Coming Home is out of print, we should all be tweeting Tyler for more after reading this listicle.
Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul by Ryka Aoki
Under Biyuti Publishing, this poetry collection first inhaled smoke March of 2015. Topside Press poetry editor Cat Fitzpatrick said this book is “somehow a celebration of life” and added that it made her “laugh, cry, and then do something that was both at once”. Aside from poeming, Ryka is also a judo black belt, performer, and was a charter member of the Transgender Advisory Committee for Asian Pacific Islanders for Human Rights. Binge-reading her website is now going to be a part of my daily routine.
Belly of the Beast by Ashe Vernon
I’d marry the cover of this book if I could. Ashe’s poems are brave and soft and everything in between at the exact same time and if that’s hard for you to grasp, you need to buy this work of masterpiece (and maybe send the entire Frisky staff a copy too!). Or you can check out latenightcornerstore. Or you opt for Wrong Side of a Fist Fight or the chap, My Mother Didn’t Know. You see, Ashe loves us all so much she turned her tiny 5’2” self into a cathedral of poems that reminds us how to feel again, and why we need to value those feelings, no matter how fucked up it may be. She glamorously tears what this society labelled as “reality” and lets us watch it.
The Fierce Bums of Doo-wop by Amber Atiya
I was pitching stories last week and out of the blue decided to Google poems about being a writer, dealing with rejection letters, having your dream job… you know. When I spotted Amber’s ‘How To Land A Job’ I thought, “this is it! The most literal thing that could ever be!” And I was right. It literally got me unstuck from days and days of pitching which resulted to brain cells getting tired of running in the hamster wheel. This particular poem is such a gem and so is Amber’s chapbook, The Fierce Bums of Doo-wop. It’s currently sold-out (*insert tantrum emoji*), so we need to do something. Call the attention of word-eating gremlins and make this chapbook available again. This world needs more of her work.
I Want To Make You Safe by Amy King
“But will you give up your death for me?” Okay, that’s it. I need to buy King’s book. I literally can’t stop reading her poems. You know that feeling when you already saw a movie you downloaded (oops!) but still want to buy a DVD because it’s that good? That’s how Amy’s poems are. You may have read some on your laptop or your phone but holding her book, flipping and smelling the pages, feeling the cover – all those are necessary when it comes to her work. King’s poems are strange and strange is good. It’s always good.
Part-poet, part-writer, and full-blooded human megaphone of the oppressed, Tammy covers heavy topics like civil war and human trafficking. To keep herself sane, she also writes about pop culture, travel, entrepreneurship, and anything gay. She gets by with the vintage smell of typewriter and sound of tattoo machines.