National Poetry Month is observed in the US during April each year. This celebration of verse and form was introduced by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, in an effort to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.

In celebration of National Poetry Month we’d like to invite you to read the work of five famous American LGBT poets.

1. Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde described herself as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”. Lorde and her partner, Dr Gloria I. Joseph founded the Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa. She dedicated the following poem to a group of South African lesbian women that she met in Berlin in 1987.

Sisters in Arms

The edge of our bed was a wide grid

where your fifteen-year-old daughter was hanging

gut-sprung on police wheels

a cablegram nailed to the wood

next to a map of the Western Reserve

I could not return with you to bury the body

reconstruct your nightly cardboards

against the seeping Transvaal cold

I could not plant the other limpet mine

against a wall at the railroad station

nor carry either of your souls back from the river

in a calabash upon my head

so I bought you a ticket to Durban

on my American Express

and we lay together

in the first light of a new season.

 

Now clearing roughage from my autumn garden

cow sorrel   overgrown rocket gone to seed

I reach for the taste of today

the New York Times finally mentions your country

a half-page story

of the first white south african killed in the “unrest”

Not of Black children massacred at Sebokeng

six-year-olds imprisoned for threatening the state

not of Thabo Sibeko, first grader, in his own blood

on his grandmother’s parlor floor

Joyce, nine, trying to crawl to him

shitting through her navel

not of a three-week-old infant, nameless

lost under the burned beds of Tembisa

my hand comes down like a brown vise over the marigolds

reckless through despair

we were two Black women touching our flame

and we left our dead behind us

I hovered   you rose   the last ritual of healing

“It is spring,” you whispered

“I sold the ticket for guns and sulfa

I leave for home tomorrow”

and wherever I touch you

I lick cold from my fingers

taste rage

like salt from the lips of a woman

who has killed too often to forget

and carries each death in her eyes

your mouth a parting orchid

“Someday you will come to my country

and we will fight side by side?”

 

Keys jingle in the door ajar   threatening

whatever is coming belongs here

I reach for your sweetness

but silence explodes like a pregnant belly

into my face

a vomit of nevers.

 

Mmanthatisi turns away from the cloth

her daughters-in-law are dyeing

the baby drools milk from her breast

she hands him half-asleep to his sister

dresses again for war

knowing the men will follow.

In the intricate Maseru twilights

quick sad vital

she maps the next day’s battle

dreams of Durban   sometimes

visions the deep wry song of beach pebbles

running after the sea.

 

2. Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich was an American essayist, feminist and poet, who has been called “one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century”.

Twenty-One Love Poems [(The Floating Poem, Unnumbered)]

Whatever happens with us, your body

will haunt mine—tender, delicate

your lovemaking, like the half-curled frond

of the fiddlehead fern in forests

just washed by sun. Your traveled, generous thighs

between which my whole face has come and come—

the innocence and wisdom of the place my tongue has found there—

the live, insatiate dance of your nipples in my mouth—

your touch on me, firm, protective, searching

me out, your strong tongue and slender fingers

reaching where I had been waiting years for you

in my rose-wet cave—whatever happens, this is.

3. Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg was an American writer, philosopher and poet. He is considered one of the leading figures in the Beat movement.

Please Master

Please master can I touch your cheeck

please master can I kneel at your feet

please master can I loosen your blue pants

please master can I gaze at your golden haired belly

please master can I have your thighs bare to my eyes

please master can I take off my clothes below your chair

please master can I can I kiss your ankles and soul

please master can I touch lips to your hard muscle hairless thigh

please master can I lay my ear pressed to your stomach

please master can I wrap my arms around your white ass

please master can I lick your groin gurled with blond soft fur

please master can I touch my tongue to your rosy asshole

please master may I pass my face to your balls,

please master order me down on the floor,

please master tell me to lick your thick shaft

please master put your rough hands on my bald hairy skull

please master press my mouth to your prick-heart

please master press my face into your belly, pull me slowly strong thumbed

till your dumb hardness fills my throat to the base

till I swallow and taste your delicate flesh-hot prick barrel veined Please

Master push my shoulders away and stare in my eyes, & make me bend over the table

please master grab my thighs and lift my ass to your waist

please master your hand’s rough stroke on my neck your palm down to my backside

please master push me, my feet on chairs, till my hole feels the breath of your spit and your thumb stroke

please master make my say Please Master Fuck me now Please

Master grease my balls and hairmouth with sweet vaselines

please master stroke your shaft with white creams

please master touch your cock head to my wrinkled self-hole

please master push it in gently, your elbows enwrapped round my breast

your arms passing down to my belly, my penis you touch w/ your fingers

please master shove it in me a little, a little, a little,

please master sink your droor thing down my behind

& please master make me wiggle my rear to eat up the prick trunk

till my asshalfs cuddle your thighs, my back bent over,

till I’m alone sticking out, your sword stuck throbbing in me

please master pull out and slowly roll onto the bottom

please master lunge it again, and withdraw the tip

please please master fuck me again with your self, please fuck me Please

Master drive down till it hurts me the softness the

Softness please master make love to my ass, give body to center, & fuck me

for good like a girl,

tenderly clasp me please master I take me to thee,

& drive in my belly your selfsame sweet heat-rood

you fingered in solitude Denver or Brooklyn or fucked in a maiden in Paris carlots

please master drive me thy vehicle, body of love drops, sweat fuck

body of tenderness, Give me your dogh fuck faster

please master make me go moan on the table

Go moan O please master do fuck me like that

in your rhythm thrill-plunge & pull-back-bounce & push down

till I loosen my asshole a dog on the table yelping with terror delight to be loved

Please master call me a dog, an ass beast, a wet asshole,

& fuck me more violent, my eyes hid with your palms round my skull

& plunge down in a brutal hard lash thru soft drip-fish

& throb thru five seconds to spurt out your semen heat

over & over, bamming it in while I cry out your name I do love you

please Master.

 

4. James Baldwin

This celebrated poet was also a playwright, novelist and activist, and his queer intersectional work is considered to be among America’s greatest pieces of literature.

The Giver (for Berdis)

If the hope of giving is to love the living,

the giver risks madness in the act of giving.

 

Some such lesson I seemed to see

in the faces that surrounded me.

 

Needy and blind, unhopeful, unlifted,

what gift would give them the gift to be gifted?

The giver is no less adrift

than those who are clamouring for the gift.

 

If they cannot claim it, if it is not there,

if their empty fingers beat the empty air

and the giver goes down on his knees in prayer

knows that all of his giving has been for naught

and that nothing was ever what he thought

and turns in his guilty bed to stare

at the starving multitudes standing there

and rises from bed to curse at heaven,

he must yet understand that to whom much is given

much will be taken, and justly so:

I cannot tell how much I owe.

 

5. June Jordan

June Jordan’s poetry speaks of the issues she held dear to her heart: race, immigration, gender and representation.

Poem For My Love

How do we come to be here next to each other

in the night

Where are the stars that show us to our love

inevitable

Outside the leaves flame usual in darkness

and the rain

falls cool and blessed on the holy flesh

the black men waiting on the corner for

a womanly mirage

I am amazed by peace

It is this possibility of you

asleep

and breathing in the quiet air