The Year in Queer Poetry

2010 was a great year for LGBT poetry, bringing us some exciting new voices, books, and trends. As the year comes to an end, here are some of the highlights:

  • This fall seminal poet Mary Oliver, whom The Weekly Standard has described as “among the finest poets the English language has ever produced,” published Swan: Poems and Prose Poems (Beacon Press), her twentieth collection. With Swan, 75-year-old Oliver remains true to form: the book is a celebration of the natural world and the wonder she derives from it.

  • James L. White, something of an unsung hero of gay poetry, has been brought back into print this year as a part of Graywolf Press’ Re/View Series. His classic collection of poems, The Salt Ecstasies, is available for the first time since its original publication in 1982, along with some previously unpublished work and a lovely introduction by Mark Doty, who selected and edited the book. (Read our review here.)

  • BLOOM, the journal of queer art and literature edited by Charles Flowers, made its triumphant return this spring with Vol. 3 No. 2. The issue is an outstanding showcase of queer talent, featuring the poetry, prose, and art of some of the best LGBT artists working today. In addition to its superb content, BLOOM‘s design–sharp, modern, and colorful–makes it a must-read. If nothing else, Catherine Opie’s cover photograph of Kate Moennig is truly too hot to miss! (BLOOM also announced the winner of their first annual chapbook contest this week: Phillip B. Williams, for his manuscript “Bruised Gospels.”)

  • LGBT poetry had plenty of opportunities to escape the confines of poems by queer authors this year, showing up as an important theme in both film and prose. The most notable example, of course, is Howl, Rob Epstein’s docudrama about the Allen Ginsberg obscenity trial, starring actor, writer, and ally James Franco. (Read Alex Dimitrov’s ode to Franco-as-Ginsberg here.) Two novels from our holiday gift guide also fall into this category: Michael Sledge’s The More I Owe You, about the endlessly fascinating Elizabeth Bishop, and poetry rock star Eileen Myles’ “poet’s novel,” Inferno. I hope to see queer poetry cross even more genres in the coming year!
  • LLF enjoyed another great success with its 2010 Writer’s Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices. Meet the poets (along with the rest of the fellows) here, and check out our videos and trailers to see them read their work. Our best wishes go out to the loved ones of 2010 poetry fellow Laura Hershey, who passed away later in the year.

  • Since September I’ve had the pleasure of curating our new Poetry Spotlight. To date, we’ve featured 15 excellent poets, including Marilyn Hacker and Timothy Liu. Expect many more in 2011!

And be sure not to miss these award-winning collections:

  • Ronaldo V. Wilson’s Poems of the Black Object (Futurepoem Books), winner of the Publishing Triangle’s 2010 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Poetry.

  • Benjamin S. Grossberg’s Sweet Core Orchard (University of Tampa Press), winner of this year’s Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry.

  • Stacie Cassarino’s Zero at the Bone (New Issues Press), winner of the Publishing Triangle’s 2010 Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry AND this year’s Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry. (Reviewed here.)