Five of the Best Classic U.S. Gay Poets
Allen Ginsberg: A self-proclaimed “novelist in the making,” Ginsberg is remembered for writing about taboo topics and alternative form of sexuality and was also a leading figure in the Beat Generation, which was a group of post-World War II writers and poets who helped introduce a liberalized culture. Ginsberg vigorously opposed sexual repression and was an early proponent of freedom for gay people, expressing himself and his beliefs openly within his poetry.
Gertrude Stein: The author of one of the earliest coming out stories, Things as They Are, Stein based the book on a three-person romantic affair she joined while studying at John Hopkins University. As Stein became more involved in the homosexual community, she authored essays such as “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene,” which is one of the first homosexual revelation stories to be published, however historians believe many of the references were missed by readers at the time due to it being one of the first published works to use the word “gay.”
Frank O'Hara: A member of the New York School of Poetry, Frank O’Hara is known for both his groundbreaking works during his lifetime as well as posthumous works. Many of O’Hara’s poems followed an “I do this, I do that” format that invoked emotion and declared a moment, with works such as “Second Avenue” delivering a brash and avant-garde side. Many of his pieces were influenced by Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism.
Adrienne Rich: Rich was an American poet, essayist and feminist and is credited with bringing the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse. She became actively involved in the New Left and supported anti-war, civil rights and feminist causes. Rich’s style and subject matter earned her a National Medal of Arts, which she declined in protest to the House of Representatives voting to end funding for the National Endowment of Arts.
And of course, we can’t forget:
Walt Whitman - born in 1819, and was well-known for his essays and his poetry, especially Leaves of Grass which was one of his most controversial pieces for its overt sexuality. Based on his poetry, it is generally assumed that Whitman was either gay or bisexual. He often talked about his romantic affairs with women, but he also had very deep relationships with men. Some biographers claim that this does not prove anything, while others have cited letters and journals as proof of his sexual relations with men. Peter Doyle, a bus conductor who met Whitman in 1866, is the most likely candidate for Whitman’s lover. Oscar Wilde once met Whitman, and declared with the utmost confidence that Whitman was definitely gay. When asked if his poems contained elements of homoeroticism, Whitman refused to respond.