Do lesbian and gay poets always write lesbian and gay poetry? Or only when they write about love? And is same-sex love different from any other love?
Editors Mandy Ross and Jo Brookes choose ten poets who have given readers a glimpse of same-sex loves and lives through history.
Their poems explore love in many guises – fleeting or decades-long, open or clandestine, remembered or anticipated.
In their Introduction, the editors discuss how “This is a moment to celebrate history’s great enlightened shift towards equal marriage. It has been a long and hard-won victory in many western countries, and the struggle is not yet over. In many places around the world, centuries of stigma have not shifted, and same-sex lovers are still cruelly persecuted.”
But they also point out that we shouldn’t assume an unbroken history of oppression.
“In his plea for kindness within marriage, the fourteenth-century Sufi poet Hafiz includes “men and men who are lovers, and women and women who give each other light”. He begins, “It happens all the time in heaven…”.
“I celebrate myself, sing myself,
And what I assume you assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
From Walt Whitman, ‘Song of Myself’
C P Cavafy
Carol Ann Duffy
Cover illustration by Quyen Dinh.