Spoken word poetry is a big deal to me. Poetry slams are a very special place where people too often silenced are given the chance to make their voices heard. While nothing beats the energy in a room full of people sharing their stories with you, there are plenty of videos online that are very moving too. Here’s a list of 10 poets who talk about LGBTQ issues in their poetry.
- Arati Warrier – One of my favorite poets, Arati Warrier’s honesty in exploring race, sexuality, and the intersection of the two in her poems is incredibly moving. I recommend checking out “Alive“, “Love Less” and “Witch Hunt” if you haven’t heard of her before, and then scouring the internet for every other poem of hers you can find.
- Twoey Gray – In a sharply worded, beautifully delivered poem called “A Series of Queer Love Notes“, Twoey Gray masterfully calls out the lack of intersectionality and solidarity apparent in many of the institutions that are meant to bring LGBTQ people together. And just as the title suggests, the poem is clearly a call to do better that comes from a place of love.
- Denise Frohman – “Dear Straight People” is just a great poem that gets straight to the point right at the beginning. I don’t want to give too much away. Go watch it.
- Timothy DuWhite – I love Dear Straight People because of how direct it is, and I love Timothy’s “The Story of How He Happened” and “Here’s the Scenario” because they’re a little more meandering. You get invited into the poem with details that by the end of the poem seem almost insignificant in the context of all the other issues you’re confronted with. But you can’t dismiss their importance entirely, because they were integral to the introduction. It’s an incredible style, from an incredible poet.
- Joy Young – Even in spaces that try to privilege marginalized voices, trans voices and stories are unfortunately often not given much attention. Joy addresses this in their poem “Unbuttoning My Boy Shirt“, and I think it’s an important reality check for cis people who may not even realise some of the ways in which they invalidate the experiences of trans people.
- Sam Rush – Another trans poet, Sam Rush’s words are punctuated with a performance style that requires the use of their whole body and I was definitely moved by their use of movement. Check out “Neverland” first.
- Beck Cooper – “Queer Pickle” is a great title for a great poem. For bi and pan people who struggle with trying to make other people ‘get it’, the story is all too familiar, and comforting to hear spoken out loud by someone else. Everyone else might want to watch it to figure out what we mean when we talk about biphobia.
- Michael Monroe – “Bisexual Breakfast” comes at biphobia in a slightly different way, weaving all the offensive stereotypes about bisexuals into one poem that’s hopefully both entertaining and enlightening. One to watch when you’re not in the mood for a heavier poem.
- Sam Sax – When you are in the mood for a heavier poem, check out Sam Sax’s “Instructions on How to Build A Closet“. I think a lot of the time cisgender heterosexual people don’t realise how damaging the structure of ‘the closet’ can be for LGBTQ kids growing up, and this poem is a powerful attempt to verbalise the pain that comes with it.
- Lauren Zuniger – “Confessions of An Uneducated Queer” is a wonderful poem and last on my list because it’s a reminder that we’re all learning, and growing, and it’s okay to not know everything about every aspect of queer culture to fit in, or deserve a place at a pride parade. We should all be trying to learn and grow together, and listen to each other, and I hope this list has introduced you to some new voices and perspectives you’ll try to be more mindful of in the future.
BONUS: Kai Davis is an absolutely incredible poet who speaks about race, gender, sexuality and all of their intersections in poems ranging from lighthearted (Dear Chief Keef) to serious (Bone of My Bone). Check her out, you’ll be glad you did.