Andrea Gibson

Artifact: Excerpt of Maybe I Need You by Andrea Gibson

For the winter we heated our home from the steam off our own bodies?
I wrote you too many poems in a language I did not yet know how to speak
But I know now it doesn’t matter how well I say grace
if I am sitting at a table where I am offering no bread to eat
So this is my wheat field;
you can have every acre, Love…

Maybe I need you the way that big moon needs that open sea
Maybe I didn’t even know was here ‘til I saw you holding me
Give me one room to come home to
give me the palm of your hand
Every strand of my hair is a kite string
and I have been blue in the face with your sky
crying a flood over Iowa so you mother can wake to Venice

Lover, I smashed my glass slipper to build a stained glass window for every wall inside my chest
Now my heart is a pressed flower and a tattered Bible
It is the one verse you can trust

Identification: This self-published 2009 poem came right after Gibson’s big explosion into the poetry world, being the first poet to ever win the Women of the World Poetry Slam in Detroit in 2008. Maybe I Need You is Gibson’s personal struggle with their romantic relationship, producing one of their most well known lines, “I wrote you too many poems in a language I did not yet know how to speak.” Gibson is remarkable not only in the fact that they are a non-binary poet who prefers they/them pronouns, but their medium is often music and slam poetry that can be delivered both through text and through video.

Annotation: Gibson is the first poet to be explored in this contemporary LGBTQ archive that directly tackles gender queerness and the idea of slam poetry as a medium to convey and spread queer poetry. She’s a huge advocate for LGBT rights who also discusses intersectionality and how other aspects of identity, like race and ethnicity, plays into their personal experiences (as seen in her other poems, including one titled “A Letter to White Queers, A Letter to Myself” and “Privilege is Never Having to Think About It”). By addressing “white queers”, including themself, they consider how their race plays into their experience as an LGBT member and how it plays into their romantic relationships with others.

Eileen Myles

Artifact: Excerpt of Dear Andrea by Eileen Myles:

Dear Andrea
I’ve been alone all day
Spare me the postmodern experimental poet bullshit
Honey, think hard
about moments of love you’ve experienced with me
I want that love
Are we in a relationship or not?
Eileen, are you paying attention?
Fifty dollars, first ticket
Fifty dollars, first catcase
Diesel, diesel

Dear Andrea
You are the candy melting in my mouth
Is that a euphemism?
For what?
Witnessing your love
That’s pretty good

Identification: Eileen Myles is one of the most well-known female LGBT poets in the contemporary poetry world. This poem is an excerpt from her 2007 book “Sorry, Tree.” Much of her poetry centers around her relationship with other women and her confidence in her sexuality (as seen in other parts of this poem, including “don’t f**ck up my hair” and “I can’t believe you almost fisted me”). For Andrea is one of her most infamous works, along with other self-addressed poets to her partners such as To Jordana. She’s come a long way since she debuted on the scene in the 1970s but has kept her language rich and her diction direct throughout her career. The link to the full poem has a wonderful reading by her.

Annotation: This poem is powerful in its many layers, strong language, and tangible dialogue. “Spare me the postmodern experimental poet bullshit” is one of my favorite lines I’ve come across in any contemporary poem. Despite how comfortable she is in her sexuality, there’s also moments of uncertainty, as with any relationship, such as “are we in a relationship?” and “Eileen, are you paying attention?” Myles poems are powerful in how they capture the human experience, especially in a population under-represented in other literary mediums.

Trace Peterson

Artifact: Excerpt of After Before and After by Trace Peterson

I’ve been freed from
inside the Fall of Rome,
my contract disrupted.
Civilization will
not descend without
my bet against it rising,
a weather balloon
that hangs against a vast
usurped sky.
After before and
after, humane enclosures
air whips through
with a taste for blood
oranges and secret
temporal lace
have been spread out
imagining possible
goddesses in
bed. What’s free
about a woman’s stubble,
what’s enhanced
delivering an urgent note
across a field of blue.

Identification: Highlighted by a PBS article, this 2015 poem discusses how transgender women are often seen as a catalyst for social disintegration and many social issues (i.e. “The Fall of Rome”) and tries to put in a new framework, instead describing how transgender women are a loving and wholesome part of society. Peterson is considered to be one of the leaders for transgender poetry in the contemporary movement, helping to define a “class” of poetry among queer poetry readers. While this poem was released less than 10 months ago, transgender poets aren’t as well-known as other LGBT poets. As a transgender woman herself, Peterson hopes to change that.  The reading of Peterson’s poem from Peterson herself is available thanks to the PBS website and Soundcloud.

Annotation: This poem, described as a “love letter to trans women”, is the start to including transgender individuals in a positive narrative. Instead of seeing transgender women in a negative light, Peterson uses powerful imagery, historical contexts, and subtle hints (“a woman’s stubble”) to link transgender women to beautiful, powerful ideas. By replacing old narratives with new narratives, we can move towards including transgender women and transgender poets into our scope of LGBT poetry, as well as into the overall scope of the LGBT community, as well as the general heteronormative.

Blog Post 5

Because my archive focuses on contemporary writing, I’m only working with poetry and writers from the end of WWII to today. While there is a solid historical background in LGBT poetry courtesy of my favorite W’s (Wilde and Whitman), there has been a rapid growth of LGBT writing within the last few decades that has made it hard to pinpoint a certain status for LGBTQ people in the contemporary time era. For example, with the growth of civil rights, women’s rights, and general human rights in the 1960s, there was also a surge of awareness concerning sexual identity and gender identity that contributed to many well-known academic writing on the LGBTQ community. From there, we have continued to build on our understanding and our queer poetry: hence the importance of having a contemporary queer poetry archive. Even from mid-2000s to today, there has been a large growth in LGBT conversation and awareness, which has broadened from just queer gay and lesbian poets to others in the queer umbrella like bisexual, transgender, and non-binary poets.

While I consider LGBTQ poetry to be extremely influential, it isn’t a common source of representation when considering queer representation. In the poetry world, it’s a very small subset. In the world of pop culture and mainstream culture, it’s an even smaller subset. Most people that read queer poetry have an interest in queer theory or the queer community. Still, when considering overall historical context, there is far more representation and visibility than a century ago.

And, yes, while I don’t consider my archive to be very political, the push towards representation, visibility, and publication is often tied into politics. Most gay authors in the Victorian era or earlier were only published if they had a very high standing in the literature world. Most gay authors in the pre-contemporary period had to be elusive or write close to code words when publishing queer material. Today the fight towards LGBT acceptance and visibility has ensured that they have a louder voice, which means more writing and poetry in their namesake, too. While I don’t think it’s a big political move to acknowledge contemporary works given our more tolerant, contemporary mindset, to some, even acknowledging that the current inaugural poet is gay or acknowledging that poets have made such important strides for the LGBT community can be fairly political. The LGBTQ community’s history is one founded in changing social views and social restraints, and that makes it hard to sever politics from the picture.

I wouldn’t be opposed to adding a timeline to my archive. There’s been such a rapid change in the LGBT community throughout the past few decades, it could be beneficial to show how we’ve progressed and how we should continue to progress. If I did include a timeline, I would probably like to add more biographical information or more important events to align with the poetry (i.e. the Stonewall Riots, the HIV epidemic, etc.). That could help give a better understanding of the historical context of the works presented.

Blog 4

blog 4 poster

Because it was hard to think of an advertisement for queer poetry, let alone a political one, I created an advertisement for a queer slam poetry night. It’s an open mic that invites everyone from the LGBT and heteronormative community to come celebrate queer poetry.

All in all, my blog isn’t very political. The most political thing it demands is proper queer representation in poetry. Perhaps the most politically open figure in queer poetry is who I wrote about for my first archive piece, Richard Blanco. He’s an openly gay man that recently became the United States’s fifth inaugural poet. He serves as a good representative figure, more open to political scrutiny than other poets. His even being the inaugural poet helps show that poets are not determined or discriminated against by their sexual orientation.

I think it’s important that the LGBT community is involved in politics. As shown in this week’s lesson, it helps determine pro-LGBT legislation and creates a more inclusive environment. In the case of queer poetry, queer poets like Blanco create more exposure and more access for other non-heterosexual writers so they can expand on the topic and document LGBT history. If we expand LGBT inclusivity to all of our media, especially our writers and poets, than they become ingrained in our culture. They gain a voice and can help influence our culture and history.

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Pop culture generally doesn’t fit into my project. While literature dips in and out of the public eye, poetry isn’t a common staple in mainstream media. While there has been a rise in feminist poetry (such as Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur) there hasn’t been a swell of contemporary LGBT poetry and representation of queer poetry isn’t talked about the same way as queer representation is in film, television, and music. Perhaps the one way pop culture has influenced poetry is the demand for performance, which helped produce slam poetry. While I haven’t seen a swell of queer slam poets either, they would certainly make an interesting archive piece if I stumble across them. Until then, I don’t believe pop culture has much effect on my project.

The good news is, while pop culture may not directly impact queer poetry, a lot of pop culture centers around the internet where there’s a heightened chance to discover queer poets. I personally didn’t know many contemporary queer poets until I started doing research and looking at online articles. It’s the main resource and reason I can compile my archive in the first place. Plus, with the internet, there’s a greater chance that my archive will be relevant to curious parties and can circulate more. I think that’s important, especially for other queer poets to see the work what has already been created so they can continue building on the topic.