Isle of Lesbos : Poetry : Lesbian Poetry FAQ

 

Frequently-Asked Questions
about the Lesbian Poetry Pages

Welcome to the Lesbian Poetry pages. I created this site in 1995 and 1996, to honor the works of those poets who, over the ages, have written eloquently about romantic love between women. While some of these poets were honored for their work in their time, others wrote on this topic at the cost of their literary careers, never being appropriately recognized for their creations simply because the material (or the poet herself) was lesbian. This page brings their work out into the open, where it can educate people about intimacy between women and women's writing, as well as inspire the work of newer poets.

What is lesbian poetry? How can poetry be lesbian?

For the purposes of these pages, lesbian poetry refers to poetry that was either written by a lesbian, written about lesbians, or that has distinct appeal to lesbians. That's a pretty broad definition.

Obviously, poetry on its own is not lesbian, or Christian, or African-American, or anything...but certainly a given poem or body of work can appeal to a particular group. That's what these pages are about.

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What do you mean my favorite poet is a lesbian -- where do you get off saying that?!?

I am not saying that all of these poets were lesbian. While some poets certainly were openly lesbian, others were bisexual, some had romantic friendships with women that may or may not have included sexual interaction, and a few may have been writing "in persona" as a man. The male poets were definitely not lesbians!

Before jumping to conclusions, read the biographies where I've included them. Usually these biographies make it clear why I included a given poet.

I admit that putting a poet on these pages is controversial. Even today, many people are deeply offended that I would suggest that even the work of their favorite poet could be interpreted as lesbian. And if I suggested that she in fact loved a woman? Horrors. I ask you to keep in mind that there are many opinions out there, even among respected scholars. Without asking the poet herself, we can't know a late poet's orientation.

The important thing to note is that the concerns and appreciations of lesbians extend beyond the bedroom, and so I believe all of these works are of interested to women-oriented women (as well as to others). That's why they appear here.

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Why do you include male poets? What do they know about lesbianism?

I included male poets for two reasons. Firstly, the writings of these men give us some indication of how men perceived intimate relationships between women at the time of their writing, and that has historical value. Secondly, the work of several of these men (such as Pierre Louys and Paul Verlaine) inspired the writings of the female poets on the list (such as Renée Vivien and "Michael Field").

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Why don't you include the poems of contemporary poets?

I'm only including poetry that I believe was published before 1927 in an effort to avoid violating copyrights. I don't have the time or resources to request the permission to post copyrighted material from contemporary authors and their estates. I include brief biographies of popular poets whose work is under copyright, but that's the most I can do without their permisison. I also don't want to exclude offering biographical info based on whether or not I can include selected works.

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I'm a lesbian poet -- will you publish my work? I'll give you permission.

I'm sorry, but I am not publishing any contemporary work. I would not be able to keep up with the submissions to these pages. My goal is to provide historical insight, rather than publish a literary journal.

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How did you do your research?

I've spent countless hours in libraries, exploring new and used bookstores, performing web searches, cross-referencing information, and designing the pages. It has been quite expensive, too; because much of the reference material is not available in my local libraries, I've purchased about 70 books related to these pages. I've found leads in the most obscure of places, too, and found some wonderful things in the process of following those up. It has been an interesting adventure,
especially for something I'm doing in my "spare time." I invested lots of late night hours when I should have been sleeping. But now I'm done with it!

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Are these biographies in the public domain (can I use them)?

No; the biographies on this site are copyright 1995, 1996, and 1999 (variously) by Alix North, all rights reserved. I encourage web links to this site, but don't copy my text and use it elsewhere, whether electronically or in another form. It doesn't matter whether you are re-using my material for profit; it's still copyright violation. But, more importantly, if I find that my material is being used elsewhere without my permission (even if credited) I'm likely to become disenchanted with this work and pull it off the web completely, so please don't do that.

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Why isn't my favorite poet here?

The reason may be one of several:

  • I don't know about her or him
  • I don't have enough reference material from which to draw
  • The work of the poet in question doesn't fall into the scope of these pages
  • I was planning to include that poet, but I ran out of time

Feel free to send me feedback and let me know your recommendations. However, I can't make any promises about finding the time to add more pages. Currently this is an archive site.

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Why isn't there a bio on each poet's page?

I did not have time initially to write bios for every poet (they took a long time to research). Since originally creating these pages, I've moved on to other projects, and I don't anticipate finding the opportunity to return to this material.

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Who are you?

My name is Alix North. I started this site (www.sappho.com) in late 1995. It started with research that I conducted to satisify my own curiosity about sapphic poetry. I found out it was hard work finding information on some of these poets. Much of their work has been ignored and supressed, despite the historical interest and literary value that they contain. I hated to think of others working as hard for the same information--or, worse, never knowing what was available--so I decided to offer the results of my research over the web.

You can find out more about the entire Isle of Lesbos web site on the About this Site page.

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