Popular Contemporary Lesbian & Bisexual Poets
This page offers an biographies and references for a selection of notable lesbian and bisexual women poets publishing today. While copyright restrictions forbid me from displaying their work, you can use this page to find more about them.
Paula Gunn Allen - b. 1939
Paula, a novelist and poet, was born to Laguna-Sioux-Lebanese parents
in New Mexico. She is an activist for Native American and women's rights,
and her political concerns transmit strongly through her poetry. Her work
addresses the oppression of women in general and lesbians in particular.
Paula has taught English and Native American Studies at many prominent
universities, and is currently a professor of Native American Studies
at University of California at Berkeley.
Becky Birtha - b. 1948
Becky defines herself as a black lesbian feminist Quaker from a middle-class background. She grew up primarily in Philadelphia, where she produced two collections of short stories and The Forbidden Poems (1991), a collection of her poetry. Her work has appeared in many anthologies. In 1985 she was awarded an Individual Fellowship in Literature from the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, and in 1988 she received a Creative Writing Fellowship in literature from the National Endowment of the Arts. She teaches English and creative writing at Bryn Mawr and Haverford College.
Elizabeth Bishop - 1911-1979
Elizabeth Bishop was known for her mastery of poetic form and her attention to descriptive details. She befriended poet Marianne Moore while at Vassar and considered her a mentor. In 1951, she won a Lucy Martin Donelly Travelling Fellowship from Bryn Mawr College (on Moore's recommendation) and she used this to travel to Brazil. While in Brazil, she met Lota de Macedo Soares, the woman she was to stayed with for sixteen years. While with Lota, she produced a great deal of work, including A Cold Spring, a collection that contained a number of lesbian love poems.
Elizabeth was honored with many awards. Her Complete Poems won the National Book Award in 1970, and Geography III won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1977. Elizabeth was the first woman to win the prestigious Books Abroad/Neustad Interational Prize for Literature. She taught at Harvard, University of Washington, and New York University.
She had strong feelings against anything that divided
art by gender and refused to appear in all-women anthologies. Because
of this, if you're looking for her work, you'll have the most luck searching
out collections containing only her poetry, rather than looking in lesbian
Olga Broumas - b. 1949
Olga, a native of Greece, began her poetic career by winning
the Yale series of Younger Poets award in 1977 for Beginning with
O. Stanely Kunitz, judge for the 1977 award, described her work
as "of letting go, of wild avowals, unabashed eroticism: at teh same
time it is a work of integral imagination, steep in the light of Greek
myth that is part of the poet's heritage and imbued with an intuitive
sense of dramatic conflicts and resolutions, high style, and musical
form." In 1978 she was awarded a grant from the National Endowment of
the Arts. Her books include Soie Sauvage, Perpetua, and
two books with T. Begley: Sappho's Gymnasium and Helen Groves.
Olga has taught at many colleges and universities; currently she is
the poet-in-residence at Brandeis University.
Chrystos - b. 1946
Born off-reservation to a Menominee father and a Lithuanian/Alsace-Lorraine
mother, Chrystos is a poet and a activist heavily involved supporting
Native Rights and prisoners' causes. She is self-educated as a writer
and artist. Her work forthrightedly speaks on her experiences and concerns
as a Native American lesbian; her work is both political and erotic.
Her poetry collections include Not Vanishing, Dream On,
In Her I Am, Fugutive Colors, and Fire Power. Among
her many awards and honors, Chrystos received a grant from the National
Endowment of the Arts in 1990, a Lannan Foundation Fellowship for poetry
in 1991, and the Sappho Award from the Aestrea Foundation in 1995.
Cheryl Clarke, an African-American lesbian-feminist poet,
is the directory of the Office of Diverse Community Affairs and Lesbian-Gay
Concerns, Rutgers University. She has published four books of poetry:
Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women, Living
as a Lesbian, Humid Pitch, and experimental love (a
Lambda literary award finalist).
Clare is a playwright, poet, and psychotherapist. She
is the editor of the recently published poetic anthology The Arc
Jewelle Gomez - b. 1948
Jewelle is an activist, essayist, novelist, and poet.
She published Oral Tradition: poems old and new and her poetry
appears in many anthologies. She lives in San Francisco where she
teaches creative writing and popular culture.
Judy Grahn - b. 1940
Judy Grahn has published ten volumes of poetry (including
The Queen of Swords and The Queen of Wands), is playwright,
novelist, has contributed to many anthologies, and author of non-fiction.
She is particularly known for her books Another Mother Tongue:
Gay Words, Gay Worlds (1984) and The Highest Apple. The
latter examines the work of nine major poets within a lesbian context.
Judy is known for a political consciousness in her poetry, critiquing
heterosexist and partriachal biases in our culture. She teaches at
the California Institute of Integral Studies.
Marilyn Hacker - b. 1942
Marilyn, a teacher, poet, and editor, is the author
of eight books. Her poetry collection Presentation Piece (1974)
was a Lamont Poetry Selection and received the National Book Award
in 1975. She received critical acclaim for Love, Death, and the
Changing of the Seasons (1986) a book of sonnets that explore
a lesbian relationship from inception through to end. Her talent with
sonnets and sonnet sequences earn her a distinctive place among modern
poets, where such forms are no longer as frequently explored. Mairlyn
has received Lambda Literary Awards for Going Back to the River
and Winter Numbers. She lives in New York City.
Joan Larkin - b. 1939
Joan is a poet and playwright who has been active in
producing ground-breaking lesbian and gay poetic anthologies. With
Elly Bulkin, she edited Amazon Poetry (the first lesbian poetic
anthology) and Lesbian Poetry (1981). She co-edited Gay
& Lesbian Poetry in Our Time (Lambda Literary Award winner for
poetry in 1989) with Carl Morse. She has taught writing full-time
since 1969. You can find Joan's work in many anthologies, as well
as in her two collections: Housework and A Long Sound.