Every June, the LGBTQ+ community and its allies celebrate Pride Month in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. According to the Library of Congress website, “celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, and LGBTQ+ Pride Month events attract millions of participants around the world. Memorials are held during this month for those members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have had on history locally, nationally, and internationally.”
June 2020 is the 50th anniversary of the annual LGBTQ+ Pride traditions. Because of the coronavirus crisis and social distancing, we can’t celebrate as we did before, but with this curated collection of poetry books I’ve chosen, you can be sure to celebrate with pride safely from the comfort of your home.
Julie Marie Wade is a prolific author who has published ten volumes of poetry and prose as well as the forthcoming lyric essay collection, Just an Ordinary Woman Breathing. On her website, Julie describes her work as exploring identity as well as the body: “I write best at intersections: The intersection of poetry and prose, past and present, sex and gender, families of origin and families of choice, heterosexual presumptions and lesbian experience. In all my work, I strive to pay close attention to language and the body.”
Julie has won many literary awards for her work, most notably the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Memoir and grants from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. With books such as Same-Sexy Marriage and When I Was Straight, Julie’s work is a beautiful, lyrical voice for the LGBTQ+ community.
Check out her poem, “I WOULD RATHER BE GAY THAN STRAIGHT ANY DAY ( & OTHER THINGS I THINK BUT NEVER SAY” on Rattle.
Cyrus Parker is a non-binary poet and author of four books: coffee days whiskey nights, shot glass confessional, masquerade, and DROPKICKromance. Among the many topics in their books, Cyrus explores identity, sexuality, gender, relationships, and acceptance.
In interviews, Cyrus is honest about being themself in a world where individuality is often stifled: “We live in a world that forces everyone into the same box. You’re expected to look and act, walk and talk a certain way, and if you don’t, then you’re othered. As a kid, I never really felt like I belonged anywhere. I still get that feeling, sometimes, especially as someone who’s struggled with my gender identity for as long as I can remember. I wrote masquerade in part because I was once a kid who needed to read it. I wrote it in part because there still might be someone out there who needs it, and what I want them, and anyone else who might pick up my book, to take away from it is that you are not alone, it’s okay to be who you are, and even if the world isn’t ready for you now, one day it will be.”
To start reading their poetry, check out “stained glass mirror “ from masquerade.
Courtney Peppernell is an LGBTQ+ poet and novelist best known for her poetry series Pillow Thoughts. According to her website, her “writing career launched in 2015 with her debut novels Chasing Paper Cranes and Keeping Long Island. Her first poetry collection Pillow Thoughts was released in 2016 and has consecutively remained a number one best-seller. Having been re-published by Andrews McMeel Universal, Pillow Thoughts is now a best-selling series of poetry collections.”
Her most recent collection, I Hope You Stay, is a healing book about recovery from a breakup. As Courtney is happily married but writing about heartbreak, she uses inspiration from her readers to write in first, second, and third person: “These days, I am definitely in character when I write poems like this because I have already met the love of my life…I receive these long, thought-out emails from people and they explain their lives to me. Lots of them talk about the person they want to meet or the person they have fallen for. They share deep, intimate details, and I get inspiration from those stories.”
Check out Courtney’s romantic prose poem “ice cream.” This is the poem that inspired her to create Pillow Thoughts.
Stacey Waite is a poet, educator, and scholar with two lyrical poetry collections I recommend: the lake has no saint and BUTCH GEOGRAPHY. In both of these collections, Stacey explores gender and identity. In the lyrical collection, the lake has no saint, she writes about how being non-binary and androgynous made her feel a lack of belonging in her childhood. She also challenges the status quo of seeing gender as binary by using both “she” and “him” in poems: That binary assumption is inherent in the English language.
BUTCH GEOGRAPHY is a collection that includes both narrative and lyric poems and explores similar themes to that of the lake has no saint. Both books have deep and insightful reflections on gender.
To read what it’s like to be a gay man in America, I recommend Aaron Smith’s poetry book, Primer. Primer is a collection dealing with self-identity and depression as its two main themes. Aaron explores these themes with language that is straightforward, concrete, minimalist, and vivid. The tone of the book is conversational as if he is confessing these poems to you.
For Primer, Aaron has used real-life experiences to inform his work, and in doing so created a speaker who is unapologetic about his feelings of being a gay man, and who speaks to us as if he is our best friend, and he’s telling us his deepest, darkest secrets. Aaron’s speaker is personable, and cannot be easily forgotten.