National Poetry Month: 10 Queer Poets You Should Know

Poetry cracks us open.

Poetry helps us to feel, it cracks us open. In school, I thought I didn’t understand poetry but when I came out and started reading queer poetry, I fell in love with zines and chapbooks.  I found stories that spoke directly to the experience of being young and queer and trans and I was smitten. My friends brought me to punk house basement shows where slam poets would spit verses from pallet board stages. I collected zines, bought books, and kept reading, reading, reading. Poetry shows us something about ourselves, and others, the world around us, and our collective queerness. In honor of National Poetry Month, I hope you’ll explore these queer poets.

 Danez Smith 

Danex Smith is a poet and author of three poetry collections. They are Lambda Literary Award Winner and were a finalist for the National Book Award. Smith’s powerful performative poetry can be listened to online via their performances at Button Poetry. You can also read some of their poetry here: “, blessed ground to think gay & mean we. bless the fake id & the bouncer who knew this need to be needed, to belong, to know how” 

 Andrea Gibson

I fell in love with Andrea Gibson’s spoken word poetry in the early 2000s when I saw them on tour. Gibson’s poetry is as beautiful as it is queer. They dive into big themes including gender, sexuality, community violence, and in recent years, their cancer diagnosis. Gibson has written multiple books including their most recent book “You Better Be Lightning”  Check out Gibson’s YouTube to hear them perform new work and some of their classics.

 Eileen Myles 

Eileen Myles is a Lambda Literary Award-winning poet who has published more than twenty books. Myles’ poetry is deep, queer, and always provocative. Their work embodies queer life, class, gender, city life, and the small, often overlooked moments that make up a life. Want to get a sense of their style? I especially enjoy this rumination on poetry and writing they filmed walking the streets of New York. 

 Gwen Benaway 

Gwen Benaway is an Indigenous trans woman who brings lyric poetry together exploring intimacy, identity, connection, colonial erasure, and abuse. Benaway blends English and Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) in her poetry. Her book “Holy Wild” was a Lambda Literary Finalist and winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award of Poetry. You can get a taste of her poetry here. 

 Gloria Anzaldúa

It’s impossible for me to think about queer poets without the inclusion of Gloria Anzaldúa. I first became familiar with her work as a Women’s Studies undergraduate student and her contributions to feminist discourse can’t be overstated. Anzaldúa is best known as a Chicana feminist queer theorist and poet. You can hear her classic poem To Live In The Borderlands here and read more of her poetry here. 

 Michelle Tea

Queer poet and memoirist Michelle Tea  was one of the first poets whose work I found and fell in love with. I loved the unapologetic punk queerness of her writing  which I discovered on mixtapes, and in punkhouse poetry readings, and then later her collection “The Beautiful.” You can find a sampling of Tea’s poetry here

 Mary Lambert

You probably already know Mary Lambert as a musician and songwriter with a beautiful storytelling style, but she is also a poet. Don’t miss her collection “Shame Is An Ocean I Swim Across.”   Lambert writes boldly about body, queerness, surviving, and mental illness. You can also listen to her spoken word on her website. 

 Minnie Bruce Pratt 

Minnie Bruce Pratt was a femme poet, LGBTQ+ activist, and partner of Leslie Feinberg. Pratt’s poetry explored themes of motherhood, queer femininity, butch/femme romance, anti-racism, and anti-imperialist organizing. Her book “S/he”  is a powerful poetic exploration of her coming out and understanding of queer femininity. Listen to Pratt read here. 

 Amber Dawn 

Amber Dawn is a Lambda Literary Award-Winning Poet who brings queer femme sexuality to the page in her poetry. Her poems explore her experience as a sex worker, queerness, family dynamics and belonging. Check out an excerpt of her poetry here: “I used to liken a poem to praying. Is that right? Not the woo and gratitude praying served by queer witches.” 

 Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is one of the most well-known American poets, though she isn’t always recognized as the lesbian poet she was. Oliver writes intimately and beautifully about the natural world and our relationship to it. I especially appreciate Wild Geese and hearing Oliver read is such a treasure to be able to return to.

There are countless talented queer poets to explore. is a great resource to continue your poetic journey. Happy National Poetry Month!

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