Beyond National Poetry Month

"Never Picked First for Playtime" by Dustin Brookshire.

National Poetry Month (April) may have come and gone, but that’s no reason not to continue reading poetry throughout the year. With so many new titles by LGBTQ+ poets from which to choose, there’s practically something for everyone.

Talk about meta verse. Gay poet Dustin Brookshire, who has already abundantly expressed his love for Dolly Parton turns his attention to another dolly: Barbie. Brookshire’s chapbook “Never Picked First for Playtime” (Harbor Editions, 2023) is an homage to an homage, honoring both Denise Duhamel’s Barbie-themed 1997 full-length poetry collection book “Kinky,” as well as Barbie herself, via poems such as “Lesbian Barbie,” “Pandemic Barbie,” “MAGA Barbie,” “HIV Barbie,” and “Barbie Watches the Golden Girls.”

Prolific poet Eileen Myles, editor of the 2022 anthology “Pathetic Literature,” returns with “A ‘Working Life’” (Grove Press, 2023), their first new original poetry collection since “Evolution” (2018). Written in their trademark short line style, the book contains more than 70 poems, some of which were previously published in the “New Yorker,” “Paris Review,” “Harper’s,” “The Atlantic,” and “Poetry.”

A recipient of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, gay poet Aaron Smith’s fifth book in the Pitt Poetry Series is “Stop Lying” (University of Pittsburgh, 2023). Pulsing with the death of his fundamentalist Christian mother, and all that goes with such an experience, Smith’s poems, including “My 1990s,” “twentysomething,” “Happy Ending,” “The World of Men,” and “How to Describe What it Felt Like,” are nevertheless as queer as ever.

It’s no surprise that queer poet and essayist Camonghne Felix would write a memoir as poetic and spare as “Dyscalculia: A Love Story of Epic Miscalculation” (One World, 2023). Felix puts her gift for the economy of language to good use, concisely and powerfully depicting the aftermath of a “monumental breakup,” on pages that contain as few as two lines (“Sankofa in my loins, Sankofa in the meat of my memory. /I’ll have to spiral back to return.”) to more prose-like lengths.

Through the mournful and haunting poems in “Brother Sleep” (Alice James, 2022), winner of the 2020 Alice James Award, queer poet Aldo Amparán draws readers into his world on his quest to account for loss, identity, and ultimately come to terms with “the violence perpetrated against queer and Mexican bodies.”

As personal as reading someone’s journal entries, and described as “deeply queer and trans,” River Halen’s “Dream Rooms” (Book*hug Press, 2022), which received praise from Lambda Literary Award-winning poet CAConrad, feverishly incorporates intimate details alongside pop culture references including “Queer Eye,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and rapper Princess Nokia.

Consisting of poems in experimental and traditional formats, “I am the Most Dangerous Thing” (Alice James, 2023), the debut collection by Candace Williams, allow the queer, black poet to also exhibit the interdisciplinary aspect of her creative side by filling “the white spaces with her hard-won wisdom and love.”

Gabrielle Bates, co-host of the podcast “The Poet Salon,” explore bisexuality in the poem “Intro to Theater” (“I can remember one particular time, in her grandparents’ attic,/her legs, slightly older than mine, shaved amphibian-smooth,/her breath around my face like an evaporated puddle.”), from her debut collection “Judas Goat” (Tin House, 2023).

Gregg Shapiro is the author of nine books including the poetry chapbook Refrain in Light (Souvenir Spoon Books, 2022). An entertainment journalist, whose interviews and reviews run in a variety of regional LGBTQ+ and mainstream publications and websites, Shapiro lives in Fort Lauderdale with his husband Rick and their dog Coco.


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