We’re celebrating National Poetry Month with – what else – queer poetry recommendations! This page contains a select few titles, but we do, of course, have entire poetry pages, so please avail yourselves!
All Earthly Bodies by Michael Mlekoday
From cities and cross-country bus rides to swamps and fern forests, Michael Mlekoday’s All Earthly Bodies celebrates the ungentrifiable, ungovernable wildness of life. This is anarchist ecology, nonbinary environmentalism, an earthbound theology against empire in all its forms. These poems ask how our lives and language, our prayers and politics, might evolve if we really listened to the world and its more-than-human songs. “Sometimes I wish I could / peel myself from myself / without discarding the shell,” Mlekoday writes. Through a kind of lyric dreamwork, Mlekoday sounds the depths—of ancestry and identity, race and gender, earth and self—to track the unbecoming and re-membering of the body.
Disintegrate/Dissociate by Arielle Twist
In her powerful debut collection of poetry, Arielle Twist unravels the complexities of human relationships after death and metamorphosis. In these spare yet powerful poems, she explores, with both rage and tenderness, the parameters of grief, trauma, displacement, and identity. Weaving together a past made murky by uncertainty and a present which exists in multitudes, Arielle Twist poetically navigates through what it means to be an Indigenous trans woman, discovering the possibilities of a hopeful future and a transcendent, beautiful path to regaining softness.
Metamorphoses by Evan Kennedy
Metamorphoses springs from Ovid’s epic poem to explore the slipperiness of identity. In poems that shift registers from travelogue to elegy, from nature documentary to a simple record of the realities of daily life, Kennedy focuses on transformation, personal and collective, in an empire in decline, in a world transfigured by ecological upheaval.
Like a fever dream over Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, Kennedy has one foot in Ancient Rome and the other in contemporary San Francisco, acknowledging the “transformations of this city [he] loves” into “awful condos of steel and glass” alongside Victorian homes. The poet shores up fragments against this cultural decadence through the cultivation of a wry pagan mysticism, whether he’s offering devotions to Attis and Apollo, banishing Madonna from his pantheon, or placing twink emperor and notorious prankster Elagabalus in the East Bay. The book’s transformations even extend to its central conceit, as Kafka bursts into the proceedings to dispute Ovid’s claim to the laurel.
Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans
From spoken word poet Jasmine Mans comes an unforgettable poetry collection about race, feminism, and queer identity.
With echoes of Gwendolyn Brooks and Sonia Sanchez, Mans writes to call herself—and us—home. Each poem explores what it means to be a daughter of Newark, and America—and the painful, joyous path to adulthood as a young, queer Black woman.
Black Girl, Call Home is a love letter to the wandering Black girl and a vital companion to any woman on a journey to find truth, belonging, and healing.
Trace Evidence by Charif Shanahan
In Trace Evidence, the urgent follow-up to his award-winning debut Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing, Charif Shanahan continues his piercing meditations on the intricacies of mixed-race identity, queer desire, time, mortality, and the legacies of anti-Blackness in the US and abroad. At the collection’s center sits “On the Overnight from Agadir,” a poem that chronicles Shanahan’s survival of a devastating bus accident in Morocco, his mother’s birth country, and ruminates on home, belonging, and the mysteries of fate. With rich lyricism, power, and tenderness, Trace Evidence centers the racial periphery and excavates the vestiges of our violent colonial past in the most intimate aspects of our lives. In a language yoked equally to the physical and metaphysical worlds, the poet articulates the need we all share for real intimacy and connection, and proves, time and again, that the true cost of our separateness is the love that our survival requires.
Buy it: Bookshop | Amazon
Masquerade by Parker Lee w/a Cyrus Parker
Non-binary poet Cyrus Parker returns with an all-new collection of poetry and prose dedicated to those struggling to find their own identity in a world that often forces one into the confines of what’s considered “socially acceptable.”
Divided into three parts and illustrated by Parker, masqueradegrapples with topics such as the never-ending search for acceptance, gender identity, relationships, and the struggle to recognize your own face after hiding behind another for so long.
Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul by Ryka Aoki
Following up her 2014 novel, He Mele A Hilo, Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul is Ryka Aoki’s first book dedicated completely to poetry.
Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong
Ocean Vuong’s first full-length collection aims straight for the perennial “big”—and very human—subjects of romance, family, memory, grief, war, and melancholia. None of these he allows to overwhelm his spirit or his poems, which demonstrate, through breath and cadence and unrepentant enthrallment, that a gentle palm on a chest can calm the fiercest hungers.
Feed by Tommy Pico
Feed is the fourth book in the Teebs tetralogy. It’s an epistolary recipe for the main character, a poem of nourishment, and a jaunty walk through New York’s High Line park, with the lines, stanzas, paragraphs, dialogue, and registers approximating the park’s cultivated gardens of wildness. Among its questions, Feed asks what’s the difference between being alone and being lonely? Can you ever really be friends with an ex? How do you make perfect mac & cheese? Feed is an ode of reconciliation to the wild inconsistencies of a northeast spring, a frustrating season of back-and-forth, of thaw and blizzard, but with a faith that even amidst the mess, it knows where it’s going.
Prelude by Brynne Rebele-Henry
Prelude delineates the gay female experience through a poetic reconstruction of the girlhood of Catherine of Siena, a Catholic saint who lived in 1300s Italy and disobeyed her parents by refusing marriage to devote her life to God. Through a historical lens, Brynne Rebele-Henry examines the erasure of gay women’s lives and offers a perspective of medieval queer girlhood while considering themes such as violence, desire, and the lesbian body.
Buy it: Amazon
Synthetic Jungle by Michael Chang
A vital breath of life arrives in American poetry with Synthetic Jungle, the latest collection from acclaimed poet Michael Chang. With poems in a register both hilarious and scathing, Synthetic Jungle effortlessly bashes convention while simultaneously rebuilding the language we use to communicate our fears and joys.
Synthetic Jungle is a collection written by a brilliant jester who winks at you as you catch their every reference before sharing a laugh at your own self-satisfaction. Themes of identity, sexuality, and literacy play out in a dizzying rhythm of microtheaters. Readers will find themselves giggling, snorting, and guffawing their way through this work: whether at a repudiation of the literary landscape or a critique of a failing justice system, to laugh along with Chang is to recognize your mistakes and, ultimately, grow from them.
Buy it: Amazon
Novels in Verse
Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt
Kate and Tam meet, and both of their worlds tip sideways. At first, Tam figures Kate is your stereotypical cheerleader; Kate sees Tam as another tall jock. And the more they keep running into each other, the more they surprise each other. Beneath Kate’s sleek ponytail and perfect façade, Tam sees a goofy, sensitive, lonely girl. And Tam’s so much more than a volleyball player, Kate realizes: She’s everything Kate wishes she could be. It’s complicated. Except it’s not. When Kate and Tam meet, they fall in like. It’s as simple as that. But not everybody sees it that way. This novel in verse about two girls discovering their feelings for each other is a universal story of finding a way to be comfortable in your own skin.
Dear Mothman by Robin Gow
Halfway through sixth grade, Noah’s best friend and the only other trans boy in his school, Lewis, passed away in a car accident. Lewis was adventurous and curious, always bringing a new paranormal story to share with Noah. Together they daydreamed about cryptids and shared discovering their genders and names. After his death, lonely and yearning for someone who could understand him like Lewis once did, Noah starts writing letters to Mothman, wondering if he would understand how Noah feels and also looking for evidence of Mothman’s existence in the vast woods surrounding his small Poconos town. Noah becomes determined to make his science fair project about Mothman, despite his teachers and parents urging him to make a project about something “real.”
Meanwhile, as Noah tries to find Mothman, Noah also starts to make friends with a group of girls in his grade, Hanna, Molly, and Alice, with whom he’d been friendly, but never close to. Now, they welcome him, and he starts to open up to each of them, especially Hanna, who Noah has a crush on. But as strange things start to happen and Noah becomes sure of Mothman’s existence, his parents and teachers don’t believe him. Noah decides it’s up to him to risk everything, trek into the woods, and find Mothman himself.
The Song of Us by Kate Fussner (May 30, 2023)
Love at first sight isn’t a myth. For seventh graders Olivia and Eden, it’s fate. Olivia is a capital-P Poet, and Eden thinks she wants to be a musician one day, but for now she’s just the new girl. And then Eden shows up to Poetry Club and everything changes.
Eden isn’t out, and she has rules for dating Olivia: don’t call. Don’t tell her friends. And don’t let anyone know they’re together.
But when jealousy creeps in, it’s Olivia’s words that push Eden away. While Eden sets out to find herself, Olivia begins a journey to bring Eden back—using poetry. Both Olivia and Eden will learn just how powerful their words can be to bring them together . . . or tear them apart forever.
Nothing Burns as Bright As You by Ashley Woodfolk
One wild and reckless day.
Years of a tumultuous history unspooling
like thin, fraying string in the hours after they set a fire.
They were best friends. Until they became more.
Their affections grew. Until the blurry lines became dangerous.
Over the course of a single day, the depth of their past, the confusion of their present, and the unpredictability of their future is revealed.
And the girls will learn that hearts, like flames, aren’t so easily tamed.
It starts with a fire.
How will it end?
Dear Medusa by Olivia Cole
Sixteen-year-old Alicia Rivers has a reputation that precedes her. But there’s more to her story than the whispers that follow her throughout the hallways at school—whispers that splinter into a million different insults that really mean: a girl who has had sex. But what her classmates don’t know is that Alicia was sexually abused by a popular teacher, and that trauma has rewritten every cell in her body into someone she doesn’t recognize. To the world around her, she’s been cast, like the mythical Medusa, as not the victim but the monster of her own story: the slut who asked for it.
Alicia was abandoned by her best friend, quit the track team, and now spends her days in detention feeling isolated and invisible. When mysterious letters left in her locker hint at another victim, Alicia struggles to keep up the walls she’s built around her trauma. At the same time, her growing attraction to a new girl in school makes her question what those walls are really keeping out.
Forever is Now by Mariama J. Lockington (May 23, 2023)
I’m safe here.
That’s how Sadie feels, on a perfect summer day, wrapped in her girlfriend’s arms. School is out, and even though she’s been struggling to manage her chronic anxiety, Sadie is hopeful better times are ahead. Or at least, she thought she was safe. When her girlfriend reveals some unexpected news and the two witness a violent incident of police brutality unfold before them, Sadie’s whole world is upended in an instant.
I’m not safe anywhere.
That’s how Sadie feels every day after—vulnerable, uprooted. She retreats inside as the weeks slip by and relies on her phone to stay connected to the outside world. When Sadie’s therapist gives her a diagnosis for her debilitating panic—agoraphobia—she starts on a path of acceptance and healing. Meanwhile, Sadie’s best friend, Evan, updates her on the protests taking place in their city. Sadie wants to be a part of it, to use her voice and affect change. But how do you show up for your community when you can’t even leave your house?
I can build a safe place inside myself.
That’s what Sadie learns over the course of one life-changing summer, with some help from her family, her best friend, an online platform for activists, and a magnetic crush she develops for the new boy next door.