In celebration of National Poetry Day, check out these Poetry titles that discuss queerness, sexuality, identity, and more. This year’s theme is “Truth,” and given how much of queerness is grappling with that concept, whether for yourself or making other people understand yours or both, you can’t really go wrong here. (For a longer but less detailed list, check out our Poetry page.)
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.
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.
In her third collection of poetry, Holy Wild, Gwen Benaway explores the complexities of being an Indigenous trans women in expansive lyric poems. She holds up the Indigenous trans body as a site of struggle, liberation, and beauty. A confessional poet, Benaway narrates her sexual and romantic intimacies with partners as well as her work to navigate the daily burden of transphobia and violence. She examines the intersections of Indigenous and trans experience through autobiographical poems and continues to speak to the legacy of abuse, violence, and colonial erasure that defines Canada. Her sparse lines, interwoven with English and Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe), illustrate the wonder and power of Indigenous trans womanhood in motion. Holy Wild is not an easy book, as Benaway refuses to give any simple answers, but it is a profoundly vibrant and beautiful work filled with a transcendent grace.
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 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.
In this epistolary middle-grade debut novel, a girl who’s questioning her sexual orientation writes letters to her sister, who was sent away from their strict Catholic home after becoming pregnant.
Eleven-year-old Evie is heartbroken when her strict Catholic parents send her pregnant sister away to stay with a distant great-aunt. All Evie wants is for her older sister to come back. But when her parents forbid her to even speak to Cilla, she starts sending letters. Evie writes letters about her family, torn apart and hurting. She writes about her life, empty without Cilla. And she writes about the new girl in school, June, who becomes her friend, and then maybe more than a friend.
As she becomes better friends with June, Evie begins to question her sexual orientation. She can only imagine what might happen if her parents found out who she really is. She could really use some advice from Cilla. But Cilla isn’t writing back.
Asra is a demigod with a dangerous gift: the ability to dictate the future by writing with her blood. To keep her power secret, she leads a quiet life as a healer on a remote mountain, content to help the people in her care and spend time with Ina, the mortal girl she loves.
But Asra’s peaceful life is upended when bandits threaten Ina’s village and the king does nothing to help. Desperate to protect her people, Ina begs Asra for assistance in finding her manifest—the animal she’ll be able to change into as her rite of passage to adulthood. Asra uses her blood magic to help Ina, but her spell goes horribly wrong and the bandits destroy the village, killing Ina’s family.
Unaware that Asra is at fault, Ina swears revenge on the king and takes a savage dragon as her manifest. To stop her, Asra must embark on a journey across the kingdom, becoming a player in lethal games of power among assassins, gods, and even the king himself.
Most frightening of all, she discovers the dark secrets of her own mysterious history—and the terrible, powerful legacy she carries in her blood.
When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.
Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?
Autumn always knew exactly who she was—a talented artist and a loyal friend. Shay was defined by two things: her bond with her twin sister, Sasha, and her love of music. And Logan always turned to writing love songs when his love life was a little less than perfect.
But when tragedy strikes each of them, somehow music is no longer enough. Now Logan can’t stop watching vlogs of his dead ex-boyfriend. Shay is a music blogger struggling to keep it together. And Autumn sends messages that she knows can never be answered.
Despite the odds, one band’s music will reunite them and prove that after grief, beauty thrives in the people left behind.
Michael Sterling disappeared from his Maine town five years ago. Everyone assumed he was kidnapped. Everyone was wrong.
Now, at seventeen, he’s Sean Woodhouse. And he’s come “home,” to the last place he wants to be, to claim the small inheritance his grandparents promised him when he graduated high school, all so he can save Trip, the boy he developed an intense and complicated relationship with while he was away.
Sean has changed, but so has his old town and everyone in it. And knowing who he is and where he belongs is more confusing than ever. As his careful plans begin to crumble, so does everything he’s believed about his idyllic other life.
Told in gorgeous prose, Boomerang is an honest, authentic exploration of coming to terms with who you are, what you want, and how vast the distance can be between the two.
In the sequel to Fortitude Smashed, navigating the ins and outs of love is hard enough as strangers, but now Daisy and Chelsea must find a way to transform their friendship into something more. Meanwhile, Shannon and Aiden’s year-long relationship is put to the test when a horrific accident puts Shannon’s life at risk.
The first collection of Kim Reaper comics, contains issues 1-4!
Part-Time Grim Reaper. Full-Time Cutie!
Like most university students, Kim works a part-time job to make ends meet. Unlike most university students, Kim’s job is pretty cool: she’s a grim reaper, tasked with guiding souls into the afterlife.
Like most university students, Becka has a super intense crush. Unlike most university students, Becka’s crush is on a beautiful gothic angel that frequents the underworld. Of course, she doesn’t know that.
Unaware of the ghoulish drama she’s about to step into, Becka finally gathers up the courage to ask Kim on a date! But when she falls into a ghostly portal and interrupts Kim at her job, she sets off a chain of events that will pit the two of them against angry cat-dads, vengeful zombies, and perhaps even the underworld itself. But if they work together, they just might make it… and maybe even get a smooch in the bargain.
Shane is still reeling from the suicide of his kid sister, Destiny. How could he have missed the fact that she was so sad? He tries to share his grief with his girlfriend, Tara, but she’s too concerned with her own needs to offer him much comfort. What he really wants is to be able to turn to the one person on the rez whom he loves—his friend, David.
Things go from bad to worse as Shane’s dream of going to university is shattered and his grieving mother withdraws from the world. Worst of all, he and David have to hide their relationship from everyone. Shane feels that his only chance of a better life is moving to Toronto, but David refuses to join him. When yet another tragedy strikes, the two boys have to make difficult choices about their future together.
With deep insight into the life of Indigenous people on the reserve, this book masterfully portrays how a community looks to the past for guidance and comfort while fearing a future of poverty and shame. Shane’s rocky road to finding himself takes many twists and turns, but ultimately ends with him on a path that doesn’t always offer easy answers, but one that leaves the reader optimistic about his fate.
If Jane Austen and Sholem Aleichem (Fiddler on the Roof) schemed in an elevator, this just might be their pitch. Ari is Elizabeth and Itche is Jane–and this Jewish, queer, New York City retelling of Pride and Prejudice is for everyone.
Ari Wexler, a trans guy in his late 20s, is barely scraping by. His family life is a mess, he feels like a failure when it comes to love, and his job at a music library is on the rocks. His relationship with Itche Mattes, his doting best friend, helps him get through the days. Then a famous actress comes to town and sweeps Itche off his feet, leaving her dreadful sidekick to step on Ari’s toes.
As Ari’s despair grows, a fascinating music project falls into his lap, and he s faced with a choice: to remain within his comfort zone, however small and stifling, or to take a risk that could bring meaning and joy to his life.
The Pros of Cons by Alison Cherry, Lindsay Ribar, and Michelle Schusterman (27th)
Drummer Phoebe Byrd prides herself on being one of the guys, and she’s ready to prove it by kicking all their butts in the snare solo competition at the Indoor Percussion Association Convention.
Writer Vanessa Montoya-O’Callaghan has been looking forward to the WTFcon for months. Not just because of the panels and fanfiction readings but because WTFcon is where she’ll finally meet Soleil, her internet girlfriend, for the first time.
Taxidermy assistant Callie Buchannan might be good at scooping brains out of deer skulls, but that doesn’t mean it’s her passion. Since her parents’ divorce, her taxidermist father only cares about his work, and assisting him at the World Taxidermy and Fish-Carving Championships is the only way Callie knows to connect with him.
When a crazy mix-up in the hotel lobby brings the three girls together, they form an unlikely friendship against a chaotic background of cosplay, competition, and carcasses!
Prepare to be swept up by this exquisite novel that reminds us that grief and love can open the world in mystical ways.
Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother. When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls. Debut author Kheryn Callender presents a cadenced work of magical realism.
As soon as this anthology was brought to my attention (h/t Lex Leone!) I reached out to the editor, Hope Nicholson, and asked if the authors would be open to contributing a little information about their stories. So, please check out the book itself below (only $5.00!) and then see what the authors have to say about their contributions to this cool-as-hell antho.
Love Beyond, Body, Space, and Time is a collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman trying an experimental transition medication to young lovers separated through decades and meeting far in their own future. These are stories of machines and magic, love, and self-love.
This collection features prose stories by:
Cherie Dimaline “The Girl Who Grew a Galaxy,” “Red Rooms”
Gwen Benaway “Ceremonies for the Dead”
David Robertson “Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story,” Tales From Big Spirit series
Richard Van Camp “The Lesser Blessed,” “Three Feathers”
Mari Kurisato “Celia’s Song,” “Bent Box”
Nathan Adler “Wrist”
Daniel Heath Justice “The Way of Thorn and Thunder: The Kynship Chronicles”
Darcie Little Badger “Nkásht íí, The Sea Under Texas”
And an introduction by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair “Manitowapow,” with a foreword by Grace Dillon “Walking the Clouds”.
Edited by Hope Nicholson “Moonshot,” “The Secret Loves of Geek Girls”
I wrote “Transition” because I wanted to see a 1st person narrative of an Indigenous transwoman in the world. I can’t remember ever reading a narrative with an Indigenous transwoman as the main voice, so it felt important to centre us as active subjects in literature. Another part of my desire was to also challenge Western models of becoming “female.” The transgender specific narratives I encounter are often about the medical process of transitioning like surgeries or hormones, but I am interested in exploring what transitioning means in an Indigenous context. We know there was Indigenous transwoman before contact in most Indigenous nations. I often wish I could call up those transgender aunties and ask them “what was it like for you?”. For them, transitioning must have been very different. Being female would have meant something different. They certainly were not going on hormones, removing body hair, or having surgeries, but they were also very clearly perceived and lived as women in our societies.
It is empowering for me to imagine a process of transitioning which is not about morphing our biological bodies, but about reclaiming our souls. Being transgender for Indigenous transwomen is spiritual. Our teachings say it comes from our relationship to the earth and the world around us. It’s intrinsically who we are and we demonstrate our femininity through our actions and responsibilities, not our appearance. In the context of this story, I wanted to place ceremony and Western science side by side and have a main character who works through her gender via both. I cheat a little and fall strongly on the side of her gender coming through her ancestors, but the idea of her female ancestors reaching out to her to guide her into womanhood is a really beautiful and loving image for me. She’s not “changing” her gender. She is reconnecting to who she has always been: an Indigenous woman interwoven into a web of powerful Indigenous women which stretches across time and space.
You don’t always get the opportunity to write a story that involves an LGBT couple, has one character that is Indigenous, and, oh yeah, is sci-fi. Needless to say, it was an amazing and challenging experience to write “Perfectly You.” I wanted to write a love story that felt real in an unreal setting, that didn’t fall into cliche or stereotype, and that was surprising in its narrative, rather than in the sexual orientation or cultural background of its protagonist. In the end, for me, “Perfectly You” really is saying that love is love, and love is timeless.
Richard Van Camp
“Aliens” was a fun piece to write. I believe that this is my third piece of writing as a woman and I’m proud to have placed this story in Fort Smith, my home town. I’ve always had a “what if?” story about aliens, as in, “What if they just showed up and stayed? What would we do?” I didn’t want this story to be about the Sky People as beings. I wanted this to be about the Sky People as a symbol of never being able to go back to the way humanity was before: I also wanted there to be hope with the gentle bubbling of the oceans. I pray that, in this story, the Sky People are coming to help and teach us what we need to get along and heal our planet together. I also wanted this to be a love story. I love it when friendships break down and people start making out. Mah! 🙂
When you listen to the hunters and trappers, so many of them have stories of seeing UFO’s and I believe them. This was a joy to write and I’m grateful to Hope Nicholson for asking me to create something for “Love Beyond Body, Space and Time.” Mahsi cho!
You’ll notice that I dedicated this story to Carla Ulrich. Carla is a director, producer, writer and actor from the North who has adapted three of my books and turned them into movies: “Hickey Gone Wrong”, “Three Feathers” and “The Blue Raven.” I’m so grateful for her and her vision in all that she does. The least I could do is dedicate a story to her.
“Aliens” is now the first story in my new short story collection manuscript “Moccasin Square Gardens” because it has such a playful spirit.
Imposter Syndrome is the short story of Aanji, a noncitizen artificial life-form who is desperate to escape a grim fate, using her human ancestors’ memories. Set several (hundred?) years after the events of Escape Light, it details one person’s attempt to reclaim her soul. It’s also very autobiographical in some spots, which is why I’m nervous and pleased as punch that the wonderful Hope L. Nicholson is publishing it, alongside amazing Indigenous authors like Doctor Darcie Little Badger, Daniel Heath Justice, Nathan Adler, Gwen Benaway, and Cherie Dimaline.
“Valediction at The Star View Motel” is about relationships, and death, and meteor-showers, and messages from beyond the grave, it’s about one of the strongest and lightest materials in the world, spider’s-silk, and love, and connection across time and space. The story started with the two characters—Edie and Mushkeg—and I knew they had this back-story forming, waiting to be told, so when Hope approached me about contributing to this Anthology, I thought this story would be a good fit, and that maybe it was time to write the story of how Edie and Mushkeg met.
Daniel Heath Justice
Hummingbirds fascinate me. They possess a kind of wild, fierce beauty you don’t see in other creatures; they’re brave, bold, temperamental, and dramatic. In so many ways, they embody a courageous certainty of self, and I wanted to capture some of this spirit in a story for those on the margins (especially queer and two-spirit Indigenous folks) who are coming to an understanding of their own special beauty but see too few examples to help inspire their struggle. This world isn’t kind to those who are different; we know this too well. But that’s only because of human prejudices—the rest of the world is teeming with strange beauty.
I drew a bit of inspiration from the Cherokee story about Hummingbird and how sacred tobacco came to heal the People through the skill and cleverness of a medicine man. He put on a feathered cloak and became a hummingbird to steal the plant from an island of selfish, murderous giants. But there are many different kinds of healing, and there are many different kinds of medicine. To me this is a story of love and self-acceptance, and the beauty that inhabits so many of us but is so often denied.
Darcie Little Badger
At its core, Né łe is a lighthearted story about lesbians and puppies in space. Perhaps counterintuitively, I – a horror fanatic – enjoy writing sweet comedies. That said, Né łe contains sad themes that are familiar to my tribe and many others, particularly dispossession. Her longing for a stolen home drives the Apache protagonist of Né łe to Mars.
As a final note, the Watson to my Holmes is a Navajo veterinarian; their guidance enabled me to write the sci-fi veterinary scenes in Né łe. I’m extremely grateful!
Hope Nicholson is the publisher of Bedside Press and comics historian. Her latest book is a collection of indigenous science fiction and fantasy stories starring queer and two-spirit characters. She also works in reprinted work bringing attention to lost comics.