June is the month to celebrate LGBTQIAP+ pride, so why not kick off your summer with some fantastic, themed reads? For the list below, I have collected 21 poems by queer poets for you to read this Pride month, so why not pick up an anthology or two to inspire your summer?
In 1969, after a club called the Stonewall Inn was raided and its patrons arrested, LGBTQIAP+ individuals New York City's Greenwich Village rioted against state efforts to police and prosecute their community. The events would come to be known as the Stonewall Riots, and we have queer, trans women of color — particularly Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera — to thank for leading the charge in protest of anti-LGBTQIAP+ politics. Every year in June, in commemoration of what went down during that fateful week in 1969, we celebrate how far the queer community has come with Pride Month.
Pride celebrations are about loving yourself and your community, and about showing kids who are in the closet or questioning their sexuality that being queer is a joyful, wonderful thing. Not all of the poems by queer poets on the list below are as jovial as a Pride parade, but every one of them will make you feel something, whether that's righteous fury, elation, or sadness.
"To the Man Who Shouted 'I Like Pork Fried Rice' at Me on the Street" by Franny Choi
you want to eat me right out
of these jeans & into something
a little cheaper. more digestible.
Franny Choi is the author of Floating, Brilliant, Gone and Death by Sex Machine.
"The Moon Is Trans" by Joshua Jennifer Espinoza
The moon is trans.
From this moment forward, the moon is trans.
You don’t get to write about the moon anymore unless you respect that.
Joshua Jennifer Espinoza is the author of There Should Be Flowers and i'm alive / it hurts / i know it.
"Queer" by Frank Bidart
For each gay kid whose adolescence
was America in the forties or fifties
the primary, the crucial
forever is coming out—
or not. Or not. Or not. Or not. Or not.
You can read Frank Bidart's poetry in Half-light: Collected Poems of Frank Bidart, 1965-2016.
"Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation" by Natalie Díaz
Angels don’t come to the reservation.
Bats, maybe, or owls, boxy mottled things.
Coyotes, too. They all mean the same thing—
Natalie Díaz is the author of When My Brother Was an Aztec.
"Home Wrecker" by Ocean Vuong
And this is how we danced: with our mothers’
white dresses spilling from our feet, late August
turning our hands dark red.
Ocean Vuong is the author of Burning and Night Sky, With Exit Wounds.
"Letter to the Local Police" by June Jordan
May I point out that I did not assiduously seek out
this colony, as it were, and that these certain
unidentified roses remain open to viewing even by
children, with or without suitable supervision
You can read much of June Jordan's poetry in Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems.
"Waiting for the Barbarians" by C.P. Cavafy
Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?
You can read C.P. Cavafy's work in C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems.
"Small Talk" by Alok Vaid-Menon
it’s not that i don’t do small talk, it’s that I can’t do small talk. i’m the girl that they ask, “how are you?” & i am like: “missing everyone i ever loved, constantly hurt by the callousness of a world that reduces me to a body, and mourning the loss of everything i could have been — how about you?”
Alok Vaid-Menon is the author of Femme in Public.
"If You're Staying, I'll Stay Too" by Meg Day
I was a woman once:
rounded by my own gravity, cat-called
into hades by men who
could not see this gem of a hard rock
was not made magnetic
for the likes of them.
Meg Day is the author of We Can't Read This and Last Psalm at Sea Level.
"Thems" by Tommy Pico
I say “and them” and mean
how in “the sticks” where I lived, the reservation, the mail-
boxes were like maypoles at the end of the Earth I mean
beginning of the dirt road that leads to the home that
is no longer there, but I rest my cheek against the cool linoleum
of my memory whenever Canal Street is too thick
Tommy Pico is the author of Junk and IRL.
"Corpse Flower" by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal
Yesterday, the final petal curled its soft lure into bone.
The flowerhead shed clean, I gathered up your spine
and built you on a dark day.
Vanessa Angélica Villarreal is the author of Beast Meridian.
"On PrEP or on Prayer ['when i say pre-exposure prophylaxis']" by sam sax
once a day swallow a small sun
& all hymn in you comes undone
the way a lit match deads the smell
of a public bathroom
sam sax is the author of Madness and All the Rage.
"Dirge Without Music" by Edna St. Vincent Millay
Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains,—but the best is lost.
You can read much of Edna St. Vincent Millay's work in The Essential Edna St. Vincent Millay Poetry Collection.
"I Invite My Parents to a Dinner Party" by Chen Chen
In the invitation, I tell them for the seventeenth time
(the fourth in writing), that I am gay.
In the invitation, I include a picture of my boyfriend
& write, You’ve met him two times.
Chen Chen is the author of Kissing the Sphinx and When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities.
"Forensics of a Half-Empty Apartment" by Kamilah Aisha Moon
Two dozen eggs rotting in the fridge;
few things are over easy, and often
can't be unscrambled. No day
or kiss undone. It is this now.
Kamilah Aisha Moon is the author of She Has a Name and Starshine & Clay.
"Type II" by Hieu Minh Nguyen
Once I loved a boy, who feared, so much
his own sickness
I never confessed to him my own.
Hieu Minh Nguyen is the author of This Way to the Sugar and Not Here.
"El Beso" by Angelina Weld Grimké
Snare of the shine of your teeth,
You can read much of Angelina Weld Grimké's poetry in her Selected Works.
"Boy in a Stolen Evening Gown" by Saeed Jones
In this field of thistle, I am the improbable
lady. How I wear the word: sequined weight
snagging my saunter into overgrown grass, blonde
split-end blades. I waltz in an acre of bad wigs.
Saeed Jones is the author of Prelude to Bruise and When the Only Light Is Fire.
"lacuna" by mud howard
when the good goes bad
my hands become
sixth grade hands again
"Swing Low" by Rickey Laurentiis
We aren’t the solid men.
We bend like the number seven.
Dig at corners, eat cobwebs, we
are barefoot and bare-legged.
We hang like leaves in autumn.
Rickey Laurentiis is the author of Boy with Thorn.
"The 17-Year-Old & the Gay Bar" by Danez Smith
this gin-heavy heaven, 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
Danez Smith is the author of [insert] boy and Don't Call Us Dead.