While preparing to write the 2013 inaugural poem “One Today,” gay writer Richard Blanco wrestled with a difficult question. In his book For All of Us, One Today, released this week, Blanco revealed that he was forced to ask himself, “Do I truly love America?”
For LGBT poets, love and love of country are complicated matters, since the former often finds itself in direct conflict with the latter. Can one truly love a country where, in many places, prejudice is both legal and morally ingrained? Ultimately, Blanco’s poem, included in its entirety later in this article, is a celebration of unity across race, culture, and sexual orientation. On January 21, 2013, the nation and the world listened as a gay poet, the son of Cuban exiles, delivered this hopeful message, marking a great milestone the LGBT community has reached in America.
While Blanco consciously steered away from controversy in “One Today” (“My selection was enough of a statement,” he wrote), queer poets and politics are inevitably intertwined. From Sappho to Oscar Wilde to the Beat Generation, LGBT bards have played a crucial role in articulating every shade of sexuality by capturing, mourning, and celebrating the experience of being queer. In this spirit, The Advocate reached out to poets Frank Bidart, Eileen Myles, Mark Doty, Judy Grahn, CAConrad, and Tim Trace Peterson for poems that illustrate how the current generation expresses queer love and identity, in all its unity and division.