6 Bi Poets You Should Be Reading

By Jennie Roberson

August 14, 2020

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Photo credit: Unsplash/Trust "Tru" Katsande

Hello, Unicorns! I thought today I would gather some of my favorite poems from my favorite bi poets. Before I get too far ahead of myself, I should note I will be linking to the actual poems rather than putting them in the article. Please note some (many) of these poems are of a sexual nature, so heads up that some of these forays are not for the faint of heart.

Get it, got it, good? Splendid. And away we go.

1) Sappho, "He Is More Than A Hero."

Sappho and Erinna in a Garden at Mytilene by Simeon Solomon, 1864

Sappho is great proof that bisexuality was not a modern invention. While little is known of the Lady of Lesbos, she was regarded as one of the greatest poets of the ancient world; tragically, much of her texts have been lost to time. Today, Sappho is mostly known through quotations of passages of her poetry by other authors whose works survived the grinding of the hourglass. Her most famous among them, “He Is More Than A Hero,” is one of the greatest hints at her queerness.

Though the poet wrote in Greek and much can be lost in translation, it’s clear from most interpretations the person who is next to “he” does not share his gender, and she is clearly very attracted to "He" and the person sitting next to "He." Her descriptions of the rapture of attraction have survived millennia.

2) Edna St. Vincent Millay, "What Lips My Lips Have Kissed, And Where, And Why."

Edna St. Vincent Millay by Arnold Genthe, 1914

Here’s God's honest truth: other than Shakespeare’s works, this is my favorite poem of all time. I came across the sonneteer’s work when I was sixteen, and I still love it to pieces, even though this one is a bit more on the wistful side. In 1923, Millay even won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. So we’ve got that going for us, queer fam. And this entry, along with Sappho, is one of the shortest in the collection. One-click will take you to a minute of rapturous reading.

3) Lord Byron, "She Walks In Beauty."

Lord Byron in Albanian dress by Thomas Phillips, 1813

While the poem listed here may be what most people think of as a traditional verse poem, the author himself was anything but traditional. Byron was a highly adventurous creature who loved to live life to the hilt, his reputation often at times eclipsing even the fame of his written works. But while tales of his debauchery still echo down the halls of time, his poetry still lives on, too. While Byron was better known for his epic poems like “Don Juan,” “She Walks In Beauty” shows this lord knew how to pack a punch in just a few stanzas.

Look, I’m not made of stone: if someone as handsome as Byron were to pen something like this for me, I’d probably kiss them on the spot before they finished reading.

4) June Jordan, "Poem For My Love."

June Jordan

Okay, okay. Before this list gets too bogged down with the works of dead white people like an antiquated Ivy League course, we need to talk about June Jordan. Jordan was a trailblazing author who identified as bi — and defended her identity hard — way before her death in 2002. “Poem For My Love” is just one quick selection from this prolific writer, but it’s a good place to start.

5) Countee Cullen, "Heritage."

Countee Cullen

A towering giant of the Harlem Renaissance, Countee Cullen’s work was noted for being celebrated in both black and white cultures of the time. From his youth growing up in a house that was a center for national black politics to attending the mostly-white schools (at the time) of NYU and Harvard, Cullen created a sensibility that allowed him and his work to circulate and find high regard in both Harlem culture and white academic circles. Much of his work, such as “Heritage,” explores the meaning and desire behind African and black art. While he was married to women twice, Cullen also had multiple male lovers throughout his life; “Heritage” was dedicated to Harold Jackman, one of his longtime partners.

6) Marilyn Hacker, "Glose."

Marilyn Hacker

Because poetry is a living tradition, I thought it would be fitting to close out with a living poet. Hacker is an English professor at the City College of New York; her poetry has won scores and scores of awards over the decades. In case you have any doubt as to whether any of these poets were bi, Hacker literally uses the term in “Glose.”

Well, there you have it, folks! Of course, there are many (many) other bi poets out there, but I just wanted to give everyone a taste of the queerness available.

I hope you enjoy the sampling I’ve curated for you. May it inspire you to go seek out other bi poets.

Bigstock/Krakenimages.com

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