Lesbian Poetry Retrospective Part II


As our first poetry retrospective revealed, it is challenging to compile a comprehensive list of great lesbian and bisexual poets — and the reason is a good one: There are a wealth of choices from all around the world, and from different moments in history.

Certainly there are plenty more that deserve to be featured here, but these next 10 poets continue to show the diversity and brilliance that exists within the category of “lesbian and bisexual poetry.”

Hilda Doolittle (H.D.) (1886–1961)

Bisexual poet Hilda Doolittle, known as H.D., is celebrated for her avant-garde style, which distinguished her from the more sentimental nature of the late Victorian era, and for her contributions to the imagist movement.

Leaving her Pennsylvania roots, H.D. traveled to Europe to develop her voice and to start her literary career. She was engaged to fellow poet Ezra Pound at one point, though the relationship was complicated when she became involved with a woman named Frances Josepha Gregg.

Throughout her life, H.D. continued to have affairs with both men and women, though her long-term partner was Annie Winifred Ellerman. The consequences of her relationship with Ellerman were significant, and the women referred to each other as “cousins” to prevent suspicion.

H.D. explored her relationships with women more in her novels (published posthumously) than in her poetry. Nonetheless, her sexuality was a significant source of inspiration for all of her work.

The following poem was published in Hymen in 1921.

“At Baia”

I should have thought

in a dream you would have brought
some lovely, perilous thing,
orchids piled in a great sheath,
as who would say (in a dream),
“I send you this,
who left the blue veins
of your throat unkissed.”

Why was it that your hands
(that never took mine),
your hands that I could see
drift over the orchid-heads
so carefully,
your hands, so fragile, sure to lift
so gently, the fragile flower-stuff–
ah, ah, how was it

You never sent (in a dream)
the very form, the very scent,
not heavy, not sensuous,
but perilous—perilous—
of orchids, piled in a great sheath,
and folded underneath on a bright scroll,
some word:

“Flower sent to flower;
for white hands, the lesser white,
less lovely of flower-leaf,”


“Lover to lover, no kiss,
no touch, but forever and ever this.”

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