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,"

or

"Lover to

lover, no kiss,
no touch, but
forever and ever this."

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