A History of Gay Poetry, 1: A Bare Canvas
The history of gay poetry lives in obscurity as it has only been in recent times and notably in the western world where it has emerged from dark isolation and condemnation. It would be impossible for me to expand the subject to include trans gender and lesbians as my personal experience is confined to that of being a gay man. This is not to devalue the sexuality of others rather to focus on what I am conversant with. Homosexuality has been an integral part of humanity since time immemorial. It has been the subject of intense persecution and prejudice. The Judeo Christian scriptures, along with those of Islam, have taken a condemnatory approach thus affecting the laws of many countries. Countless men have been imprisoned and even tortured. Only in the 1960´s did the British Government repeal the law thus enabling two men, as consenting adults, to express their love and then only in private. Within very recent times gay men have been taken by ISIS to the tops of high buildings and thrown off for the entertainment of those assembled below. The law has changed, attitudes are changing but prejudice continues to exist, often fuelled by religious belief or bigotry.
Gay poets have existed for centuries but were unable to express themselves freely in case of a hostile response. As recent as the last century gay poets concealed their sexual orientation, wrote in guarded or camouflaged language. The time has hopefully arrived when this particular genre can be revealed and the literary achievements of gay poets be made fully available and celebrated.
Same sex love is largely misunderstood as the hetrosexual world has little or no knowledge of it. To draw a complete parallel between gay love and hetrosexual love is unachieveable. Two men together react and respond differently to a man and a woman. This in no way diminishes the quality of their relationship but only makes it different. Many gay men carry the legacy of the past and require some guidance as to how to conduct a relationship, how to appropriately behave. It is all highly complex and made increasingly so by a troubled history.
The list of gay poets and their remarkable contribution to the world of literature cannot be underestimated. Men we never thought of as being gay, let alone poets or writers, have astonished the world by openly declaring their sexuality. The effect of these confessions has done a great deal in the emancipation of gay people in all walks of life. They have been joined by actors, musicians and many other professions.
It is difficult to know where to start and with whom as the past has drawn a veil and made made research almost impossible. In my forthcoming articles I shall endeavour to introduce some literary giants, providing examples of their work and, the way they made careful use of the language. These were men of immense courage and integrity. Their talents lay not solely in gay poetry but in all manner of poetry, from the voice of dissent to the voice of description; from the tragey of war to the many forms of love found throughout humanity.
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