Vintage Sapphic Poets

This is a resource list that I originally compiled for my Tumblr site. It is an extensive (though by no means complete) catalogue of lesbian and bi+ women poets who are no longer living. Additions will be welcome!

  • Sappho (ca. 620–550 B.C.), obviously. Ancient Greek. I’d recommend Mary Barnard’s translation.
  • Bieiris de Romans (13th century). She wrote a single lyric in Old Occitan, but my translation is available online in Lunch Ticket.
  • Aemilia Lanyer (1569–1645), a Renaissance woman writer whose poetry is homosocial if not simply sapphic. Her “Farewell to Cookeham” is available in Danielle Clarke’s edition, among others.
  • Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651–1695). Many of her poems are blazons, which celebrate women’s bodies, though very idealized ones. Mexican Spanish, 17th century. I’d recommend the translations by Margaret Sayers Peden.
  • Wu Tsao, or Wu Zao (1799–1863).
  • Grace Greenwood (née Sarah Jane Clarke Lippincott, 1823–1904). (Thanks to Kim Roberts for adding Grace Greenwood!)
  • Emily Dickinson (1830–1886). Wild nights, anyone?
  • Christina Rossetti (1830–1894). Famous for her sapphic poem “Goblin Market.”
  • Michael Field, a pseudonym for two women, Katharine Bradley (1846–1914) and her niece Edith Cooper (1862–1913), who lived & wrote in 19th-c. and early 20th-c. Britain. A selection of their work has been edited by Marion Thain and Ana Parejo Vadillo.
  • Amy Levy (1861–1889), whose poem “To Lallie (Outside the British Museum)” is available in Emma Donoghue’s anthology.
  • Charlotte Mew (1869–1928). Her collected poems have been edited by Val Warner.
  • Amy Lowell (1874–1925). A selection of her work has been edited by Melissa Bradshaw and Adrienne Munich. The volume includes “Astigmatism,” a poem against Ezra Pound.
  • Gertrude Stein (1874–1946).
  • Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson (1875–1935). (Thanks to Kim Roberts for adding Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson!)
  • Natalie Clifford Barney (1876–1972), salon hostess, lover of Renée Vivien, and writer in her own right. (Thanks to Kim Roberts for reminding me to add Natalie Clifford Barney)!
  • Renée Vivien (née Pauline Mary Tarn, 1877–1909). Active during the first decade of the twentieth century. Politically progressive and stylistically anachronistic. Wrote in French. My translations are available through Headmistress Press and Amazon.
  • Edith Sitwell (1877–1964). Included in a list of “Lesbian Poets” in Dell Richards’s Lesbian Lists (1990).
  • Yosano Akiko (1878–1942). Included in a list of “Lesbian Poets” in Dell Richard’s Lesbian Lists (1990). See also the biographic sketch in Kenneth Rexroth & Ikuko Atsumi’s Women Poets of Japan (1977).`
  • Yamakawa Tomiko (1879–1909). See the biographic sketch in Kenneth Rexroth & Ikuko Atsumi’s Women Poets of Japan (1977).`
  • Angelina Weld Grimké (1880–1958). A small selection of her work is available in anthologies by Emma Donoghue, Maureen Honey, and Countee Cullen.
  • Georgia Douglass Johnson (1880–1966)? Included in a list of “Early Black Lesbian and Bisexual Writers” in Dell Richards’s compilation of Lesbian Lists (1990).
  • Judith Teixeira (1880–1959). Newly edited in Portuguese by Claudia Pazos Alonso and Fabio Mario da Silva (2015) and by Martim de Gouveia e Sousa (2016).
  • Marie-Madeleine (née Gertrud Günther, 1881–1944). Her poetry has been newly edited by Ronald K. Siegel and translated from the German by Eric A. Bye.
  • Sara Teasdale (1884–1933). (Thanks to Kim Roberts for adding Sara Teasdale!)
  • H.D. (née Hilda Doolittle, 1886–1961), a modernist, lived openly as a bisexual woman.
  • Marianne Moore (1887–1972). I, too, dislike her.
  • Gabriela Mistral (née Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, 1889–1957). A Chilean poet-diplomat whose translator, Doris Dana, was also her lover.
  • Djuna Barnes (1892–1982). A modernist. Famous for her novel Nightwood. Her poetry has been edited by Rebecca Loncraine.
  • Marina Tsvetaeva (1892–1941). Wrote love poems (in Russian) to women and men. I’d recommend reading the English translations by Angela Livingstone, if you can find them.
  • Edna St.-Vincent Millay (1892–1950). Her collected poems were edited by her sister, Norma Millay.
  • Lucía Sánchez Saornil (1895–1970). Anarchist, founder of Mujeres Libres. Her early poems and essays (1913–1933) have been edited by Nuria Capdevila-Argüelles.
  • Elsa Gidlow (1898–1985), who, as poet-warrior writes, “published along with Roswell Mills the first Gay and Lesbian newspaper in North America in 1918. She also published […] lesbian love poetry (On A Grey Thread) in 1923. Not to mention 13 books and an autobiography in 1985.” (Thanks to poet-warrior for adding Gidlow to this list!)
  • Marguérite Yourcenar (1903–1987). Wrote in French.
  • Gladys Mae Casely Hayford, aka Aquah Laluah (1904–1950)? Anthologist Maureen Honey describes her as having “a strong identification with women” (229).
  • Mae V. Cowdery (1909–1953)? The biography in Maureen Honey’s anthology Shadowed Dreams (2003) seems suggestive: “A photograph of her published by The Crisis in 1927 as one of that year’s prizewinners reveals a young woman […] with a bow tie, tailored jacket and short, slicked-down hair. […] Her poetry from the early thirties indicates she had a daughter, but no mention is made of a marriage in biographical material about her” (226).
  • Pauli Murray (1910–1985). (Thanks to Kim Roberts for adding Pauli Murray!)
  • Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979). (Thanks to nerdswillruletheworld for suggesting Bishop — I had no idea she was a lesbian!)
  • Adrienne Rich (1929–2012).
  • U. A. Fanthorpe (1929–2009). Selections have been edited by her partner, R. V. Bailey.
  • Audre Lorde (1934–1992), “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.”
  • June Jordan (1936–2002).
  • Beth Brant (1941–2015), of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte First Nation. Some of her poems appear in an anthology edited by Janice Gould (see below) with a foreword by Lee Maracle and an afterword by Deborah Miranda.
  • Lee Lally (1943–1986, née Carol Lee Fisher), founder of Some Of Us Press. (Thanks to Kim Roberts for adding Lee Lally!)
  • Pat Parker (1944–1989).
  • Janice Gould (1949–2019), a Koyangk’auwi (Konkow, Concow) Maidu poet, writer, and scholar.
  • Maria-Mercè Marçal (1952–1998). Wrote in Catalan.
  • Venus Thrash (1969–2021), a Black lesbian poet of Washington, D.C. (Thanks to Kim Roberts for adding Venus Thrash!)
  • Vittoria repetto (d. 2020). Native New Yorker from Greenwich Village. Second-generation Italian-American.

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