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 were born before 1950. 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 very, very 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Angelina Weld Grimké (1880–1958). A small selection of her work is available in anthologies by Emma Donoghue, Maureen Honey, and Countee Cullen.
  • 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.
  • 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!)
  • Elizabeth Bishop (1911–1979). (Thanks to nerdswillruletheworld for suggesting Bishop — I had no idea she was a lesbian!)
  • H.D. (1913–1938), a modernist, lived openly as a bisexual woman.
  • Naomi Replansky (b. 1918), whose Collected Poems are available through Black Sparrow Books.
  • Adrienne Rich (1929–2012).
  • U. A. Fanthorpe (1929–2009). Selections have been edited by her partner, R. V. Bailey.
  • Audre Lorde (1934–1992).
  • Judy Grahn (b. 1940).
  • Marilyn Hacker (b. 1942), whose “Ballade of Ladies Lost and Found” should be required reading.
  • Pat Parker (1944–1989).
  • Minnie Bruce Pratt (b. 1946).
  • Cheryl Clarke (b. 1947).
  • Jewelle Gomez (b. 1948), author of The Gilda Stories, has also published two volumes of poetry: Name Poems (2015) and Oral Tradition (Firebrand Books, 1995).

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