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.
  • 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 (b. 1944).
  • 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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