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Credit: Composite by David Rice/U.S. Copyright Office, using licensed Shutterstock images

Celebrating Pride Month: Poets Who Explore Identity and Authenticity Through Creative Expression

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Each year, Pride Month is an opportunity to reflect on the rich tapestry of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) history and culture. Originating from the Stonewall riots of 1969, Pride Month has grown into a global celebration of love, acceptance, and resilience for the LGBTQ+ community.

One aspect of LGBTQ+ culture is its literary contributions, including poetry. For the LGBTQ+ community, poetry has served as a powerful tool for empowerment and visibility. The works of poets like Walt Whitman, Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Alice Walker, and Allen Ginsberg, among many others, have challenged societal norms, shattered stereotypes, inspired creativity, and provided representation to countless individuals navigating their own identities.

Credit: Composite by David Rice/U.S. Copyright Office, using licensed Shutterstock images

Poetry and Copyright

Poetry as a literary work may be eligible for copyright protection. The Copyright Office offers resources to authors on registering poetry with the Office, which creates a public record of copyright ownership and provides authors with the ability to enforce their rights against infringement.

Featured Creators

Now, let’s shine a spotlight on three LGBTQ+ poets whose contributions to literature and connection to the copyright system exemplify the power of poetry as an artform for inclusion and cultural preservation.

Chen Chen

Chen Chen, a gay Chinese American poet and essayist living in Rochester, New York, has garnered acclaim for his exploration of identity, family, and queerness in his works. His debut collection of poems, When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, was registered with the Office and underscores the universal themes of love, longing, and acceptance through the lens of Asian American, immigrant, and queer perspectives. He received the Thom Gun Award for Gay Poetry, the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize, and he has two Pushcart Prizes and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and United States Artists.

In an interview with PEN America, Chen Chen discussed how his work helps shape his own identity, saying, “I often feel that I don’t know how I truly feel until I try writing it out. And that process might turn into a poem, or it might take another literary form or just stay as a piece of journaling. All types of writing are valuable to me, whether they end up being something published or not.” In a post shared on Instagram, he reflected on literary influences such as former U.S. Poet Laureate Louise Glück who, “shaped my desire to become a poet in the first place. Glück showed me that poetry is a vocation, one to undertake or to practice with the greatest sense of mystery and awe, and with a commitment to restless inquiry.”

Jos Charles

Jos Charles is a transgender poet in Long Beach, California, whose work challenges traditional notions of language and gender. Her critically acclaimed collection, feeld, which Charles registered with the Office, employs a unique linguistic style to deconstruct and reimagine the English language, offering a profound exploration of trans embodiment, identity, and the power of self-expression. feeld won the 2017 National Poetry Series and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Charles is also the founding-editor of THEM, the first trans literary journal in the United States.

When speaking with Lamba Literary about the motivation to create a work like feeld, Charles said, “I wanted a book that would’ve made a twelve-year-old Jos, Tolkien book in-hand, like poetry.” In an interview with Frontier Poetry, Charles mentions several poets she drew inspiration from who, “have works engaged with the re-spelling of words, the time of words, working outward toward the world from there. I draw this narrative line less to put feeld into a lineage as to say these authors were, and remain, my first and primary support—I looked towards their work, what they initiated, to find technique, drive, and precedent.”

Cheryl Clarke

Cheryl Clarke, a Black feminist lesbian poet, has been instrumental in amplifying the voices of American Black LGBTQ+ communities through her work. In an interview with Chronogram, she discussed feeling inspired by the Black Arts Movement saying, “I saw the impact of poetry in changing ideas, changing people’s minds. It certainly changed mine,” she says, citing Amiri Baraka, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Lucille Clifton, and Gwendolyn Brooks as influences. “They showed me the way, enabled me to give voice to my writing ideas.”

In addition to authoring several collections of poetry, including Narratives: Poems in the Tradition of Black Women, registered with the Office in 1983, she also published After Mecca: Women Poets and the Black Arts Movement, registered with the Office in 2005. Clarke has been honored for her powerful contributions to literature, including receiving the 2013 Kessler Award from the CUNY Center of LGBTQ+ Studies for her significant influence on the field of LGBTQ+ studies.

Credit: Composite by David Rice/U.S. Copyright Office, using licensed Shutterstock images

Copyright for All

Contributions of poets like Chen Chen, Jos Charles, and Cheryl Clarke, remind us that poetry tells important stories that enrich our culture and inspire more creativity among authors from all communities. The Copyright Office is focused on broadening awareness of what the copyright system encompasses and how to participate in it. A cornerstone of our strategic plan is Copyright for All, and the Office is dedicated to making the copyright system as understandable and accessible to as many members of the public as possible, including individuals, small entities, and historically underserved communities.

Beyond Pride Month, let us continue to celebrate the diversity of voices within the LGBTQ+ community and recognize the enduring legacy of LGBTQ+ poetry in our shared cultural heritage.

Want to learn more about LGBTQ+ history? Be sure to take a look at LGBTQIA+ Studies: A Resource Guide and read the blog post Pride at 50: From Stonewall to Today.

Comments (5)

  1. What about W. H. Auden?

  2. Thank you for this introduction to these wonderful poets! I look forward to learning more about them!

  3. I had some music . Can someone find the music? (feeling like I know you) (IF). etc?

    • Thank you for your comment. Please contact the Public Information Office for assistance by email at [email protected] or by phone at (877) 476–0778.

  4. Merci

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