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Top Ten Books of Contemporary Lesbian Poetry

This list, originally compiled for and published by Flashlight Worthy Books in April 2006, is available here:

1. Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons
Marilyn Hacker

2. The Dream of a Common Language: Poems, 1974 - 1977
Adrienne Rich

3. The Black Unicorn: Poems
Audre Lorde

4. Crimes Against Nature
Minnie Bruce Pratt

5. All-American Girl
Robin Becker

6. Unraveling at the Name
Jenny Factor

7. Fear of Subways
Maureen Seaton

8. Beginning with O
Olga Broumas

9. Trying to Be an Honest Woman
Judith Barrington

10. The Work of a Common Woman: Poems 1964-1977
Judy Grahn


a. There are so many excellent books by Adrienne Rich. Of course, the collected poems in The Fact of a Door Frame, Poems 1950-2001 is an excellent choice if you are just discovering her work. As the others on the list are single volumes, I selected The Dream of a Common Language which contains the extraordinary "Twenty-One Love Poems" by Rich.

b. Similarly, picking a book by Audre Lorde is like picking among beloved children. The Black Unicorn is, however, one of hers that I truly cherish.

c. Crimes Against Nature is the Lamont Poetry Prize-winning collection by Minnie Bruce Pratt. It is a chronicle of her losing custody of her two sons as a result of living openly as a lesbian. I included it on the list because of it's award-winnning status and the political significance of the narrative in these poems; my favorite collection of her is, however, We Say We Love Each Other.

d. I desperately wanted to include American Primitive by Mary Oliver. It is a book that I adore by an author I treasure. I excluded it from this list because while I believe it is wildly erotic and sexual, it is not openly lesbian and Oliver has not been throughout most of her career.

e. Obviously, these are contemporary lesbian poets, defined in my mind as women writing from the lesbian consciousness that emerged post-Stonewall. The possibilities for a future list of books of poetry by lesbian poets that include a broader historical context remain.