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literature

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Poetry: Gay Male  
 
page: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  

A relatively short chapter on "The Nineteenth Century" (twenty-one pages) includes thirteen sections of Tennyson's In Memoriam (6, 7, 12, 13, 18, 22, 27, 49, 69, 78, 90, 125, and 128); single items by Edward Fitzgerald, Robert Browning, and William Morris; and, finally, poems by the Uranians William Johnson Cory and the Rev. E. E. Bradford.

This is one of the collection's key (but low-key) moments, as the editors shift from major writers in the general canon to minor, all-but-forgotten writers whose poetry is of interest for only thematic rather than aesthetic and qualitative reasons. Not to put too fine a point on it, Cory and Bradford are here because they were queer.

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The eighth chapter, on "The Moderns," is 138 pages long and divided by Western nation: France (poetry by Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, fiction by Joris-Karl Huysmans and Marcel Proust, nonfiction by André Gide), the United States of America (Walt Whitman and Hart Crane; Herman Melville, Henry Thoreau, and Sherwood Anderson), Germany (only Stefan George), Greece (nine poems by Constantine Cavafy), and Britain.

The twelve chosen Whitman poems are "In Paths Untrodden," "For You 0 Democracy," "The Base of All Metaphysics," "Recorders Ages Hence," "When I Heard at the Close of the Day," "Behold This Swarthy Face," "I Saw in Louisiana a Live-oak Growing," "We Two Boys Together Clinging," "Here the Frailest Leaves of Me," "A Glimpse," "What Think You I Take My Pen in Hand," and "O You Whom I Often and Silently Come."

The British subsection starts with Edward Carpenter, quoting his poetry but not mentioning Ioläus. There follows a small pantheon of writers from the turn of the twentieth century: John Addington Symonds, Oscar Wilde, and Alfred Douglas, A. E. Housman, and Frederick Rolfe ("Baron Corvo").

Modernism's first representative is D. H. Lawrence, with fifteen pages of extracts from his fiction, but no poetry. Forrest Reid is granted nine pages, but Christopher Isherwood less than one. Stephen Spender is represented by five poems, George Barker by three, and Denton Welch by almost seven pages from his journals. However, W. H. Auden is briefly mentioned but never quoted. The chapter ends with single poems from F. T. Prince, William Plomer, John Lehmann, and editor Patrick Anderson himself.

The ninth chapter is a peculiar confection called "Exotic Encounters," a rather narrow anthology of fictional and factual prose accounts of European or white American travelers' encounters with the other, the foreigner.

Finally, chapter ten presents "The School Story" as if it were a significant and major subsection of our culture. (The chapter is only one page shorter than chapter seven, on the nineteenth century.) Apart from one Frenchman, Roger Peyrefitte, this section cites only British writers.

Thus, the anthology as a whole ends in eccentric anticlimax, giving little sense of a vibrant future for homosexual writing. It offers no inkling, for instance, of any poet in the United States after Hart Crane.

Stephen Coote's The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse (1983)

The first major attempt at a cross-cultural and trans-historical survey of poetry alone was The Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse, edited by Stephen Coote and published in 1983. In his introduction, Coote sets out his parameters--or rather, their lack--with blithe unconcern for the problems he is raising with every sentence.

He begins: "This is a collection of poems by and about gay people. It ranges in time and place from classical Athens to contemporary New York." He would like his book to be read primarily for pleasure, but also as "a history of the different ways in which homosexual people have been seen and have seen themselves."

The introduction's subsections follow a now fairly familiar historical path: "Ancient Greece," "Rome," "Lesbians in Classical Poetry," "The Making of Prejudice" (this covering the territory equivalent to Anderson and Sutherland's fourth chapter, "The Dark and Middle Ages"), "Renaissance and Enlightenment," "The Making of the 'Homosexual,'" and "Gay Today." The body of the anthology itself is not subdivided.

Of the main English-language poets who, by now, simply could not be left out of such a collection, Coote made the following selections: Shakespeare (sonnets 20, 29, 35, 36, 53, 55, 57, 60, 67, 87, 94, 104, 110, 116, and 144), Tennyson (In Memoriam, sections 7, 9, 13, 27, and 80), Whitman ("We Two Boys Together Clinging," "A Glimpse," "Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field One Night," "O Tan-Faced Prairie-Boy," and "The Beautiful Swimmer").

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