There have been gay poets—or, at least (if you prefer historical accuracy) poets who presented same-sex erotic passion—for as long as poetry has been written down; maybe longer. Think of Sappho, whose name has referred for centuries both to the idea of eros between women and to the ancient idea of lyric itself: think of what may be her single most famous poem, "He seems to me equal to a god, that man/ Who sits beside you," its first sentence a feint towards opposite-sex desire, its substance an homage to the young woman Sappho loves. Shakespeare's sonnets, most of them addressed to a comely young man, have inspired centuries of arguments about his erotic investment in, "the master-mistress of my passion." Walt Whitman insisted that he wrote for, and about, both women and men, but what records there are tell us that he loved men; he put his poems about same-sex love ("adhesiveness," as he called it) in a discrete segment of his lifework, Leaves of Grass, entitled "Calamus" (after the phallic plant of the same name): Whitman inspired what later became gay movements as his poetry circulated internationally—in England, Edward Carpenter and J. A. Symonds thought they had found in his work a model for gay Utopia. Federico Garcia Lorca's "Ode to Walt Whitman" called together, under Whitman's name, the stigmatized homosexual men of the Old and New World, trying to wring new lives from their frequent self-hate.
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