Five Gay Poets and Playwrights for LGBT History Month
Questia Honors LGBT History Month With Community’s Most Researched Poets and Playwrights
Gay rights have come a long way over the years, so Questia (www.questia.com), the premier online research tool for students, is honoring LGBT History Month by sharing a few interesting facts on the gay community’s five most researched poets and playwrights. In addition, Questia has opened up its library to make the reference works on the poets cited below free for a whole month.
Allen Ginsberg: A self-proclaimed “novelist in the making,” Ginsberg is remembered for writing about taboo topics and alternative form of sexuality and was also a leading figure in the Beat Generation, which was a group of post-World War II writers and poets who helped introduce a liberalized culture. Ginsberg vigorously opposed sexual repression and was an early proponent of freedom for gay people, expressing himself and his beliefs openly within his poetry. [Raskin, Jonah. American Scream: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and the Making of the Beat Generation. University of California Press: 2004]
W.H. Auden: One of the greatest writers of the 20th Century, Auden penned nearly 400 poems throughout his lifetime and is credited with being “The Modern Poet” for his use of regular stanzas. To avoid persecution in Nazi Germany for his sexual orientation, Auden married the daughter of a fellow writer in a marriage of convenience, but later met poet Chester Kallman who would become his lifelong companion. [Bucknell, Katherine, et al. ‘In Solitude, for Company’: W.H. Auden After 1940. Clarendon Press: 1995]
Gertrude Stein: The author of one of the earliest coming out stories, Things as They Are, Stein based the book on a three-person romantic affair she joined while studying at John Hopkins University. As Stein became more involved in the homosexual community, she authored essays such as “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene,” which is one of the first homosexual revelation stories to be published, however historians believe many of the references were missed by readers at the time due to it being one of the first published works to use the word “gay.” [Gygax, Franziska. Gender and Genre in Gertrude Stein. Greenwood Press: 1998]
Frank O’Hara: A member of the New York School of Poetry, Frank O’Hara is known for both his groundbreaking works during his lifetime as well as posthumous works. Many of O’Hara’s poems followed an “I do this, I do that” format that invoked emotion and declared a moment, with works such as “Second Avenue” delivering a brash and avant-garde side. Many of his pieces were influenced by Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism. [Smith, Hazel. Hyperscapes in the Poetry of Frank O’Hara. Liverpool University Press: 2000]
Adrienne Rich: Rich was an American poet, essayist and feminist and is credited with bringing the oppression of women and lesbians to the forefront of poetic discourse. She became actively involved in the New Left and supported anti-war, civil rights and feminist causes. Rich’s style and subject matter earned her a National Medal of Arts, which she declined in protest to the House of Representatives voting to end funding for the National Endowment of Arts. [Scanlon, Jennifer. Significant American Feminists. Greenwood Press: 1999]
Oscar Wilde: Born in Ireland in 1854, Wilde was a self-proclaimed aesthete. His various poems, short stories, fairy tales, plays, dialogues and novels are some of the most highly regarded and notorious works of the nineteenth-century. Wilde achieved public success as a comic playwright, crowned by The Importance of Being Earnest in 1895 (Murray and Wilde 1). In that same year, Wilde was tried and found guilty of “homosexual offenses.” After his imprisonment, he wrote the poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, which is one of his most famous works. [Murray, Isobel, ed. Oscar Wilde: The Major Works. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Questia. Web]
Tennessee Williams: Beginning in Mississippi and known as Thomas Lanier Williams, Tennessee Williams was born in an Episcopal rectory and was doted on by his grandmother, grandfather (an Episcopal priest), mother and sister. It wasn’t until after college that he took on the name “Tennessee” and decided to become a writer. Much of what the public knew about his personal life was orchestrated by Williams himself, including the year he was born. “His devil-may-care attitude, bringing him fame and fortune as a playwright of sexuality and violence, really was a rebellion against his Puritan upbringing. Deep down, he was an intensely serious writer who saw his creativity as a gift and writing as a vocation” (Tischler 1). [Tischler, Nancy M. Student Companion to Tennessee Williams. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. Questia. Web.]
Edward Albee: Albee was born in March of 1928 and was the adopted son of Reed A. and Frances Cotter Albee of New York. Albee’s contribution to the theatre community has not gone un-noticed. He has received three Pulitzer Prizes, one of which was for Three Tall Women. “In 2002, Albee won the Tony Award for Best Play for The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? Through it all, Albee has not missed a step, continuing to teach, direct, and write new plays” (Mann 1). Some of his most famous works include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Delicate Balance, The Zoo Story and The Lady from Dubuque. [Mann, Bruce J. "Introduction." Edward Albee: A Casebook. Ed. Bruce J. Mann. New York: Routledge, 2003. 1-5. Questia. Web.]
Tony Kushner: Kushner was born in New York to parents who were symphony musicians. At age two, the family moved to New Orleans after they inherited a lumber business, but Kushner returned to New York to attend college. He attended Columbia College and received a bachelor’s degree in medieval studies—his evident love for history carried over into some of his greatest works. He also received a Masters of fine Arts degree from New York University (NYU). “In his undergraduate and graduate years, he saw as many plays in Manhattan as he possibly could. During these years, he was in therapy to try to change his sexual orientation, but in 1981, he called his mother from a pay phone in New York to tell her he was gay” (Nelson 248). Some of his most famous works include Angels in America, Slavs! and Homebody/Kabul. [Wolf, Janet S. "Tony Kushner (1956–)." Contemporary Gay American Poets and Playwrights : An A-to-Z Guide. Ed. Emmanuel S. Nelson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003. 246-259. Questia. Web.]
Noël Coward: Coward was so influential that the name “Coward” has become synonymous with an English style. The style is reflected in silk gowns, sophisticated cigarette holders, upper-class accents, wit and sex appeal. “His plays reinforced image, and Coward was not averse to audiences confusing him with his leading male heterosexual characters” (Duerden 81). Coward’s humor was found and written within common phrases that were perfectly timed, so the delivery itself was funny, not the words he used. Some of his most notable works include I’ll Leave It to You, Hay Fever, Easy Virtue and Private Lives. [Duerden, Sarah. "Noël Coward (1899-1973)." British Playwrights, 1880-1956: A Research and Production Sourcebook. Ed. William W. Demastes andKatherine E. Kelly. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. 81-96. Questia. Web.]
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