/ 28 June 2024

Versopolis Podcast #17: LGBT Poetry

Joelle Taylor & Pino Pograjc

Homoerotic poetry boasts a rich and extensive history, stretching from the works of Sappho, Virgil and Michelangelo to the oft-questioned sexuality of Shakespeare. In the modern era, poets like Federico Garcia Lorca, Allen Ginsberg, Brane Mozetič and many more have continued to explore homoerotic themes, captivating readers worldwide. As we progress into the 21st century, LGBT poetry remains vibrant and resilient, though the fight for acceptance and equality persists.

Joelle Taylor, a UK-based playwright and poet, says, ‘Once there are rainbow flags on banks and you can buy gay sandwiches,’ she’s not sure there is true tolerance everywhere. ‘Rainbow flags used to denote places of safety,’ she continues, but now they are hijacked by the identity politics of a hyper-consumerist society. Pino Pograjc, a young and upcoming poet from Kamnik, agrees that corporations are out to get the queer dollar and worries that the particularisation of queer activism undermines the struggle as a whole. He believes queer spaces should not merely be devoted to partying and dancing, but also offer opportunities for thriving literary creativity.

Examining the poetry of both Joelle and Pino, we see that the concept of the body is fundamental to Joelle’s work. Her cycle of seven cantos delves into the life of a young lesbian, marked by sexual abuse, loss and protest. In contrast, Pino’s minimalist poetry explores the quest for meaningful connections in a world lacking intimacy and understanding.

How can heterosexuals offer support to the LGBT community? ‘Read LGBT poetry,’ Pino suggests, adding that if you’re only going to read things you can relate to, that misses the point of literature. ‘That’s exactly why we write,’ he says and continues, ‘not only because of our innate need to express ourselves, but also to show this experience that might be foreign to some people.’

Joelle Taylor is a London-based poet and playwright, author of four collections of poetry. Her collection C+NTO & Othered Poems won the 2021 T. S. Eliot Prize and the 2022 Polari Book Prize for LGBT authors. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2022.

Pino Pograjc from Kamnik is a poet with two published poetry collections. His first poetry collection Trgetanje was awarded the best debut prize at the Slovenian book fair. In June 2024 he was awarded the Mlado pero (Young Pen) award for best young poet awarded by the Slovenian newspaper Delo.