100 Queer Poems ed. by Mary Jean Chan and Andrew McMillan

100 Queer Poems is an anthology of, as the title suggests, 100 poems from across the twentieth and twenty-first century that evoke queerness in some way, with the introductions by each editor exploring some of the definitions and ideas behind this concept. Split into seven sections, the poems follow a range of topics and styles, with some in translation, so there’s likely to be something for most people to enjoy, regardless of what sort of poetry you prefer.

For me, I found myself often most drawn to poems by poets I’ve already read (Mary Jean Chan, Matthew Haigh, Peter Scalpello, Richard Scott, Danez Smith), which possibly suggests that I’m already good at finding the poetry I like, and it was nice to read various poets together. I found myself drawn into the collection and accidentally stayed up too late reading it all in one go, almost in suspense for what poem would come next. I would like to have a physical copy (I read the book in PDF form) to use as a proper anthology, to flick through and dog ear and find that specific poem you want to read again at that moment.

Probably my favourite poem in the collection is one I think I’ve read before, Harry Josephine Giles’ ‘May a transsexual hear a bird?’, which I don’t think will ever stop being such a powerful poem and one that strikes a real message about poetry and what can be in it, offering with that an interesting commentary on what should or could be included in any collection of queer poetry. Surprisingly, I also found myself really drawn to the ability to reread Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’, a poem I’ve read a lot but not recently, in the context of poems from a range of decades, but especially alongside a lot of modern poetry. Some other poems that stood out to me were ‘Go Away and Then Come Back by Martha Sprackland, ‘I See That Lilith Hath Been with Thee Again’ by Shivanee Ramlochan, and ‘Ganymede’ by Jericho Brown.

As the introductions touch upon, it is refreshing to see a major publisher bringing out such an anthology, which feels like the sort of book that all queer poets and poetry fans need a copy of, both as something to return to and as a representation of a current moment (which the acknowledgements suggest, referring to the idea of there being another one of these in ten years). As with any anthology, people are going to prefer different poems or wonder why certain things weren’t included, but it is a great chance to survey some of the queer poetry out there from the past 100 years or so. It’s a jumping off point rather than a closed book, as any good anthology should be, and I think it just being readily available and visible is still important.