Friday, February 20, 2009

Bisexual Poetry

Queer culture online encyclopedia opens its article on bisexual literature discussing one of the genre's most noticeable features--its invisibility.
Although experiences that can be termed "bisexual" appear in works throughout literary history, they are rarely discussed from that perspective. Instead, explicit scenes or implicit evidence of erotic activity in which a single character is involved with members of both the same and other sex is usually considered as evidence indicating a primary sexual orientation that is either hetero- or homosexual. The continued reliance in modern Anglo-American and European culture upon binary systems of classification and identification has meant the practical erasure of bisexuality, as such, from most works of literary and cultural analysis.
As it happens, two of my favorite poets have been subject to bi-invisibility: Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg.

Gay for Today mentions male and female lovers that Whitman may have had.

Here's one critic addressing the bisexuality in Ginsberg's tribute to Whitman.
Perhaps the most successful of the poems of bisexual celebration is the famous 'Love Poem on Theme by Whitman.' Here, as Ginsberg imagines lying between bride and groom, and making love to both, he avoids his own and Whitman's frequent error, of alternating references to man and woman, which beg to be contrasted (as above). Here, he mixes references to the two genders into a polymorphous whole, into which defining characteristics only occasionally intrude. The result is an admirable expression of that human condition to which neither of the limiting epithets 'homosexual' and 'heterosexual' applies. The emphasis is on shared physical detail, such as shoulders, breasts, buttocks, lips, hands, and bellies -- apart from one reference to a 'cock in the darkness driven tormented and attacking', but even this could be either the poet's or the groom's. An orifice is left uncategorised as a 'hole'. At the climax, when 'white come' flows 'in the swirling sheets', the three seem to merge even into their surroundings, as well as into each other. However, this was an early, Utopian piece, somewhat undermined by the later poems of distaste for female flesh. In order to come any closer to the distant ideal, which has remained unchanged since the writing of 'Love Poem on Theme by Whitman', Ginsberg had first to pass through the matter of the sexism of sexual orientation. The love poem establishes a goal, but the poems of distaste were calculated to show how far he still was from it.
To find more bi writers, artists and other personalities, check out Wikipedia's list of bisexual people.

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