In the past two days, I have read three books written by lesbian poets: the women who hate me by Dorothy Allison, The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance by Audre Lorde, and Coal by Audre Lorde. Lorde and Allison talk about sexuality and class in very different ways. Allison is much more harsh and crass than Lorde is. While Lorde talks about similar issues, she does so in a much more gentle and poetic way. Where Allison talks about dildos, "cuntsucking," and fucking, Lorde alludes only to the scent of her lover left on her fingers. Where Allison gives very brutal images of poverty and violence, Lorde is much more gentle with similar ideas. Both also express discomfort in conforming to the traditional female role of housewife, Lorde with sarcasm and Allison with examples of women trapped in a role. At any rate, I recommend all three books.
I have been fascinated by how lesbian poets express their sexuality since my first semester of graduate school when one of my major professors gave me a stack of books by lesbian poets and told me I needed to learn to express my sexuality in my writing without fear. There was quite a variety in that stack of books in how sexuality was expressed. Some were very direct and allowed their sexuality to play a large role in their work. Some kept their sexuality as a much smaller part of their work and concentrated on other issues. It was fascinating. While I was intimidated at first by the idea of allowing my sexuality to influence my work, I have become much more comfortable with it. I am always negotiating how much I want it to influence my work, however. I think it just depends on what I'm writing. I have found that a lot of my personal essays and fiction revolves around my sexuality in that some of the most profound struggles in my life have revolved around my sexuality. How could I not write about that? My poetry, however, while influenced by my sexuality certainly, is less directly tied to that aspect of myself. I find that fascinating, and I have no idea why that is the case.