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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Dr. Ruth Jennison

Second Advisor

Dr. Peter Gizzi

Third Advisor

Dr. Henry Abelove

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature



This dissertation approaches the work of three canonical post-war gay poets in an effort to construct a discourse on sexuality and the minoritized writer that argues the lyric functions as a historically contingent, politically invested, value-laden genre in which some subjectivities might be prohibited from or find their expression made to signify in ways that re-inscribe oppression. The first chapter theorizes the possiblitites of a gay poetic and analyzes the gay poet’s subjectivity as one obsessed with the ways in which he is marginalized due to expression. In the chapter on Frank O’Hara, the poet is shown to disfigure the lyric through the unliterary to allow it to speak for the perverse. In the chapter on Jack Spicer, the poet’s concept of ‘we alone’ is shown to outmaneuver subjugating identificatory structures. The chapter on John Wieners shows how his queer failure frustrates the normative lyric’s reception to produce the very marginalizing the gay writer must resist. The final chapter analyzes the poetry published in the years following the beginning of “gay liberation” (1969-1973) and suggests some poets relied on lyric expressivity in their work; others sought to fashion a poetics that married graphic content with radical experimentation and thus produced a more politically and poetically complex liberationist text.