Cover image for Contemporary gay American poets and playwrights : an A-to-Z guide
Contemporary gay American poets and playwrights : an A-to-Z guide
Nelson, Emmanuel S. (Emmanuel Sampath), 1954-
Publication Information:
Westport, CT : Greenwood Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xv, 480 pages ; 27 cm
Reading Level:
1330 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS325 .C656 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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Gay presence is nothing new to American verse and theater. Homoerotic themes are discernible in American poetry as early as the 19th century, and identifiably gay characters appeared on the American stage more than 70 years ago. But aside from a few notable exceptions, gay artists of earlier generations felt compelled to avoid sexual candor in their writings. Conversely, most contemporary gay poets and playwrights are free from such constraints and have created a remarkable body of work. This reference is a guide to their creative achievements. Alphabetically arranged entries present 62 contemporary gay American poets and dramatists.

While the majority of included writers are younger artists who came of age in the post-Stonewall U.S., some are older authors whose work has continued or persisted into recent decades. A number of these writers are well known, including Edward Albee, Harvey Fierstein, and Allen Ginsberg. Others, such as Alan Bowne, Timothy Liu, and Robert O'Hara, merit wider recognition. Each entry is written by an expert contributor and includes a biography, a discussion of major works and themes, an overview of the author's critical reception, and primary and secondary bibliographies.

Author Notes

EMMANUEL S. NELSON is Professor of English at State University of New York College at Cortland. His previous books include African American Autobiographers (2002), African American Writers, 1745-1945 (2000), and Contemporary African American Novelists (1999), all available from Greenwood Press.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This handsome new guide to 62 gay male U.S. poets and playwrights complements Nelson's Contemporary Gay American Novelists: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (Greenwood, 1993), and together these compilations complement the award-winning Contemporary Lesbian Writers of the United States: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook (Greenwood, 1993). The poets and playwrights include well-known writers, such as Edward Albee, Allen Ginsberg, andames Merrill, but most are lesser known, especially in the broader world of literary studies. Some are no longer living (e.g.,ames Broughton, 1913-1999), but all are twentieth-century figures, many continuing into the twenty-first century. The contributors are mostly academics, but several are literary writers in their own right. The articles, arranged in alphabetical order, vary in length from 4 to 16 pages. They have a uniform format: biography, major works and themes, critical reception, and bibliography (first works of the poet or playwright by genre, followed by works about him). Citations are standard, except that monograph citations don't include pagination. The volume concludes with a general bibliography, an index, and a list of contributors with brief biographical information. The index is limited almost entirely to names of persons and titles of works, with very few subject entries (among them, AIDS, HIV, and Sadomasochism). This volume merits the same recommendation that RBB gave to Nelson's 1993 guide to novelists: "Nelson has done an excellent job in editing this book . . . which should be a welcome addition in all research libraries as well as other libraries where there is an interest in gay and lesbian culture." Many of these writers are not included in standard general literary reference sources, so this compilation's biographical, critical, thematic, and especially bibliographic information will be very helpful to students and scholars. -- RBB Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Nelson, the author or editor of such well received Greenwood titles as Contemporary African American Novelists and Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers, offers a small sampling of the achievements of 62 contemporary gay American poets and dramatists. "Contemporary" here means writers whose birth dates range from 1919 (e.g., Robert Duncan) to 1970 (e.g., Robert O'Hara), leading to the exclusion of Tennessee Williams (b. 1911) and Hart Crane (b. 1899) but the inclusion of Gore Vidal (b. 1925) and Frank O'Hara (1926-66). Contributed by some 35 academics and other writers, the entries each offer a concise biographical sketch, along with an overview of major works, a discussion of themes and critical reception, and primary and secondary bibliographies. Vidal himself famously rejected sexual categorization, insisting that writers are writers, not gay, African American, Jewish, or whatever-a perspective in direct opposition to this book's premise. But no matter what Vidal thinks (and this reviewer agrees with him), colleges across the country teach gay literature as a specific subject, and all libraries need a good trailblazer in this field. Scholarly in nature but accessible in style, Nelson's work serves its purpose well. It is regrettable only that the coverage doesn't stretch beyond the "contemporary" scene-but it is also logical, as many gay writers of earlier generations willfully omitted homosexual content in their work. All in all, a unique reference worthy of purchase.-Peter Dollard, Alma Coll. Lib., MI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Concern that his work might be an instrument in canon formation led Nelson (SUNY at Cortland) to include lesser-known artists whom he considers deserving of attention. World-class writers (James Merrill, Edward Albee) are here, but so are younger talents, among them the accomplished poet Timothy Liu, certain to become one of the most important writers of his generation. It is difficult to judge biographical compilations solely by who is included or excluded: omission could be traced to the failure of the contributor to submit the entry by deadline. In this case, "contemporary" adds to the uncertainty, since the preface gives no definition; why, for instance, is Martin Duberman missing? His plays were an important component of New York gay liberation culture of the late 1960s. Each of the 62 entries shares a standard structure: biography, major works and themes, critical reception, ending with biobibliographies. Reference departments interested in contemporary literature will want this book, which serves as a companion to Nelson's Contemporary Gay American Novelists (CH, Jul'93). ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All collections. D. S. Azzolina University of Pennsylvania

Table of Contents

Thomas DukesKaren C. BlansfieldCy DillonJames NajarianJack TurnerReginald ShepherdJeffery BeamSuzanne Hotte MassaTom SmithDaniel M. JaffeMichael J. EmeryNikolas HuotErnest J. SmithMichael R. SchiaviCarrie J. BodenReginald ShepherdGraham N. DrakeMichael R. SchiaviKarl L. StengerThomas DukesDaniel CrockerThomas DukesThomas S. HischakJeffery BeamErnest J. SmithGeorge KlawitterDouglas StewardDean ShackelfordTrevor A. SydneyLinda E. RosekransGeorge KlawitterCraig S. RichThomas L. LongJanet S. WolfJohn H. PearsonNikolas HuotD.S. LawsonTom SmithJames NajarianNathan G. TiptonKaren C. BlansfieldGeorge KlawitterNathan G. TiptonKenneth PoboDarcy A. ZabelD.S. LawsonJuda BennettD.S. LawsonReginald ShepherdKen CernigliaDouglas StewardJim Van BuskirkStephen Guy-BrayDavid A. BoxwellDean ShackelfordReginald ShepherdDean ShackelfordKen CernigliaThomas L. LongEmmanuel S. NelsonD.S. LawsonNikolas Huot
Prefacep. xiii
Edward Albee (1928- )p. 1
Jeff Baron (1952- )p. 11
Jeffery Beam (1953- )p. 19
David Bergman (1950- )p. 25
Alan Bowne (1945-1989)p. 29
Donald Britton (1951-1994)p. 38
James Broughton (1913-1999)p. 43
Victor Bumbalo (1946- )p. 54
Charles Busch (1954- )p. 61
Leo F. Cabranes-Grant (1960- )p. 69
Robert Chesley (1943-1990)p. 74
Justin Chin (1969- )p. 82
Alfred Corn (1943- )p. 87
Mart Crowley (1935- )p. 93
Melvin Dixon (1950-1992)p. 101
Tim Dlugos (1950-1990)p. 108
Mark Doty (1953- )p. 117
David Drake (1963- )p. 125
Robert Duncan (1919-1988)p. 130
Christopher Durang (1949- )p. 141
Edward Field (1924- )p. 147
Harvey Fierstein (1954- )p. 153
William Finn (1952- )p. 162
Kenny Fries (1960- )p. 171
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)p. 178
Thom Gunn (1929- )p. 188
Essex Hemphill (1957-1995)p. 198
William M. Hoffman (1939- )p. 205
Richard Howard (1929- )p. 212
Maurice Kenny (1929- )p. 217
Rudy Kikel (1943- )p. 222
Harry Kondoleon (1955-1994)p. 230
Larry Kramer (1935- )p. 236
Tony Kushner (1956- )p. 246
Michael Lassell (1947- )p. 260
Timothy Liu (1965- )p. 268
Craig Lucas (1951- )p. 272
Charles Ludlam (1943-1987)p. 280
J.D. McClatchy (1945- )p. 288
Terrence McNally (1939- )p. 293
Scott McPherson (1959-1992)p. 309
James Merrill (1926-1995)p. 316
Paul Monette (1945-1995)p. 323
Frank O'Hara (1926-1966)p. 334
Robert O'Hara (1970- )p. 342
Peter Parnell (1953- )p. 349
Carl Phillips (1959- )p. 357
Kenneth Pobo (1954- )p. 363
D.A. Powell (1963- )p. 369
Guillermo Reyes (1962- )p. 377
Assotto Saint (Yves Francois Lubin) (1957-1994)p. 383
F. Allen Sawyer (1957- )p. 388
James Schuyler (1923-1991)p. 393
Reginald Shepherd (1963- )p. 398
Martin Sherman (1938- )p. 406
Aaron Shurin (1947- )p. 412
David Trinidad (1953- )p. 421
Gore Vidal (1925- )p. 427
Jonathan Williams (1929- )p. 438
Doric Wilson (1939- )p. 444
Lanford Wilson (1937- )p. 451
Chay Yew (1966- )p. 461
Selected Bibliographyp. 467
Indexp. 469
About the Contributorsp. 477