January 7, 1921 – January 18, 1975
Brooklyn-bred Chester Simon Kallman was a librettis, poet, and longtime companion to poet W.H. Auden. Kallman pursued graduate studies at the University of Michigan and while in Ann Arbor he and his roommate Strowan Robertson were the nuclei of a gay social circle. He went on to write three volumes of poetry and authored or co-authored librettos for several operas.
New York Times, January 19, 1975
May 8, 1998 – July 3, 2018
Al Davey attended East Kentwood High School in Kentwood and went on to study communications and creative writing at Eastern Michigan University. They also edited Cellar Roots, the EMU literary and arts magazine and authored At the Close: A Collection of Poems. Davey was non-binary and active with the campus group QUEST, Queer Unity for Eastern Students. They took their own life at age 20.
Grand Rapids Press, July 4, 2018
Eastern Echo, July 9, 2018
July 5, 1940 – April 2, 2019
Suzanne Cumberworth Gary was an Indiana native and graduated from Grosse Pointe High School. At the University of Michigan, she earned her B.A. and won the prestigious Hopwood Award for her poetry in 1960 and 1961. Following college, she drove to San Francisco and stayed, discovering lesbian feminism and teaching in Alameda, California. Gary was survived by her partner of 18 years Laura Bock.
Lesbian Connection, September/October 2019
December 22, 1966 – January 25, 2003
Southfield activist, performance artist, and poet Oddis was born in Detroit as Otis Mitchell and regularly showcased his work at 1515 Broadway. In 1998, he took part in the group Detroit Noir as it won first-place in the DC Black Pride poetry slam. Oddis also worked as a professional model, worked as a promoter for Club One X, and participated in Detroit Black Gay Pride and Karibu House.
Between The Lines, January 30, 2003
April 3, 1936 – September 10, 2010
Born in Detroit, poet, activist, and educator Judy Freespirit studied drama and speech at Michigan State University. After being heterosexually married, she came out in the feminist movement in California. In 1973, Freespirit coauthored the Fat Liberation Manifesto and in 1978 helped defeat the Briggs’ Initiative. Among her other publications was the 1982 chapbook Daddy’s Girl: An Incest Survivor’s Story.
The Reporter, December 2010
In Memory: Poet, Essayist, Activist Judy Freespirit
Judy Freespirit papers at the GLBT Historical Society
September 19, 1967 – July 23, 2011
David Blair, better known as Blair, was born in Newton, New Jersey and moved to Detroit in the 1990s. He achieved national recognition as an openly queer socialist poet, artist, singer-song writer, and activist. Blair also taught poetry to Detroit Public School students and at the Ruth Ellis Center. Among his many achievements were a National Poetry Slam title and the BENT Writing Institute Mentor Award.
Between The Lines, July 28, 2011
Metro Times, August 3, 2011
April 3, 1933 – December 6, 1983
Originally from Arkansas, Winfred Wells was raised in Detroit and in the 1950s became a noted local beatnik poet. In the 1960s he performed female impersonation under his own name at the Diplomat Lounge. Wells subsequently moved to England, where he wrote screenplays and lived with his longtime companion, director Silvio Narizzano.
London Times, December 8, 1983
December 9, 1972 – March 31, 2006
Born in Saginaw, Annette Berkobien graduated from Michigan State University in 1996 with a B.A. with a degree in interdisciplinary studies. A poet, artist, and playwright, she worked for women’s shelters in Detroit and Lansing before moving to Oakland, California to attend the New College of California.
Lesbian Connection, July/August 2006
January 3, 1957 – January 15, 1986
James G. Dawson earned a B.A. in English in 1979 from Michigan State University, where his poetry was published in the Red Cedar Review. He died of complications from AIDS at age 29.
Chicago Tribune, January 17, 1986
May 6, 1941 – August 6, 2015
Born in Detroit of Mohawk heritage, Beth Brant was a poet, essayist, and author whose writings bridged multiple identities. Her publications include Mohawk Trail and Testimony from the Faithful.
What Remains: Remembering Michelle Cliff, Beth Brant, and Stephania Byrd
Remembering Beth Brant