Photo Credit: Joanna Eldredge Morrissey

Joan Larkin

b. 1939

Current City, State, Country

South Orange, New Jersey, USA

Birth City, State, Country

Boston, Massachusetts, USA


Joan Larkin is the author of five books of poems, most recently My Body: New & Selected Poems and Blue Hanuman. A sixth book of poems, Old Stranger, is forthcoming from Alice James Books in 2024. Her honors include the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the Lambda Literary Award, fellowships in playwriting and poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and the 2011 Shelley Memorial Award.

In addition to poetry, Larkin is a playwright, prose writer, and translator. Her work in other genres includes The AIDS PassionGlad Day: Daily Meditations for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender People, and Sor Juana’s Love Poems, which she translated with Jaime Manrique. Larkin helped found Out & Out Books as part of the feminist literary explosion of the 1970s, coedited the groundbreaking poetry anthologies Amazon PoetryLesbian Poetry, and Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time, and edited A Woman Like That: Lesbian and Bisexual Writers Tell their Coming Out Stories.

A lifelong teacher, Joan has taught at Brooklyn College, Sarah Lawrence, and Smith, among other colleges. A native of Massachusetts, she lived in Brooklyn, New York, for many years and currently resides in northern New Jersey.

What is the relationship between Judaism and/or Jewish culture and your poetry?

The Yiddish spoken by my maternal grandmother and aunts helped form the spirit and language of my poems. The mouth-music in the house could be explosive and guttural, stories and judgments laced with darkness and sarcasm, wit and vitality—a language not of power but of the daily life of the powerless. In it, praise could ridicule, skepticism underlie faith, and the reverse. The voice I hear inside my head when I write owes much to these early voices, along with my father’s voice: clear, unpretentious, sometimes brutally truthful.

Published Works

Naked Hand (bilingual chapbook; Birutjatio Books, 2019)
Blue Hanuman (Hanging Loose Press, 2014)
Legs Tipped with Small Claws (chapbook; Argos Books, 2012)
My Body: New and Selected Poems (Hanging Loose Press, 2007)
Cold River (Painted Leaf Press, 1997)
A Long Sound (Granite Press, 1986)
Housework (Out & Out Books, 1975)

Glad Day: Daily Meditations for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender People (Hazelden, 1998)
If You Want What We Have: Sponsorship Meditations (Hazelden, 1998)

Sor Juana’s Love Poems; with Jaime Manrique (Univ. Wisconsin Press, 2001)

Edited Works
A Woman Like That: Lesbian and Bisexual Writers Tell Their Coming Out Stories (Avon/Bard Books, 1999)
Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time; with Carl Morse (St. Martin’s Press, 1988)
Lesbian Poetry: An Anthology; with Elly Bulkin (Persephone Press, 1981)
Amazon Poetry: An Anthology; with Elly Bulkin (Out & Out Books, 1975)

Author Site

Links to Sample Works

Video Reading

Current Title

Upcoming guest faculty at University of Arizona Poetry Center in Feb 2023; Ongoing freelance mentoring, manuscript consulting, and facilitating of generative poetry workshops on Zoom


Swarthmore College, B.A. in English, 1960
University of Arizona, M.A. in English, 1969
Brooklyn College, City University of New York, M.F.A. in Playwriting, 2005

Languages of Publication(s) and Poets Translated

Spanish (one co-translated book: Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz); French (Symbolist poets Verlaine, Nerval)

Subject Matter