Forbidden Lives is a fascinating collection of portraits and discussions that aims to populate LGBT gaps in the history of Wales, a much neglected part of Welsh heritage. In it Norena Shopland reviews the reasons for this neglect while outlining the activity behind the recent growth of the LGBT profile here. She also surveys LGBT people and their activity as far back as Giraldus Cambrensis’ Journey Through Wales in the twelfth century where he reports on ‘bearded women’ and other hermaphrodites. Other subjects include Edward II and Hugh DeSpenser, seventeenth century poet Katherine Philips, the Ladies of Llangollen, Henry Paget, artists Gwen John and Cedric Morris, and actor Cliff Gordon. Shopland also identifies the strong Welsh connections to the exploration of homosexuality and transgender during the twentieth century, highlighting the contributions of John Randell, AE Dyson and Griff Vaughan Williams, and MPs Desmond Donnelly and Leo Abse. They helped to transform social and legal attitudes towards LGBT people across the whole of Britain, particularly in the post-war period, which created the more accepting culture present today. There is still plenty of work to do, as chapters on the responses to Pride in Wales and the first gay play, We All Fall Down, clearly show. But the stories of the people portrayed in this book are less likely to be repeated: the LGBT community has moved from living forbidden lives to a place largely less forbidding. Norena Shopland helps us understand the struggle which achieved these changes.
Like many of Marina’s essay and poems, ‘Letter to the Amazon’ is addressed to another writer, in this case Natalie Clifford Barney, a wealthy American expatriate in Paris. Though written in 1932, Marina’s letter was in response to what Natalie said about lesbian relationships and motherhood in her 1920 ‘Pensées dune Amazone’ (Thoughts of an Amazon).
The 1960s to early ’70s was a pivotal time for American culture, and New York City was ground zero for seismic shifts in music, theater, art, and filmmaking. The Downtown Pop Underground takes a kaleidoscopic tour of Manhattan during this era and shows how deeply interconnected all the alternative worlds and personalities were that flourished in the basement theaters, dive bars, concert halls, and dingy tenements within one square mile of each other. Author Kembrew McLeod links the artists, writers, and performers who created change, and while some of them didn’t become everyday names, others, like Patti Smith, Andy Warhol, and Debbie Harry, did become icons. Ambitious in scope and scale, the book is fueled by the actual voices of many of the key characters who broke down the entrenched divisions between high and low, gay and straight, and art and commerce—and changed the cultural landscape of not just the city but the world.