Poetry, Prose and Plays 2020

E.M. Forster (1879-1970):

Was a gay author, widely regarded as one of the greatest British writers of the 20th century. ‘A Passage To India’ was his first success, and several of his other books have been adapted into films – ‘A Room With A View’, ‘Where Angels Fear To Tread’ and most significantly ‘Maurice’, a gay love story. Forster wrote the novel ‘Maurice’ in 1913, but left instructions that it was not to be published until after he died. This year is the 50th anniversary of Edward Morgan Forster’s death.

Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965):

Was a lesbian playwright. She’s the author of ‘A Raisin In The Sun’, the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway. The title comes from the poem “Harlem” (also known as “A Dream Deferred“) by Langston Hughes. For some time the play was part of the O Level and GCSE syllabuses. Hansberry inspired the song by Nina Simone “To Be Young, Gifted and Black“.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616):

Shakespeare has been chosen as the bisexual reference this year. He was quintessentially British and his work is very much at the heart of the English curriculum. This is important given the ongoing difficulties over inclusive teaching. Sonnet 20 is widely quoted as being written about a man.



A woman's face with Nature's own hand painted

Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion;

A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted

With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;

An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,

Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;

A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,

Much steals men's eyes and women's souls amazeth.

And for a woman wert thou first created;

Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a-doting,

And by addition me of thee defeated,

By adding one thing to my purpose nothing.

But since she prick'd thee out for women's pleasure,

Mine be thy love and thy love's use their treasure.

Dawn Langley Pepita Simmons (c.1922-2000):

The trans Face for this year is probably the least well-known but undoubtedly had a fascinating story. The child of Vita Sackville West’s chauffeur, before transitioning Dawn wrote an acclaimed biography of Princess Margaret. After transition she wrote a biography of eccentric actress Dame Margaret Rutherford, and was semi-adopted by her. But probably most interesting is the fact that Dawn’s marriage to John-Paul Simmons on 21 January 1969 was the first legal interracial marriage in South Carolina!