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Poet and writer Otamere Guobadia on the authors and books that mean the most to him

In partnership with Audible

By James Hodge

Otamere Guobadia rests his arm on a pile of books
Otamere Guobadia (Image: Provided)

Otamere Guobadia, poet and writer of Unutterable Visions, Perishable Breath, shares the
authors and books that mean the most to him in this exclusive feature.

What’s more, we share our picks of our best recent reads, as well as our current favourite audiobook available on Audible.

What was the first poem that you read?

Leisure by William Henry Davies. You’ll know it as the Centre Parcs advert. “What is this life if full of care / We have no time to stand and stare.” I can still recite it now — I love it for its beautiful simplicity.

What poem always inspires you?

I always come back to The Summer Day by Mary Oliver. Her love of the natural world is powerful: she treats it as a kind of panacea to all that ails us.

What’s a book you love that might surprise readers?

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. It may be for children, but it’s one of the finest and funniest contributions to the Western canon.

Novel you have read the most?

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. He is a writer utterly devoted to sentimentality. He writes for people who fall madly, deeply in love. A line of Gatsby actually inspired the title of my collection…

Which writer best captures the spirit of queerness?

Oscar Wilde. I read The Picture of Dorian Gray in my formative years. It’s a spectacular bonfire of trauma, vanity, lust and excess.

What’s the book that changed your life for the worst?

The Bible. I’m a lapsed Roman Catholic!

Which poem best captures who you are as a writer?

A Gang of Sodomitical Wretches. It asserts the sanctity of queerness and the value of love but through elements of the spiritual, transcendental, homosexual and bombastic.

What’s a novel that every queer person should read?

Orlando by Virginia Woolf. It’s an imagined biography of hope, where she created a world in which she could explore her identity and sexuality. It provided her with agency. One hundred years later, it’s still one of the most radical, interesting and funny treatments of gender.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Read other people’s works. I truly believe there’s a poet in everyone, and there’s a poem in everyone. But I also think it demands attention to rigour, lyricality, form and structure. You have to do the work!

Red, White & Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston/Macmillan

Cover of Red, White & Royal Blue book
Red, White & Royal Blue (Image: Provided)

If you haven’t already seen it, you’ve definitely heard about the cinematic sensation Red, White & Royal Blue — but did you know it was originally a New York Times bestseller and BookTok hit?
As its regally coloured title suggests, this international rom-com tells the tale of an unlikely romance between two famous rivals — Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of an imagined American president, and Prince Henry, a member of an alternative British royal family. Although praised for its sweet and refreshing queer storytelling, it’s also a sensitive exploration of the realm of politics when two powerful men collide.

Detransition , Baby – Torrey Peters/Penguin Random House

Cover of Detransition, Baby
Detransition, Baby (Image: Provided)

When queer identities are under relentless attack, sometimes you have to try to laugh at the world. This seems to be the belief of Torrey Peters, whose groundbreaking debut Detransition, Baby is not only a broad-ranging examination of the reality of trans life with all of its joys and struggles, but also deeply funny, pointed and acerbic. The story of Ames, who’s detransitioned — plus their new girlfriend Katrina, and their former lover Reese, now a trans woman — the novel is at once a comedy of manners exploring the complexities of relationships, and a stunning exploration of the struggles of grappling with identity.

Audio book pick…

The Line of Beauty – Alan Hollinghurst

Cover of The Line of Beauty book
The Line of Beauty (Image: Provided)

The Line of Beauty is one of the greatest novels written about the gay experience in the 80s. From Thatcher’s rise to the tragic impact of AIDS, we follow Nick, a young, idealistic gay man who struggles to wrestle with the challenges of coming out. From drug addiction to interracial relationships, identity crises and sexual excess, Nick’s journey charts his adventures in the world of homosexuality over a decade and observes his development for both better and worse.

The supporting cast of characters are highly interesting. Nick lives in the house of his university friend Toby Fedden. Also living there are the charismatic serving Conservative MP Gerald, his beguiling wife, Rachel, and their rebellious daughter, Cat. Nick isn’t just acclimatising to queer identity, but hiding in plain sight in a family whose political party are trying to oppress his community.

This LGBTQ+ classic was written by a master of queer writing — Alan Hollinghurst — while the audiobook is read by theatrical legend Alex Jennings, who truly brings this epic storytelling to life.

This feature was taken from issue 357 of Attitude magazine, available on the brand new Attitude app, or in print by subscribing or picking up a copy from your local newsagent.

Andrew Scott on the cover of Attitude issue 358
Andrew Scott on the cover of Attitude issue 357 (Image: Ramon Christian/Attitude)