Poetry for Black History Month and All Year

Black History Month may be drawing to an end, but the phenomenal works created by writers of color shouldn’t just be enjoyed for 4 short weeks in February. The poets included in this list will inspire you throughout the year. These are, of course, only a small selection. More can be found at our branches.

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet
Monet’s ode to mothers, daughters, and sisters–the tiny gods who fight to change the world. These stunning poems tackle racism, sexism, genocide, displacement, heartbreak, and grief, but also love, motherhood, spirituality, and Black joy.

Don’t Call us Dead by Danez Smith
National Book Award Finalist Smith’s unflinching poetry addresses race, class, sexuality, faith, social justice, mortality, and the challenges of living HIV positive at the intersection of black and queer identity.

Selected Poems by Gwendolyn Brooks
The classic volume by the distinguished modern poet, winner of the 1950 Pulitzer Prize, and recipient of the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, showcases an esteemed artist’s technical mastery, her warm humanity, and her compassionate and illuminating response to a complex world.

American Smooth by Rita Dove
With the grace of an Astaire, Rita Dove’s magnificent poems pay homage to our kaleidoscopic cultural heritage; from the glorious shimmer of an operatic soprano to Bessie Smith’s mournful wail; from paradise lost to angel food cake; from hotshots at the local shooting range to the Negro jazz band in World War I whose music conquered Europe before the Allied advance.

Thief In The Interior by Phillip B. Williams
Williams investigates the dangers of desire, balancing narratives of addiction, murders, and hate crimes with passionate, uncompromising depth. Formal poems entrenched in urban landscapes crack open dialogues of racism and homophobia rampant in our culture. 

The Collected Poems Of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 by  Lucille Clifton
The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 combines all eleven of Lucille Clifton’s published collections with more than fifty previously unpublished poems. The unpublished poems feature early poems from 1965-1969, a collection-in-progress, and a poignant selection of final poems. 

Collected Poems, 1948-1984 by Derek Walcott
This remarkable collection, which won the 1986 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry, includes most of the poems from each of Derek Walcott’s seven prior books of verse and all of his long autobiographical poem, “Another Life.” 

Magical Negro: Poems by Morgan Parker
Focused primarily on depictions of black womanhood alongside personal narratives, the collection tackles interior and exterior politics–of both the body and society, of both the individual and the collective experience.

Duppy Conqueror by Kwame Dawes
In this generous collection, new poems appear with the best work from fifteen previous volumes. Deeply nuanced in exploring the human condition, Dawes’ poems are filled with complex emotion and consistently remind us what it means to be a global citizen.

For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide, When the Rainbow is Enuf: A Choreopoem by Ntozake Shange
A “choreopoem” that portrays the visions and frustrations of six young women who are trying to come to terms with themselves and with being African-American.