5 Poetry Collections You Should Read Right Now – Black Girl Nerds
Growing up, I was the quiet little girl who couldn’t wait to get home from school so I could write poetry. I had stacks of composition books filled with poems about just about anything you can imagine. Nothing was forbidden. I loved poetry. So to be the author of three books of poetry is a dream for me. There’s just something about the way poetry manages to capture images and emotions that you can’t always find in other genres. It’s easier for those short lines and verses to grab hold of you – words that bounce around in your head and heart for days.
Poets.org describes poetry as “a form of writing vital to culture, art, and life.” Poetry can be moving and can tug at your heartstrings with just one line. We can watch the “Should I compare you to a summer day?” by Shakespeare. or “I got hot and sent an ice age to Europe to quench my thirst” by Nikki Giovanni. What!? Do you see what I mean?
If you know anything about poets, you know we love to share our favorites. So I’ve rounded up five of my favorite collections that came out this year. Like many collections of poetry, they are impactful. A few of them have been written since the start of 2020, so with everything going on, these are emotional, restless, and intense calls to action.
Black girl, call home by Jasmine Mans
I discovered the work of this remarkable woman about eleven years ago, with her explosive poem Nicki Minaj. The spoken word performance is a must, and then you’ll understand why I was so excited for the Jasmine Mans collection to come out. It’s a letter to black girls, exploring what it means to be a black woman, feminism and racism, sexuality and rape culture, and just being in a world that doesn’t see you. It goes into black and American history and what we have endured at the hands of the government. Mans’ language is beautiful and lyrical, starting with poems rooted in his childhood memories before moving on to works that are meant to be uncomfortable and make you fidget in your seat.
worldly things by Michael Kléber-Diggs
Over the past two years, the United States has failed a lot of people. worldly things just documents that, but also invites people to create something better. These poems show moments of pure happiness, alongside moments of despair. They are both heartwarming and heartbreaking, as Kleber-Diggs describes him teaching his daughter to drive before talking about the death of Freddie Gray. He has a clever way of calling America for the way it has let down the people who call it home. This first collection of poetry received the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize.
collected poems by Sonia Sanchez
In case you didn’t know, Sonia Sanchez is one of the greatest poets to ever grace this poetry game – period. She is one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement and has worked alongside James Baldwin, Maya Angelou and Audre Lorde. She helped lay the foundations of modern black spoken word poetry. This collection of poetry includes all of his best works, starting with poems from his first collection Back home from 1969 and going as far as the poems published in 2019.
There is a variety of her work that will speak to any poetry lover, from haikus to long stories, all about black liberation, women’s rights and social equality. There are even poems aimed at children and young adults. The collection is over 400 pages long, so there’s something for everyone.
I am rage by Martina McGowan
This collection was entirely written in 2020 by a black woman. So it’s raw and full of emotion, for good reason. It covers a whole century of pent up frustration and constantly having to turn the other cheek. You will be able to feel the rage and pain from these pages, with poems dedicated to Breonna Taylor and others killed by the police. You will also feel empathy and compassion, even though the poems are intense. It is written in free verse, so it is not bound by structure.
Sho by Douglas Kearney
I met Douglas Kearney in 2014 at a special event in Kansas City. He was there to give a poetry reading but also to lead a workshop. After reading one of my poems, he encouraged me to dig deeper and not be afraid to say what needs to be said. In this collection, his seventh, I believe he followed his own advice. The stories he tells through poetry are made in such a way that you can connect and understand his feeling. It’s full of puns, swinging between history, pop culture, and even folklore. Kearney examines what it means to be a black man these days, alongside police killings and Christianity, and what it means to be defined by your skin color.