9 books of poetry that capture the black experience

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With Black History Month and National Poetry Month fast approaching, it’s time to add some new poetry books to your shelves. Even though I love books and consider myself a bookworm, sometimes poetry intimidates me. Depending on how it’s written and structured, it may or may not be difficult for me to follow. To combat this, I try to seek out poetry on topics that I can easily relate to. Now, that’s not to say that your personal experiences will make you appreciate poetry more, because that’s not always the case. However, for people like me who aren’t avid poetry readers, it works well for me.

But, I would like you, as a reader, to take this poetic journey with me. Even though I’m familiar with the topics covered in this list, I still feel like I’m new to reading and dissecting poetry. Some poetry can feel traumatic, as issues such as misogynoir, patriarchy, homophobia, and racism can be topics, but there are also many themes of black joy.

Poetry can be short and sweet or it can be long, complicated and dense – just like in everyday life. But these particular poems make me realize that my lived experiences are not meant to be in a box. In fact, they can be vivid, intimate, fulfilling, and experiences that contribute to my growth as a reader and as a person. I encourage you to take a look at this list of nine poetry books that shed light on the Black experience across generations and places.

Poetry that sheds light on the black experience

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

From the streets of Newark, New Jersey, to experiencing life as a young black woman, Black girl, call home is a beautiful compilation of poems in which Mans talks about motherhood, dark hair, rape culture, family and queer identity, and politics. Engaging and inclusive, this book of poems about black girls is for anyone who knows or identifies as a black girl. It’s for black girls getting their hair done in the kitchen.

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It’s Not About Love: Poems by Krystal Smith

Who doesn’t like to read poems about love? But as Smith says, this book is more than poetry about love. These poems also feature forgiveness, life and relationships with family as well as romantic partners. It’s hard not to fall in love with poetry that speaks to human truths and lived experiences.

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Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat by Khalisa Rae

The title of this one immediately blew me away. For people who may struggle with poetry, Rae’s gift for using words to visualize the story of the trauma that black womanhood entails will leave a lasting impression on you. Rae takes readers on a journey of the various issues, conversations, and barriers that black women encounter throughout their lives.

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to be/disturbed by Bridgette Bianca

Bianca writes a series of poems dedicated to Los Angles, California. While it doesn’t focus on celebrity and Hollywood glitz and glamor, it does deliver unfiltered truth. From police brutality, political injustices and political uprisings, Bianca has found a way to describe the city as it relates to her life as a black woman.

Cover of Black Kaleidoscope: Short Verse Honoring Black History

Black Kaleidoscope: Short Verse Honoring Black History by B. Sharise Moore

black kaleidoscope serves as a poetic tribute to black people and historical events that have occurred throughout history. It’s clear that Moore used a lot of care as well as extensive research to highlight events that aren’t often talked about. In fact, it makes poetry all the more impactful because the heroes can be found in ordinary people.

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Claiming Tickets for Stolen People (Journal CBWheeler Poetry Prize) By Quintin Collins

This forthcoming book depicts the resilience of black people across generations against colonization. Although some poems illustrate a painful story, they also offer hope, love and joy that are sure to inspire many. Collins uses his own experiences to reflect his experiences with fatherhood, community, and family. Location is also a factor in this book of poetry, as Collins recalls his experiences as a black man living in both Chicago and Boston and how those intersections sometimes mirror each other.

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Casual Conversation (New Poets of America, 47) By Renia White

This poetry book examines the things often left unsaid in everyday conversation when it comes to navigating society as a black woman. White challenges readers to think about how they interact, speak and respond with black people, especially black women. Sometimes we need to hold ourselves accountable to regroup on how we talk and interact with each other on a daily basis.

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Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

Grimes takes on the task of bringing forgotten women back to the forefront with a number of gifted Harlem Renaissance women. Grimes draws inspiration from these remarkable women by creating poems dedicated to them. This poetry book is ideal for readers of all ages and includes powerful imagery as this collection embraces all facets of black life through generations of storytelling.

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gossypiin By Ra Malika Imhotep

Gossypium Herbeceum is also known as Cotton Root Bark was a plant that enslaved women used to help induce labor and end unwanted pregnancies. It has even been used for aches and pains resulting from reproductive issues. Ra Malika Imhotep creates poetry from stories of personal viewpoints and hearsay, family secrets as well as the stories of others. This book of poetry is a blend of black feminist theory and storytelling that reveals the most vulnerable parts of black femininity.


Want more poetry? Check out this list and be sure to add these poetry books to your lists.

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