Black Poets

Black Poets

Christine Castles

If you went to a high school like mine, you probably also experienced a drought of diverse writers in your education. And you may still notice a similar ubiquity of white male authors in assigned readings, whether it be poets, novelists, or nonfiction writing. There are, however, so many authors of diverse backgrounds to read and celebrate. So, here are just a few black poets that I think are absolutely worth a read.

Danez Smith may be recognizable by fans of The Late Show with Sephen Colbert from his 2016 appearance with Macklemore. Their most recent book, “Homie” won the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry and was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award. Smith has also been the recipient and finalist of many other awards, and they also placed second in the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2014. Their poems are focused on blackness and queerness and are absolutely heartbreaking at times. Don’t be surprised if Smith leaves you crying.

Liyou Libsekal is an anthropology-trained Brunel University African Poetry Prize recipient. Her work has been featured in Missing Slate Magazine, Badilisha Poetry, and Cordite Poetry Review. She is also the curator of Things We Inherited: Voices From Africa, a collection of contemporary African poets which focuses on themes of past, present, future, and identity while pushing back on traditional narratives of Africa being a continent of war and violence.

Samiya Bashir is a local to Portland, Oregon, where she teaches creative writing at Reed College. Her collection, Field Theories, is an outstanding melange of science and art. Her work has been included in countless publications such as Bettering American Poetry, Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology, and Best of the Best Lesbian Erotica. Bashir’s poems are absolutely exciting and engaging to read.

Major Jackson is a University of Oregon graduate poetry star. He has received a Pew Fellowship For the Arts and a Pushcart Prize, among numerous other awards. His most recent collection, The Absurd Man, is inspired by the French 20th-century writer and philosopher Albert Camus and shows a simultaneously joyful and woeful version of humanity.

Colleen McElroy has received a lot of attention for her book Queen of the Ebony Isles, and for a good reason; it is absolutely enchanting. Her work has been featured in Best American Poetry and the Oxford Anthology of African American Literature. Other notable works of hers are Sidewalk Games and Sleeping With the Moon: poems which helped her earn awards such as the Rockefeller Fellowship to the Bellagio Center and the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship for Fiction.