Poetry is the lifeblood of rebellion, revolution, and the raising of consciousness. ~Alice Walker
Need something to read this weekend? We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite poetry collections by Black poets and authors.
- Phillis Wheatley, Complete Writings, Phillis Wheatley. As the first African American poet, Wheatley paved the way for both African American and African American women writers. You can learn more about her in this profile.
- The Complete Poetry, Maya Angelou. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Maya Angelou. Her poetry continues to speak out for justice and equality. Learn more about Maya Angelou’s writing and poetry, and civil activism career in our Black History month profile.
- Citizen, Claudia Rankine. The line between poetry, essay, and other types of hybridity is unclear in Rankine’s book. But one thing that’s clear is that this book is a powerful exploration of black identities and culture. To read more about Rankine, visit her profile.
- A Good Cry: What We Learn From Tears and Laughter, Nikki Giovanni. Just released in October of last year, this book of poetry describes “the joy and peril of aging and recalling the violence that permeated her parents’ marriage and her early life.” In 2013, she released an album called The Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album. Learn more about Giovanni here.
- Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems, June Jordan. This collection of poetry was published after Jordan’s death. Many of the poems chronicle her battle with cancer and her life before she died. Her first collection of poetry, called Who Look at Me (1969), was written for children.
- The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois. Through this book, Du Bois coined the term “double consciousness,” addressing the way black people have two visions of themselves: how they view themselves and how others view themselves. Learn more about Du Bois and his writing career here.
- A Street in Bronzeville, Gwendolyn Brooks. This was her first collection of poetry, published in 1945 following support from Richard Wright. As Wright explains, “There is no self-pity here, not a striving for effects. She takes hold of reality as it is and renders it faithfully.” Her second book, Annie Allen, won the 1950 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Read more about Brooks career as a poet, writer, and teacher.
- Thomas and Beulah, Rita Dove. This collection of poetry won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987. These poems drew inspiration from the lives of her maternal grandparents. Read more about Dove’s writing here.
- The World Will Follow Joy Turning Madness into Flowers, Alice Walker. Most known for her work of fiction The Color Purple, Walker also wrote many poetry collections. This collection was published in 2013. Once was her first collection, released in 1968. Read more about Walker’s career in our past Black History Month profile.
- Trophic Cascade, Camille Dungy. It’s important to also include Camille Dungy, our own faculty member, one of our favorite poets, and her new book of poetry on this list. In an interview with us, Dungy reflected on her inspiration for the collection: “Thinking about regeneration (oh joy!) in the midst of peril (oh no!) moved my writing in a particular direction, and eventually I produced the poems you’ll read in this book.”
Happy reading! Happy weekend! Happy Black History Month!