In the opening pages of bone, Yrsa Daley-Ward urges readers, “I am the tall dark stranger / those warnings prepared you for.” Like a match, Daley-Ward’s ominous yet captivating intro crackles with a commanding energy. Her poetic prowess is luminous, and fierce even when wielded through two short lines. Throughout bone, Daley-Ward dares to explore her inner shadow, the contradictions of intimacy, and the many histories that have shaped her. Like Lucille Clifton‘s Two-Headed Woman and Audre Lorde‘s “For My Singing Sister,” Daley-Ward’s poetry compels its audience to bear witness to the complexity and limitless iterations of Black womanhood. Through poems like “when it is but it ain’t,” “it is what it is,” and “legacy,” bone confronts its reader with the task of looking within, of locating the harm, hopes, and desires that have defined their sense of self. bone‘s stanzas exorcise, invoke, and conjure. Daley-Ward’s poems will unfetter whatever binds you.
Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth
In every genre, Alice Walker’s words are a solace. The poetry of the visionary whose novel The Color Purple captivated millions on the page and in theaters across the globe continues to uplift and explore the way joy, even in times of darkness, can transform an individual and a< community. Like the poems in her most recent collection, the revelations within Absolute Trust in the Goodness of the Earth will ease whatever ails you. Each poem is an antidote for the toxicity of supremacy, injustice, and the restorative power of rejecting chaos and embracing peace and compassion even in moments of lack. Walker reminds us to choose joy.
The Vintage Book of African American Poetry
Michael S. Harper
The Vintage Book of African American Poetry is an extensively immersive survey of 200 years of Black poetry. Beginning with early greats like Frances E. W. Harper, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Anne Spencer to cornerstones of the Harlem Renaissance like Jean Toomer and Langston Hughes and more recent icons like Sonia Sanchez, Gwendolyn Brooks, Rita Dove, and Elizabeth Alexander, The Vintage Book of African American Poetry isn’t merely a primer to Black poetry, it’s a portrait of American history. The pages of this anthology are an affirmation of poetry’s unlimited potential to sustain and heal, even beneath the shadow of an oppressive nation.
The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks
In 1950, Gwendolyn Brooks made history by becoming the first Black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize. As a poet, novelist, and activist, Brooks’s life embodied the ethos rooted at the center of each of her poems. As readers devour the lines of “throwing out the flowers,” “The Bean Eaters,” and “Riot,” it becomes clear that Brooks–as Elizabeth Alexander suggests in the introduction to this collection–“is nothing short of a technical virtuoso.” Whether you’re new to Brooks’s work or a lifelong fan, The Essential Gwendolyn Brooks is a book that should be cherished and returned to often. It’s a vivid glimpse into the heart and mind of one of America’s greatest poets.
The Complete Poetry
Writer and Civil Rights activist Maya Angelou left us with a literary legacy rivaled by few. Though her most sung work is likely I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the insight and beauty and language offered up in this complete collection of her poetry makes for essential reading. The poetry within reflects upon Angelou’s life and wholly speaks to the experience of the African American experience.
Consider Kevin Young’s spot at various podiums as a poetry teacher and now from his desk as poetry editor of The New Yorker; certainly, he is no stranger to the form. His latest collection, Brown, is further testament to this fact, as he once again manipulates language in such a way that conveys with power and substance and pulse his experience of life, blending memoir and poetry in a way that will leave you breathless.
In many ways, Black poetry is synonymous with the American literary canon. From the colonial era to the Harlem Renaissance, the Black Arts Movement, and forward, the voices of Black poets have boldly proclaimed, confronted, and documented the triumphs and struggles of postmodernity, post-colonization, and racism while also capturing the joys of community, human closeness, and love with honest and searing wisdom. Through the stanzas of recent collections like American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes, the illuminating correspondence of Audre Lorde and Pat Parker in Sister Love, and the diverse perspectives embodied by the pages of June Jordan’s soulscript anthology, the breadth and depth of the Black experience urges readers to bear witness to the longevity and vibrancy of the African diaspora and its people. Celebrate Black poetry today and every day with these collections that illustrate the beauty of Black poets’ voices.