Poetry has always been an art form that transcends boundaries, enhances understanding, and expands the ability to wonder. It's a magnificent medium only mastered by those who know the nuances of language, expression, and flow. And today, poets have continued to carry the torch passed to them by our favs like Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, Ntozake Shange, Sonia Sanchez, and Rita Dove.
As we near the close of April, commemorated as National Poetry Month, let's check out a few Black women who are taking poetry to the next level, continuing to serve empowerment, imagination, and revelation:
Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, she's written poetry that gets behind the veil of grief, love, adventure and loss with Swallowing the Sky. She's also the author of fiction works The Bread The Devil Knead and Home, Home and the editor of Trinidad Noir, a short-story collection of mystery, sex, and crime—each making their way onto favorite lists for book lovers.
Mans is an acclaimed performance poet and author whose debut collection of poetry, Chalk Outlines of Snow Angels, put her on the map in 2012. Her latest book, Black Girl, Call Home,is a New York Times best-seller that explores themes of Black girlhood, rape culture, homophobia, and teen love.
She made all of us proud when she became the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate in 2017 and when she performed her work, "The Hill We Climb," at President Joe Biden's inauguration. The Harvard grad is also the author of Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem, and a collection of poetry, Call Us What We Carry. Her work focuses on themes of discrimination, feminism, Black identity, and climate change.
Woods is a poet, singer, and songwriter who wrote The Truth About Dolls, a collection of poetry that was inspired by a quote from Toni Morrison's Sula. More of her work appears in collections including The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop,Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls, and The UnCommon Core: Contemporary Poems for Learning & Living.
Monet held her own as the youngest winner of Nuyorican Poets Café’s Grand Slam, and later published two collections,The Black Unicorn Sings and Inner-City Cyborgs and Ciphers. The poet and activist, whose work often focuses on fighting against oppression, violence against women, and discrimination, has also co-edited the spoken-word collectionChorus: A Literary Mixtape with award-winning poet Saul Williams.
She Who Sleeps With Bones, her debut collection of poetry, was a Jamaican bestseller, and many of her works touch on raw snapshots of life and love with a Caribbean twist. Her work has been published in journals including Small Axe, The Caribbean Writer, New Caribbean Poetry: An Anthology (ed. Kei Miller) and So Much Things to Say: 100 Calabash Poets.
This poet is an accomplished journalist and communications strategist who became the first Black woman (and youngest) speechwriter for former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2015. Build Yourself A Boat, her debut poetry collection, was longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award and explores the political and social issues for Black women, related to poverty, freedom, inequality, and socioeconomic class.
Martin is the author of four poetry books including, Good Stock Strange Blood, winner of the 2019 Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry, and Life in a Box is a Pretty Life, which won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Poetry. She’s also the director of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics at the University of Pittsburgh and the Toi Derricotte endowed chair of African American poetry. Her groundbreaking work centers on redefining the constructs of identity, race, and gender.
This month, be sure to add these women's works to your literary collections and enjoy the adventure and power of poetry that overcomes traditional constraints and gives voice to the depictions of all of our lives.
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