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Black Poets Whose Work Is a Must Read 


This goes out to every person who has a soft spot in their heart for writing and the complexities (sometimes not) of poetry. The voice of a person is a lens to their world, which is why you must add the following collections of poems to your TBR list! And hey, we all know that buying books isn’t always in the budget, so among these are links to poems that are accessible for free with Soundcloud play bars in case you would rather listen! Let’s get to reading!


“Thriller Night” by Ayokunle Falmo

In this piece, Falmo writes about the speaker and his two friends (all of which are Nigerian) encountering police outside of a house. As a reader, the interaction is full of fear and hesitation about what will happen. However, in the end, the poem relieves readers with a beautiful last line- a complete MUST read. 



Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

Don’t Call Us Dead was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry and winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection. This impactful collection reimagines life for black men who have been the subjects of police brutality and gives them the afterlife they should have been able to live. 


Available for purchase on the following sites:

– Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Call-Us-Dead-Poems/dp/1555977855 

-Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dont-call-us-dead-danez-smith/1125286597;jsessionid=A82F79A0D584028775F3FF4C567803AD.prodny_store02-atgap04?ean=9781555979775 


“Praise Song” by Jonny Teklit

Personal footnote- this poem will make you smile, that’s a promise. It’s the type of poem that I intend on printing out and hanging in a frame to read whenever life gets difficult. Teklit wrote the love poem that lives within many and will make you cherish the mundane like no other. 



When Rap Spoke Straight to God by Erica Dawson

This collection, published in 2018, follows Dawson in a book-long poem and her difficulties as a black woman living in Trump’s America. It highlights the oppression that not only she faces, but that every person who doesn’t fit the mold faces. It is full of voice that often alters, but never leaves readers behind. 


Available for purchase on the following sites:

-Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/When-Rap-Spoke-Straight-God-ebook/dp/B07C4CFBPT 

-Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/when-rap-spoke-straight-to-god-erica-dawson/1128104944 


“Poem Erasing Itself as its Written” by Donte Collins

*This link contains three poetic works by Donte Collins and you must scroll to the bottom to find the one I am referencing*

This heartbreaking poem follows the stages of grief that the speaker experiences when faced with his mother’s death. It is tender and all too realistic- so realistic that it brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.



I still Can’t Do my Daughters Hair by William Evans

William Evans is well known for his appearances on the slam poetry channel, Button Poetry. This printed collection is no exception to his wondrous works and follows the honest telling of what it means to become a black father. 

Available for purchase on these sites:

-Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Still-Cant-Do-Daughters-Hair/dp/1943735212 

-Button Poetry: https://buttonpoetry.com/product/still-cant-do-my-daughters-hair/ 

-Barnes and Noble:



“Helicoid Curve” by Janice N. Harrington

Harrington writes this piece colorfully with words that can only be described as luscious. From the beginning she uses the theme of bees and does so without unnecessary repetitiveness and trails her narrative as thickly as honey. It is exciting and sensual.



I Can’t Talk About the Trees Without the Blood by Tiana Clark

Tiana clark was winner of the 2017 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and of the 2020 Kate Tufts Discovery Award for prize-winning poet. This collection is hauntingly stunning. The title says it all, but in case it isn’t clear- which is totally okay- Clark discusses her inability to see trees without seeing the horrifying history of lynches. It is an analogy that refers to not being able to see anything tangible without seeing the treacherous past of being black in America. 


Available for purchase on these sites:

-Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/About-Trees-Without-Blood-Poetry/dp/0822965585 

-Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-cant-talk-about-the-trees-without-the-blood-tiana-clark/1128527531 

-Walmart: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pitt-Poetry-I-Can-t-Talk-about-the-Trees-Without-the-Blood-Paperback-9780822965589/217041623 


“Rowan Oak” by January Gill O’Neal

O’Neal reminisces on the past over the imagery of a meal on an ordinary night. Her ability to focus on the present scene and still give the underlying uneasiness of what it once meant to be black is true talent.



If you get around to reading any of these collections or poems, let us know what you think! We’d love to hear your thoughts.