Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Current Black Poets You Should Know—National Poetry Month 2022


With a tip-o’-the-hat to Hannah Eko who featured these talented Black poets and others last year in her Colorlines blog post here are some creative forces you should know.  Descriptive text by Eko.

Camonghne Felix’s work a musical blend of the poetic and the political. A Cave Canem fellow and National Book Award finalist, she is also a former political strategist for the Ms. Foundation, speechwriter for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and was a strategic communications director for the Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. Her poetry wrestles with the complexities of Black womanhood, sexual assault, and the legacies of heartbreak.

Badu Interviews Lamar

Badu: This cyclone of good fortune.

                                                                                          You handling?



   blessing myself.                                                                                                                graduated,



                                                                    big           far

                                                                                                            a blur .

              Problem is           my bubble.                    Tell me

                                          “You’re crazy            by yourself,”


                                                                                                                           I’m in my

                                                                                own world.


   everything consume me.

                                     The other end,

                                                                                   has a

                                     conception of who


                          comes from me, from within

                                                                                                        no matter

                                  passing            or playing ball.

                                                                             Was a               hole            building

           up for this

                                  pen,                      I wanted to be

                                              the best                                                                                                                                so I’m

                                                           taking it.


Camonghne Felix

Yona Harvey is a poet unafraid to weave worlds with experiment and nuance.  She is the author of Hemming the Water and one of the first Black women to write for Marvel, as one of the in World of Wakanda. Winner of the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, Harvey has also led workshops on mental health through Creative Nonfiction magazine. Her writing has been praised for its verve and playful investigation of motherhood, Afrofuturism, and romantic love.

                      Sonnet for a Tall Flower Blooming at Dinnertime

Southern Flower, I want to quote the bard,

to serenade you, to raise a glass to you.

Long & tall you are always parched

& hungry. You wobble in strong winds, you

puff your bright hair when it rains, you

toss off the lint of dandelions, you

lean into the evening haunts

with your indifferent afro. You

were born in the old-world city, the invisible

dark girl city, the city that couldn’t hold

a candle, a straight pin, a slave-owner’s sins

to you. You are the most beautiful

            dark that hosts the most private sorrows

            & feeds the hungriest ghosts.


—Yona Harvey

Tyehimba Jess was winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry Her is a former artist-in-residence for Cave Canem and Chicago’s Poetry Ambassador to Accra, Ghana. He was also a contributor to The New York Times’ historic 1619 Project. A native of Detroit, his first book, leadbelly, was an adventurous biography in poetic form, which covered the life of the legendary blues musician. Known as a “rare poet who bridges slam and academic poetry,” his writing career has spanned over two decades.

                                       martha promise receives leadbelly, 1935

when your man comes home from prison,

when he comes back like the wound

and you are the stitch,

when he comes back with pennies in his pocket

and prayer fresh on his lips,

you got to wash him down first.


you got to have the wildweed and treebark boiled

and calmed, waiting for his skin like a shining baptism

back into what he was before gun barrels and bars

chewed their claim in his hide and spit him

stumbling backwards into screaming sunlight.


you got to scrub loose the jailtime fingersmears

from ashy skin, lather down the cuffmarks

from ankle and wrist, rinse solitary’s stench loose

from his hair, scrape curse and confession

from the welted and the smooth,

the hard and the soft,

the furrowed and the lax.


you got to hold tight that shadrach’s face

between your palms, take crease and lid

and lip and brow and rinse slow with river water,

and when he opens his eyes

you tell him calm and sure

how a woman birthed him

back whole again.

Tyehimba Jess

Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer, and poet who served as MC for the Friday Night Slam at the Nuyorican Poet’s Café for over thirteen years.  Her work, which centers the lived experience of Black women and girls, has been nominated for a NAACP Image Award.  She is the author of two young adult novels and currently serves as the Executive Director of Bowery Poetry Club.


when I dropped my 12-year-old off at her first

homecoming dance, I tried not to look


her newly-developed breasts, all surprise and alert

in their uncertainty. I tried not to imagine her


mashed between a young man's curiousness

and the gym’s sweaty wall. I tried not picture


her grinding off beat/on time to the rhythm

of a dark manchild; the one who whispered


“you are the most beautiful girl in brooklyn”

his swag so sincere, she’d easily mistaken him for a god.


Mahogany L. Browne


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