9 Poetry Books That Capture The Black Experience

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Erika Hardison

Staff Writer

Erika Hardison is a writer, social media junkie, podcaster, publisher and aspiring novelist from Chicago currently residing in New Jersey. When she's not bridging the gap between Black feminism and superheroes on, she's spending sleepless nights as a new mom with her talkative toddler playing and giggling under the covers.

With Black History Month and National Poetry Month just around the corner, it’s time to add some new poetry books to your bookshelves. Even though I love books and consider myself a bookworm, at times, poetry intimidates me. Depending on how it’s written and structured, it may or may not be hard for me to follow. To help combat that, I try to seek poetry on subjects I can easily relate to. Now, that is not to say that your personal experiences will make you appreciate poetry more — because that’s not always the case. However, for people like myself who aren’t avid poetry readers, it works well for me.

But, I’d like you as a reader to take this poetic journey with me. Even though I am familiar with the topics that are discussed on this list, I still feel as though I am a novice when it comes to reading and dissecting poetry. Some of the poetry might seem traumatic as issues such as misogynoir, patriarchy, homophobia and racism can be topics that are addressed, but there are a lot of Black joy themes as well.

Poetry can be short and sweet or it can be long, complicated, and dense — similar to everyday life. But these particular poems make me understand that my lived experiences aren’t supposed to be in a box. In fact, they can be lively, intimate, fulfilling and experiences that are instrumental to my growth as a reader and a person. I encourage you to take a gander at this list of nine poetry books that highlight the Black experience over the course of generations and locations.

Poetry That Highlights The Black Experience

Black Girl, Call Home book cover

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

From the streets of Newark, New Jersey, to experiencing life as a young Black woman, Black Girl, Call Home is a beautiful compilation of poems in which Mans talks about motherhood, Black hair, rape culture, family and queer identity, and politics. Engaging and inclusive, this book of Black girl poems speaks to everyone who knows or identifies as a Black girl. This is for the Black girls who used to get their hair styled in the kitchen.

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This is Not About Love: Poems by Krystal Smith

Who doesn’t love reading poems about love? But as Smith states, this book is more than poetry about love. These poems also showcase forgiveness, life, and relationships with family as well as romantic partners. It’s hard not to fall in love with poetry that speaks to human truths and lived experiences.

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Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat by Khalisa Rae

The title of this blew me away instantly. For people who may struggle with poetry, Rae’s gift of using words to visualize the history of trauma that Black womanhood entails will leave a lasting impression on you. Rae takes readers on a journey on the different issues, conversations and roadblocks that Black women encounter throughout their lives.

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be/trouble by Bridgette Bianca

Bianca writes a series of poems dedicated to Los Angles, California. While it doesn’t focus on the glitz and glamour of celebrities and Hollywood, it does offer unfiltered truth. From police brutality, political injustices, and political uprisings, Bianca found a way to describe the city as it relates to her life as a Black woman.

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Black Kaleidoscope: Short Verse Honoring Black History by B. Sharise Moore

Black Kaleidoscope serves as a poetic homage to the Black people and historical events that have occurred throughout history. It is clear that Moore used a lot of care as well as extensive research to highlight events that aren’t often talked about. In fact, it makes the poetry that much more impactful that heroes can be found in everyday people.

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Claim Tickets for Stolen People (Journal CBWheeler Poetry Prize) By Quintin Collins 

This forthcoming book depicts Black resilience throughout generations against colonization. While some of the poetry illustrates a painful history it also offers hope, love, and joy that is sure to inspire many. Collins uses his own experiences to reflect his experiences with fatherhood, community and family. Location is also a factor in this poetry book as Collins recalls his experiences as a Black man living both in Chicago and Boston and how those intersections mirror each other at times.

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Casual Conversation (New Poets of America, 47) By Renia White

This poetry book examines the things often not said in everyday conversations as it relates to navigating society as a Black woman. White challenges readers to consider how they interact, talk, and reply with Black people, especially Black women. Sometimes it takes us holding ourselves accountable to regroup on how we talk and interact with each other every day.

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Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance by Nikki Grimes

Grimes takes on the task of putting forgotten women back into the forefront with a number of gifted women from the Harlem Renaissance. Grimes takes inspiration from these remarkable women by creating poems dedicated to them. This poetry book is ideal for readers of all ages and includes powerful imagery as this collection embraces all facets of Black life through generations of storytelling.

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gossypiin By Ra Malika Imhotep

Gossypium Herbeceum is also known as Cotton Root Bark was a plant that enslaved women used to use to help induce labor and end unwanted pregnancies. It was even used for aches and pains that were a result of reproductive issues. Ra Malika Imhotep creates poetry from stories from personal and hearsay perspectives, family secrets as well as stories from others. This book of poetry is a mix of Black feminist theory and storytelling that reveals the most vulnerable parts of Black womanhood.

Looking for more poetry? Check out this list and make sure to add these poetry books to your lists.