10 Must-Read Modern Poetry Collections by Black Women


poetry by black women

I believe there is healing power in poetry. Reading words written in a lyrical way that mirror your own thoughts and feelings makes you feel seen. It gives language to emotions you may not always know how to articulate. And it also shows you that you aren't alone in your deep feelings, especially when you're overwhelmed in emotion. I believe that is why I've leaned on poetry so much over the years.

There are times when I like to write my feelings and allow them to spill in any way that I can release them. Other times, I like to read poems from others to explore how they navigate their feelings as well. It is a carthartic experience when I find myself in reading the words of others.  So much so, that I'd like to share a few collections with you from Black Women that tugged at my heartstrings and settled in my head for hours on end. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Salt by Nayyirah Waheed was a pleasant surprise I came across as a recommendation from a friend. I began my reading with no expectations, as the cover had no synopsis. It had a minimalist cover, a white book with only the title and author's name typed in Times New Roman, I do believe. But before I knew it, I found myself knee-deep within the pages of this read.  It was so full of heart and soul, I had to gather myself from the feels! Salt houses nayyirah waheed's innermost thoughts on self-love, race, identity, and immigration that captured me from beginning to end. Each poem feels like a burst of emotion taken in bite-sized servings, easy to digest. The flavor still lingers on your tongue a bit after you finish reading. I hope your cravings soon lead you to this book and you enjoy as much as I did. 

bone by yrsa daley-ward has some of the most vivid poetry I've ever read. While some of the poems shared in this read went down smooth and were easy to digest, others went down with a bittersweet taste. I had to sit with many of them for a while. Filled with poems that illustrate the author's own healing and self-discovery, I believe a lot of women will be able to relate to bone.  

Even The Saints Audition by Rachel Jackson reads like a series of letters to the Church Girls who've experienced shame and fear of looming punishment for committing sin. And because I was raised in the church, I could relate so much to the experiences Jackson highlights in her poems. She confesses "impure" thoughts, mourns the loss of her "fun" aunt, and shares moments of overwhelming depression in such a raw and lyrical way, I somehow felt connected to her-- as if I was eavesdropping in on her life's story. Though Jackson and I may not share the same feelings about growing up in the church, I appreciate the honesty and heart she poured into each of these poems. Even The Saints Audition is def worth the read, y'all.

My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet was one of my favorite reads from 2020. Aja's poems nourish you in that "stick to your ribs" sorta way. Some days I digested them slowly, while other days I devoured them as quickly as I skimmed the page. She had me thinking about poems long after I read them, imagining Aja's world and wondering about her inspirations. She had me thinking about a revolution. She had me thinking about home girls I've shared space + stories with. She had me thinking about the women around me who had revolution brewing in and around them just by surviving + defying the odds. Her beautiful way with words painted vivid pictures, taught lessons, inspired, and filled me with hope. This book was amazing and I invite you to check it out if you haven't already.

poetry by black women
We Want Our Bodies Back by jessica Care moore was nothing short of amazing, y'all. Lending beautiful language to the black woman's power and pain, Moore reminds me to keep writing, no matter what. We have stories to tell, wounds to heal, and love to spread throughout our communities. I will no longer be silent and allow someone to tell my "story" for me. This is one of those texts that made me feel seen and heard without showing up or uttering a word, if that makes sense. I definitely recommend. 

Citizen by Claude Rankine |is a remarkable collection of poetry, filled with poetic musings and critiques of the political variety. Offering commentary on the current state of affairs in The United States, Citizen explores how racism affects our lives as black people. If you've ever found yourself  at the tipping point of micro-agressions at work or in public, you will most definitely feel at home (and less alone) in this read.

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans is added to this list essentially because this baby here is beautiful inside and out. The poetry within these pages moved me to + through ALL THE FEELINGS last year. Covering topics of race, feminism, and queer identity, Black Girl, Call Home reminded the wanderer in me how much childhood shapes us, how much trauma scars us, and how those scars do heal, eventually. I can't wait for you to read this one and tell me how you feel about it!

Submerge by K.Y. Robinson made me mourn old boyfriends, reminisce on stolen kisses, and recall times I’ve drowned in feelings much too deep to describe with words. Sometimes short and sweet, other times longer and more complicated, these poems gave me all the feels. I witnessed the makings of a woman, complete with her desires, her hopes, and her need to be loved. Then I watched her drown in all the emotions that come with these things, overtaking her in waves. And as the last section of the book came to a close, this same woman emerged offering bits of hope, not only for herself, but for other women who share similar experiences. If you haven't read this one yet, I suggest you check it out at your leisure.

The Collection Plate by Kendra Allen grabbed me swiftly by the throat from the first page and choked me up all the way through. Read some things I wish I couldn't relate to and others I was sad the author had the language to bear witness. Thoughts of scarlet red-lined church pews and my grandma's hands came to mind as the author's poems ushered me down memory lane, reminiscing. Reading The Collection Plate was a full-bodied, complex, and oftentimes heart-wrenching experience. And even with all that this book was, I still found myself needing more at the end. Those who crave beautiful, yet haunting words of the poetic persuasion will want to add this one to your collection.

poetry by black women

Home for Hurricanes by Nikki Murphy is a beautifully haunting memoir written in a series of poems that unfold in a coming-of-age kinda way. With each poem shared, we go in a journey with the author through every setback, disappointment, heartbreak, and traumatic experience she entrusts us with. While I was lured in by a gorgeous cover, I was captivated by the transparency and vulnerability Nikki Murphy displays throughout the read. I highly recommend you check out Home For Hurricanes if you haven't already.

Have you read any of these collections?

What are some of your favorite modern poetry collections 
by black women?
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