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Memorial Hall Library

Poetry by Black Writers

Check out these collections of poetry by Black writers from historical and well-known poets to contemporary and emerging writers.

And Still I Rise
And Still I Rise
by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou's third poetry collection, a unique celebration of life, consists of rhythms of strength, love, and remembrance, songs of the street, and lyrics of the heart.
SOS : poems 1961-2013
SOS : poems 1961-2013
by Amiri Baraka

Comprises the fullest spectrum yet of the author's poems, covering his early work that derived from the beat generation to his later work, influenced by rebellion and subversive ideology, including previously unpublished poetry.
Selected poems
Selected poems
by Gwendolyn Brooks

Selections from three earlier volumes reflect the distinguished poet's response to the realities of modern life.
How to carry water : selected poems of Lucille Clifton
How to carry water : selected poems of Lucille Clifton
by Lucille Clifton

A series of poems drawn from various collections published throughout the 40-year career of American poet Lucille Clifton.
Collected poems : 1974--2004
Collected poems : 1974--2004
by Rita Dove

An unabridged collection of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and U.S. poet laureate's work includes 30 years of her prose and verse, covering seven books, including poems that touch upon adolescence, love stories, war, industrialization and civil rights.
Say her name
Say her name
by Zetta Elliott

Inspired by the African American Policy Forum’s #SayHerName campaign and the works of such notables as Lucille Clifton and Nikki Giovanni, a collection of poems stands as a tribute to Black Lives Matter activists and victims of police brutality.
The selected poems of Nikki Giovanni
The selected poems of Nikki Giovanni
by Nikki Giovanni

An anthology of selected poetry by the distinguished African-American writer celebrates her diverse roles as an African-American woman, lover, poet, and feminist.
One last word : wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance
One last word : wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance
by Nikki Grimes

Presents selections from the author's poems combined with works of the Harlem Renaissance poets about the experiences of African Americans facing discrimination and hardship in America.
Legacy : women poets of the Harlem Renaissance
Legacy : women poets of the Harlem Renaissance
by Nikki Grimes

From Children's Literature Legacy Award-winning author Nikki Grimes comes a feminist-forward new collection of poetry celebrating the little-known women poets of the Harlem Renaissance--paired with full-color, original art from today's most talented female African-American illustrators.
How to be drawn
How to be drawn
by Terrance Hayes

In How to Be Drawn, his daring fifth collection, Terrance Hayes explores how we see and are seen. While many of these poems bear the clearest imprint yet of Hayes's background as a visual artist, they do not strive to describe art so much as inhabit it. Thus, one poem contemplates the principle of blind contour drawing while others are inspired by maps, graphs, and assorted artists. The formal and emotional versatilities that distinguish Hayes's award-winning poetry are unified by existential focus. Simultaneously complex and transparent, urgent and composed, How to Be Drawn is a mesmerizing achievement.
The weary blues
The weary blues
by Langston Hughes

Presents Hughes' first poetry collection, published when the author was just twenty-four, that captures the experiences of African Americans in the early twentieth century.
Undersong : chosen poems, old and new
Undersong : chosen poems, old and new
by Audre Lorde

Features poems that affirm the conflicts, fears, and hopes of the poet in words conveying vision and courage.
Here in Harlem : poems in many voices
Here in Harlem : poems in many voices
by Walter Dean Myers

Celebrates the people of Harlem with first-person poems in the voices of the residents who make up the legendary neighborhood, including basketball players, teachers, mail carriers, jazz artists, maids, nannies, and students.
Citizen : an American lyric
Citizen : an American lyric
by Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine's bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV--everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person's ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named 'post-race' society.
For every one
For every one
by Jason Reynolds

Originally performed at the Kennedy Center for the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and later as a tribute to Walter Dean Myers, this stirring and inspirational poem is New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds's rallying cry to the dreamers of the world. Jump Anyway is for kids who dream. Kids who dream of being better than they are. Kids who dream of doing more than they almost dare to dream. Kids who are like Jason, a self-professed dreamer. In it, Jason does not claim to know how to make dreams come true; he has, in fact, been fighting on the front line of his own battle to make his own dreams a reality. He expected to make it when he was sixteen. He inched that number up to eighteen, then twenty-five years old..Now, some of those expectations have been realized. But others, the most important ones, lay ahead, and a lot of them involve kids, how to inspire them. All the kids who are scared to dream, or don't know how to dream, or don't dare to dream because they've NEVER seen a dream come true. Jason wants kids to know that dreams take time. They involve countless struggles. But no matter how many times a dreamer gets beat down, the drive and the passion and the hope never fully extinguish--because just having the dream is the start you need, or you won't get anywhere anyway, and that is when you have to take a leap of faith and...jump anyway.
Wade in the Water : Poems
Wade in the Water : Poems
by Tracy K. Smith

In Wade in the Water, Tracy K. Smith boldly ties America’s contemporary moment both to our nation’s fraught founding history and to a sense of the spirit, the everlasting. These are poems of sliding scale: some capture a flicker of song or memory; some collage an array of documents and voices; and some push past the known world into the haunted, the holy. Smith’s signature voice—inquisitive, lyrical, and wry—turns over what it means to be a citizen, a mother, and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men, and violence.
Somebody give this heart a pen
Somebody give this heart a pen
by Sophia Thakur

A coming-of-age debut collection by the acclaimed spoken-word performance poet explores issues ranging from identity and perseverance to relationships and loss, in a volume that draws on the author’s experiences as a mixed-race woman in a lonely and complicated world.
Hard Times Require Furious Dancing : New Poems
Hard Times Require Furious Dancing : New Poems
by Alice Walker

I was born to grow,
alongside my garden of plants,
poems
like
this one

So writes Alice Walker in this new book of poems, poems composed over the course of one year in response to joy and sorrow both personal and global: the death of loved ones, war, the deliciousness of love, environmental devastation, the sorrow of rejection, greed, poverty, and the sweetness of home. The poems embrace our connections while celebrating the joy of individuality, the power we each share to express our truest, deepest selves. Beloved for her ability to speak her own truth in ways that speak for and about countless others, she demonstrates that we are stronger than our circumstances. As she confronts personal and collective challenges, her words dance, sing, and heal.
The Poems of Phillis Wheatley
The Poems of Phillis Wheatley
by Phillis Wheatley

Poems and letters of the first significant black American writer who knew no English when she was brought from Africa to Boston as a child in the eighteenth century.