“Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.”

Rita Dove

In celebration of Black History Month, we offer this updated, expanded, moving collection of work by Black poets from our poetry collection. Each of these writers illuminates the great fullness of life, with all its poignancy, joy, sorrow, wonder, pain, and possibility. In these poems, readers are invited into the unique experiences of individual Black lives, the extraordinary ordinariness of the everyday, and the transformative space of human resilience and gratitude.   

We invite you to notice the ways these poems move you: to embrace life as a gift; to fully see one another; to wholly love ourselves and each other in all our humanness; to heal together; and to live into the opportunity we each have to pour forth our grateful hearts — today and every day — as we act in service of a world held as sacred by all and for all.

Wet plums on a purple cloth.

by Gbenga Adesina
Glory of plums, femur of Glory.
Glory of ferns
on a dark platter.

Glory of willows, Glory of Stag beetles…
Read the full poem

Patterns in sand/mud

by Hakim Bellamy
If I spell my name in bruised melanin

and ink                    across this mud and breath

made flesh             melt down these gold fillings…
Read the full poem | Read more of Hakim Bellamy’s Prayer Flag Poems

bright yellow lemons ripening on a tree

Ode to Lemons
by Michelle Courtney Berry
the sun-glazed
bag of lemons
adorning the white counter
Read the full poem

what is unveiled? the founding wound
by adrienne maree brown
a body is always a body
individual or collective
(whole or in many pieces)
alive or, later, dead
a body is aways vulnerable…
Read the full poem

by Jericho Brown
The water is one thing, and one thing for miles.
The water is one thing, making this bridge
Built over the water another. Walk it
Early, walk it back when the day goes dim, everyone
Rising just to find a way toward rest again…
Read the full poem

blessing the boats
by Lucille Clifton
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear…
Read the full poem

Light reflected on tiny leaves.

by Lucille Clifton
call it our craziness even,
call it anything.
it is the life thing in us
that will not let us die.
even in death’s hand…
Read the full poem

reeds in the water beneath a brilliant orange blue and purple sunset sky

A Lazy Day
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
The trees bend down along the stream,
Where anchored swings my tiny boat.
The day is one to drowse and dream
And list the thrush’s throttling note.
When music from his bosom bleeds…
Read the full poem

The Kinneret
by Chanda Feldman
Over the hills in the north, the lake comes into view—azure blue water.
At first you see a sea even though you know it is freshwater.

Soft green hills, ancient olive trees, green-silver leaves, and grey-brown bark;
the white-translucent face of rock to the lucid dark basalt boulders along the water.
Read the full poem

Close up of frosted grass and oak leaves

Thank You
by Ross Gay
If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,
again, the earth’s great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone, that says
all you love will turn to dust…
Read the full poem

by Angelo Geter
Today I will praise.
I will praise the sun
For showering its light
On this darkened vessel.
I will praise its shine.
Read the full poem

My People
by Langston Hughes
Loud laughers in the hands of Fate—
           My People.
Read the full poem

The Gift to Sing
by James Weldon Johnson
Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
I softly sing.
Read the full poem

Gloria Mundi
by Michael Kleber-Diggs
Come to my funeral dressed as you
would for an autumn walk in the woods.

Arrive on your schedule; I give you permission
to be late, even without good cause.
Read the full poem

Hands together in a prayer position. Flour in the air.

by Danusha Laméris
It covers everything, fine powder,
the earth’s gold breath falling softly
on the dark wood dresser, blue ceramic bowls,
picture frames on the wall. It wafts up
from canyons, carried on the wind…
Read the full poem

by Danusha Laméris
The optometrist says my eyes
are getting better each year.
Soon he’ll have to lower my prescription.
What’s next? The light step I had at six?
All the gray hairs back to brown?
Read the full poem

by Danusha Laméris
Because they crowd the corner
of every city street,
because they are the color
of sullied steel,
because they scavenge…
Read the full poem

Small Kindnesses
by Danusha Laméris
I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you”
when someone sneezes, a leftover
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying.
Read the full poem

island shoreline with rocks and sand and bright blue water

cast away
by Aja Monet
i did not want to write a poem full of corpses

so i wrote a sacred pink blue sky jeweled on the horizon

laughter as the loudest star sleeps…
Read the full poem

the ghosts of women once girls
by Aja Monet
somewhere a little girl is reading aloud
in the middle of a dirt road. she smiles
at the sound of her own voice escaping
the spine of a book. she feeds on her hunger
to know herself. she has not yet been taught…
Read the full poem

The Bronze Legacy
by Effie Lee Newsome
Tis a noble gift to be brown, all brown,
     Like the strongest things that make up this earth,
Like the mountains grave and grand,
     Even like the very land,
     Even like the trunks of trees—
Read the full poem

African landscape sunset with tree

An African Elegy
by Ben Okri
We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.
Read the full poem

A small, illuminated log cabin in a clearing blanketed in snow and surrounded by snowcapped trees underneath a navy blue starry sky

On Safety
by Nadine Pinede
When the storms of life
come bearing down
threatening to
lash you senseless,…
Read the full poem

Sunrise or sunset, dock on lake.

by Nadine Pinede
Sitting on the deck by the river
hushed and soft
with the light
of spring’s lullaby,
I felt you pierce,…
Read the full poem

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Collections Poetry