National Poetry Month 2021: Amanda Gorman and 7 Other Black Poets You Should Know

By Hannah Eko Apr 01, 2021

Poets are masters of the word who hold a mirror to the human experience. On Inauguration Day 2021,  a young Black woman poet captivated the world with her stirring words of hope. Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb” is a stirring call to action, a verbal map towards restorative justice. 
rnIn uncertain times like these, we need poets’ healing and artistic power more than ever. Just in time for National Poetry Month, here are seven Black poets, in addition to Gorman, who are crafting language with magic and purpose. 

Camonghne Felix 
rnWhy You Should Know Her: Felix’s work is 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 Governor Andrew Cuomo, and was a strategic communications director for the Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign. Her poetry wrestles with the complexities of Black womanhood, sexual assault, and the legacies of heartbreak.

Appetizer:Badu Interviews Lamar
rnMain Course:Build Yourself A Boat (Haymarket Books, 2019)

Yona Harvey
rnWhy You Should Know Her: A poet unafraid to weave worlds with experiment and nuance, Yona Harvey is the author of “Hemming the Water” and one of the first Black women to write for Marvel, as one of the author’s of “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. 

Appetizer:Sonnet for a Tall Flower Blooming at Dinnertime
rnMain Course:You Don’t Have To Go To Mars for Love (Four Way Books, 2020)

Tyehimba Jess
rnWhy You Should Know Him: Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, Jess 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, Jess’ 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.

Appetizer: “martha promise receives leadbelly, 1935”
rnMain Course:Olio” (Wave Books, 2016)

Mahogany L. Browne
rnWhy You Should Know Her: 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 YA novels and currently serves as the Executive Director of Bowery Poetry Club.

Appetizer: “Inevitable”
rnMain Course:Kissing Caskets” (Yes Yes Books, 2017)

Ray Antrobus
rnWhy You Should Know Him: Born to a British mother and a Jamaican father, Antrobus is a poet who traverses a diversity of worlds. Antrobus turned to poetry to make peace with his D/deafness, a diagnosis that did not arrive until he was six years old. He is a widely recognized D/deaf poet, frequent slam poet, Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and author of the children’s book “Can Bears Ski?”

Appetizer: “The Acceptance”
rnMain Course:The Perseverance” (Tin House, 2021)

Tiana Clark
rnWhy You Should Know Her: Clark’s work is a cryptic blend of mythology, popular culture, and the hauntings of the Black imagination. Her essays on mental health and Black women in the workplace have appeared in publications like Buzzfeed and Lenny Letter and she was a 2020 Kate Tufts Discovery Award winner. An assistant professor at Southern Illinois University, she is a recipient of a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize winner.

Appetizer: “The First Black Bachelorette”
rnMain Course:I Can’t Talk about the Without the Blood” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018)

Allison Joseph
rnWhy You Should Know Her: “I write to be recorder, observer, participant, and sometimes, even judge. I want to engage the world as I see it with my whole self…” writes poet, writer, and professor, Alison Joseph. She is a winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, Independent Press Award, and the leader of a writing workshop for teen writers. Author of eight poetry collections and three chapbooks of poetry to include “Corporal Muse” and “The Purpose of Hands” . Founder of the literary journal, “Crab Orchard Review”, her work has been celebrated for its clear-eyed brilliance and tenderness.

Appetizer: “Untethered”
rnMain Course:Confessions of a Barefaced Woman” (Red Hen, 2018)

Hannah Eko is a Black-Nigerian writer, teaching artist, and creator of honeyknife, llc. Her work has been featured in Buzzfeed, Bust, b*tch, make/shift, and Aster(ix) magazines. She is the author of Honey is the Knife, an eclectic essay collection grounded in peace, power, and pleasure.