February is Black History Month, which is dedicated to honoring the contributions of African Americans to the United States. What better time than now to discover some great poetry by historical and contemporary Black poets. These poets skillfully harness the power of the written word to capture both the joys and the harshness of their realities. Writer’s Relief has vetted a list of Black poets you should be reading. Take a look—you just might find your new favorite poet!
6 Black Poets You Should Be Reading Right Now
June Jordan: Born in Harlem in 1936, June Jordan was a poet, teacher, essayist, and activist. She’s known for her personal, accessible writing, as well as her dedication to many causes, most notably civil rights and Black liberation, women’s rights, and many other social and political struggles of marginalized groups.
Tracy K. Smith: With four collections of poetry published—including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Life on Mars—and the distinction of serving as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2017 to 2019, Smith is no stranger to poetic success. She also released a memoir in 2015, Ordinary Light, which explores her journey as a poet as well as race, faith, and family.
Kwame Dawes: Dawes has published twenty books of poetry (and numerous books in other genres), so there’s a lot of material for you to dive into. He has also served as editor of American Life in Poetry since 2021.
Maya Angelou: You know her name, but have you actually read her work? If not, now’s the time to discover the works of the civil rights activist and Grammy award-winning poet—she’s beloved for a reason!
Jericho Brown: Brown’s work has won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for his collection The Tradition. His writing covers many topics, from race and the Black experience in today’s America to history, queerness, fatherhood, and more.
Rita Dove: Among her long list of accolades and prizes, Rita Dove also notably served as the United States’ first Black Poet Laureate. Her work tackles both the political and the personal and should not be missed.
More Black Poets You’ll Want To Read
With so many wonderful poets to choose from, you’ll be able to read a poem a day for all of Black History Month and beyond! And if you’d like to include a few great books to read by Black authors, check out our blog article: 21 Books By Black Authors: Here’s What Writer’s Relief Recommends.
Question: What is your favorite poem by a Black poet?