Get To Know 5 Black Poets Who Are Changing The Game

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National Black Poetry Day is celebrated annually on October 17.

This day is celebrated to honor the black poets past and present and highlights the importance of black history and the beautiful contributions made by black poets. Jupiter Hammon was the first black poet published in the United States and was born on October 17 so this day is used to celebrate all poets.

Here are a few modern African-American poets with a repertoire of incredible work. But the list doesn’t stop here. There are so many wonderful poets out there to discover. Read up.


1. Warsan Shire

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Warsan Shire is a poet and activist who grew up in London. Her work has appeared in various journals and magazines along with being featured in Beyonce‘s visual album Lemonade. Shire is the author of some collections as well including Her Blue Body and Our Men Do Not Belong To Us. 

Memorable lyrics: “At parties I point to my body and say This is where love comes to die. Welcome, come in, make yourself at home. Everyone laughs, they think I’m joking.” -Shire, “The House”


2. Morgan Parker

Morgan Parker is a published author and editor of Coconut Magazine and The Offing. Her publications include There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce and Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night. 

Memorable lyrics: “When I get to heaven I’m going to wear my good bra so no one can stay mad at me. I won’t have any feelings to hurt just cheeseburgers on cheeseburgers on deep colored slumber.” -Parker, “Heaven be a Xanax”


3. Alysia Harris

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This woman is a goddess. Alysia Harris first grabbed the world’s when she performed “That Girl” on HBO’s Brave New Voices. You can listen to the poem here, along with many of her other powerful pieces.

Memorable lyrics: “I’m so tired of being your hamper that I’m about to dump out those week old stained ketchup secrets and do laundry in that silence.” -Harris, That Girl”


4. Danez Smith

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Danez Smith is a spoken word poet. He blends rhythm with inspiring words to address topics such as race, sexuality and social identity. Smith is the founder of the multicultural spoken word group Dark Noise Collective.

Memorable lyrics: “…or maybe I’m just tipsy & free for the first time, willing to worship anything I can taste.” – Smith, “The 17-Year-Old & The Gay Bar”


5. Tracy K. Smith

Tracy K. Smith is the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner for her book, Life on Mars. Her poetry is imaginative and allows the reader to walk in another person’s shoes. In June of 2017, she was named U.S. poet laureate and currently teaches creative writing at Princeton University.

Memorable lyrics: “A pair of eyes. The most remarkable lies.” -Smith, “My God, It’s Full of Stars”

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