“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.

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

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

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

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….
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

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,…
Read the full poem

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

My People
by Langston Hughes
Loud laughers in the hands of Fate—…
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—…
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

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…
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?…
Read the full poem

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

African landscape sunset

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…
Read the full poem

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

To discover more poetry, visit our complete collection and sign up to receive a poem each month in your inbox.

*The image band at the top of of this page features a mural celebrating the Black cultural and entertainment community in Hot Springs, AK from the 1930s to the 1960s. Title: Black Broadway, Artists: Pepe Gaka, Anthony Tidwell & Cutwell 4 Kids