Growing up, I was the quiet little girl who couldn’t wait to get home from school so I could write poetry. I had stacks of composition books filled with poems about everything you can imagine. Nothing was off-limits. I loved poetry. So, to be an author of three poetry books is a dream for me. There’s just something about the way poetry manages to capture imagery and emotion that you can’t always find in other genres. It’s easier for those short lines and verses to grab ahold of you — words that bounce around in your head and heart for days.
Poets.org describes poetry as “a form of writing vital to culture, art, and life.” Poetry can be soul-stirring and can pull at your heart strings with just a line. We can look at Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” or Nikki Giovanni’s “I got hot and sent an ice age to Europe to cool my thirst.” What!? Do you see what I mean?
If you know anything about poets, you know we love to share our favorites. So, I’ve put together five of my favorite collections that were released this year. Like a lot of poetry collections, they are hard-hitting. A couple of them were written in since early 2020, so with all that’s been going on, they’re emotional, restless, and intense calls to action.
Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans
I was first introduced to this remarkable woman’s work about eleven years ago, with her explosive poem Nicki Minaj. The spoken word performance is a must-see, and you will then understand why I was so excited for Jasmine Mans’ collection to come out. It’s a letter to Black girls, exploring what it means to be a Black woman, feminism and racism, sexuality and rape culture, and simply belonging in a world that doesn’t see you. It goes into Black history and America and what we have endured at the hands of the government. Mans’ language is beautiful and lyrical, starting with poems rooted in her childhood memories before moving into works that are meant to be uncomfortable and make you shift in your seat.
Worldly Things by Michael Kleber-Diggs
Within the last couple of years, the United States has failed a lot of people. Worldly Things documents just that, but also calls upon people to create something better. These poems show moments of pure happiness, alongside moments of despair. They are simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking, as Kleber-Diggs describes teaching his daughter to drive before talking about Freddie Gray’s death. He has a clever way of calling out America for the ways in which it has failed the people who call it home. This debut poetry collection received the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize.
Collected Poems by Sonia Sanchez
In case you didn’t know, Sonia Sanchez is one the greatest poets to ever grace this poetry game — period. She is one of the founders of the Black Arts Movement, and worked alongside James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, and Audre Lorde. She helped lay the foundation for modern-day Black spoken-word poetry. This poetry collection includes all her best works, starting with poems from her first collection Homecoming from 1969 and going all the way to poems published in 2019.
There’s a variety of her work that will speak to any poetry lover, from haikus to long narratives, all about Black liberation, women’s rights, and social equality. There are even poems aimed toward children and young adults. The collection is over 400 pages long, so there is something for everyone.
I Am the Rage by Martina McGowan
This collection was written entirely in 2020 by a Black woman. So, it’s raw and full of emotion, rightfully so. It covers a whole century of bottled-up frustration and having to constantly turn the other cheek. You’ll be able to feel the rage and pain from these pages, with poems dedicated to Breonna Taylor and others killed by the police. You’ll also feel empathy and compassion, even though the poems are intense. It’s written in free verse, so it is not bound by structure.
I met Douglas Kearney in 2014 at a special event in Kansas City. He was there to give a poetry reading but also to conduct a workshop. After reading one of my poems, he encouraged me to dig deeper and not be afraid to say what needs to be said. In this collection, his seventh, I believe he took his own advice. The stories he tells through poetry are done in a way that you are able to connect and understand his feeling. It is full of wordplay, moving between history, pop culture, and even folklore. Kearney looks at what it means to be a Black man in this day and time, alongside police killings and Christianity, and what it means to be defined by your skin color.
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Archuleta is an author, poet, blogger, and host of the FearlessINK podcast. Archuleta's work centers Black women, mental health and wellness, and inspiring people to live their fullest potential.