At Creative Action we value all forms of art, and today we celebrate one of our favorite mediums, poetry. But not just any poetry—today is Black Poetry Day, where we honor past and present black poets and we revel in the importance of black heritage and literacy.
Throughout history, many poets have incorporated their political views and personal thoughts into their poetry, making it a powerful tool for realness, truth-telling, disruption, inspiration, and empathy.
As someone we honor today, Audre Lorde said it well:
“Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”
To celebrate the contributions black poets have made, and continue to make, to the richness of American poetry, we asked our staff to submit some of their favorite black poets.
Langston Hughes (Sam Reza)
A poet, fiction writer, and playwright, Langston Hughes is known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America and his work has inspired generations of black poets.
Audre Lorde (Sam Reza)
As a writer, feminist and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde refused to be silent about the civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life.
Gwendolyn Brooks (Debra Hardy)
As the first Black Pulitzer Prize winner, Gwendolyn Brooks’ poems are beautiful portrayals of urban life.
“She was a South Side poet who did some of her work at the arts center that I wrote about as my masters thesis, and even wrote a poem that became the title of my thesis.”
Eve L. Ewing (Marcelo Teson)
“Eve L. Ewing is a Chicago-area poet whose latest work, Electric Arches, is currently taking the poetry scene by storm. She is a young, contemporary artist writing about 21st Century black life. With her fiancé, she just established a scholarship for young people of color to attend a prestigious leadership academy in Princeton over the summer.”
Poem: to the notebook kid
Joe Brundidge (Dawne Thompson)
Local to the Austin area, Joe Brundidge speaks in a cadence that does not break down across barriers of race, age or geography. His recent book, Element 615, is unapologetically romantic and devoid of pretension.
Maya Angelou (Tiffany Ritter)
As one of the best-known black poets, Maya Angelou’s work made black poetry more popular than ever before. In addition to being a poet, Angelou was Hollywood’s first female black director.
Poem: Awaking in New York
Tupac Shakur & Nikki Giovanni (Erin Meyer)
In 2000, famous artists, poets, and celebrities made a tribute album interpreting Tupac Shakur’s poetry—Nikki Giovanni performed “A Rose that Grew from Concrete.”
Lucille Clifton (Florinda Bryant)
Lucille Clifton’s work, known for modern minimalism, revolved around spirituality, womanhood and African-American identity.
Renita Martin (Florinda Bryant)
Renita Martin is a highly-respected, critically acclaimed author, thespian, musician, and producer.
Ebony Stewart (Florinda Bryant)
Ebony Stewart is a spoken word poet and active artist in the Central Texas slam poetry scene.
“Her works feel like reclaiming every bit of that which has been lost or stolen…her works make you stand up straight.”
Amanda Johnston (Florinda Bryant)
“Amanda Johnston’s poems follow you around…you find yourself thinking about them in the car, at the store, on the way to work. Ireally love language that sticks to my bones.”