Poems of Protest by Black LGBTQ Poets

By NYPL Staff
June 30, 2020
96th Street Library

Words are powerful

Regardless if its written or spoken

Words are powerful

It can cause a woman to laugh, a man to cry, a child to fight

Words are powerful

Black Queer Poets, oh how they dare

Their words are powerful

I encourage you to read their words, to think about their words, to understand their words

Because their words are powerful 

—Sutana Riley

As Pride month wraps up, I want to take time to celebrate Black LGBTQ poets. I invite you to cry, smile, laugh, and resist in solidarity with the Black community. All of these poetry collections are also available as digital e-books.

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The New Testament by Jericho Brown

In the world of Jericho Brown's second book, disease runs through the body, violence runs through the neighborhood, memories run through the mind, trauma runs through generations. Almost eerily quiet in even the bluntest of poems, Brown gives us the ache of a throat that has yet to say the hardest thing—and the truth is coming on fast.


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The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde 

"The first declaration of a black, lesbian feminist identity took place in these poems, and set the terms—beautifully, forcefully—for contemporary multicultural and pluralist debate."—Publishers Weekly 


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The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

Nearly ninety years after its first publication, this celebratory edition of The Weary Blues reminds us of the stunning achievement of Langston Hughes, who was just twenty-four at its first appearance. Beginning with the opening "Proem" (prologue poem)—"I am a Negro: / Black as the night is black, / Black like the depths of my Africa"—Hughes spoke directly, intimately, and powerfully of the experiences of African Americans at a time when their voices were newly being heard in our literature.

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Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan

Directed by Desire is the definitive overview of June Jordan's poetry. Collecting the finest work from Jordan's ten volumes, as well as dozens of "last poems" that were never published in Jordan's lifetime, these more than six hundred pages overflow with intimate lyricism, elegance, fury, meditative solos, and dazzling vernacular riffs. As Adrienne Rich writes in her introduction, June Jordan "wanted her readers, listeners, students, to feel their own latent power—of the word, the deed, of their own beauty and intrinsic value."

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Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems by James Baldwin

Known for his relentless honesty and startlingly prophetic insights on issues of race, gender, class, and poverty, Baldwin is just as enlightening and bold in his poetry as in his famous novels and essays. 

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The Collected Poems of Ai

"Ai is a truthteller picking her way through the burning rocks of racial and sexual lies."—Joy HarjoBefore her untimely death in 2010, Ai, known for her searing dramatic monologues, was hailed as "one of the most singular voices of her generation" (New York Times Book Review). Now for the first time, all eight books by this essential and uniquely American poet have been gathered in one volume.

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The Malevolent Volume by Justin Phillip Reed

Subverting celebrated classics of poetry and mythology and examining horrors from contemporary film and cultural fact, National Book Award winner Justin Phillip Reed engages darkness as an aesthetic to conjure the revenant animus that lurks beneath the exploited civilities of marginalized people.

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The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1998

For the first time ever, the complete poetry collection spanning three decades from Nikki Giovanni, renowned poet and one of America's national treasures. When her poems first emerged during the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s, Nikki Giovanni immediately took her place among the most celebrated, controversial, and influential poets of the era. Now, more than thirty years later, Giovanni still stands as one of the most commanding, luminous voices to grace America's political and poetic landscape.

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!

Summaries provided via NYPL’s catalog, which draws from multiple sources. Click through to each book’s title for more.