When I have free time I try to find the latest works of art by Black women. Whether music, poetry, fashion, etc., I try to center Black women in my consumption of art and aesthetics as I center them in my sociological work. As a child, this most frequently meant listening to Jamaican women perform the work of Louise Simon Bennett-Coverley, otherwise known as Miss Lou.
Now that I am older my taste in poetry has expanded to incorporate other Black women from Jamaica like Staceyann Chin. Staceyann won me over with her memoir The Other Side of Paradise. Much of what she described her tumultuous experiences as a child in Jamaica related to me as a daughter of Jamaican immigrants. My favorite poem is titled “Not My Fault,” which centers on sexual assault.
The poetry of Black women embodies the erotic power Audre Lorde discusses in her essay “Uses of Erotic.” While I am most inspired by Audre Lorde’s prose, her poetry represents the emancipatory power of Black women’s words.
Like myself, Audre Lorde is the American child of Caribbean immigrants. I imagine this heritage informed some of her attitudes and beliefs, which can be found in the frankness with which she discussed colonialism and racism.
I am not aware of too many young Black women poets whose words communicate individual and social issues with depth and vibrancy. The British poet Warsan Shire comes to mind.
The daughter of Somali immigrants, Shire once again centers a dialogue about the effects of colonialism on women of color, especially in family and romantic relationships. In much of her work, I sense the complexity of self-identifying in a world that has already labeled Black and African women in constraining terms.
Who are some of your favorite Black women poets? Let me know in the comments!