100 of My Favorite Poets For Your Survival Pack

26. Dane Figueroa Edidi (Lady Dane)

Who she is: A 2016 Helen Hayes Award nominee, Lady Dane Figueroa Edidi is an actor, singer, dancer, writer, trans performance artist and Ancient Jazz Priestess of Mother Africa. The first trans woman of color to publish a fiction novel in DC, Yemaya’s Daughters, Lady Dane received the Pioneer Award for work with the DC community in 2015 and was named on Advocate’s Trans 100 list. She is also a teacher, oraclur consultant, healer and founding member of Force Collision.

Why I love her: I saw Lady Dane perform for the first time at an all-trans-poets reading she hosted at Capturing Fire last year. Later that weekend, I got to take her class, MYSTICAL MANIFESTO, which focused on working towards your fullest and best creative self as a QTPOC creator. She led us in a meditation and, even though I usually hate those because I usually don’t trust the person leading them, I found myself trusting her. She gave a lot of wonderful advice but all I can really remember is trying not to cry as she told me truths my younger selves always needed to hear. She is the first person to make me believe being black and queer and mentally ill does not have to be a death sentence. It can be a celebration and I can make it a life and find a way to live it even if others don’t want me to.

Find her: On Twitter.


27. Tafisha A. Edwards

Who she is: Tafisha A. Edwards is the author of The Bloodlet, which won Phantom Book’s 2016 Brietling Chapbook Prize, the assistant poetry editor to Gigantic Sequins, a Cave Canem fellow, a graduate of University of Maryland’s Jiminéz-Porter Writers’ House, and a former American Poetry Museum educator. She is currently working on her full-length poetry collection, RIOT / ACT. Read three of her poems in Beltway Poetry Quarterly.

Why I love her: Her poem “Everywhere In the World They Hurt Little Black Girls” crushes my gut. If I could have neon sign hovering over me wherever I go, it’d read her words from this poem continuously.

Find her: On Twitter.


28. Safia Elhillo

Who she is: Safia Elhillo is Sudanese by way of Washington D.C. Winner of the 2015 Brunel University African Poetry Prize and a Pushcart Prize nominee. Her debut collection, The January Children, was released through University of Nebraska Press. You can read two of her poems including “an inheritance” in Narrative Northeast.

Why I love her: I watched “Alien Suite” and stayed stunned. I get nervous about watching live performances because there’s so much room for error. But this video reminds me why I love and watch live performances in the first place: for all the room for error, there’s also room for beauty that cannot happen anywhere else. Elhillo teaches me that you can lean into your obsession and create and create and create within it.

Find her: On Twitter.


29. Shira Erlichman

Who she is: Shira Erlichman is a singer, poet, artist and producer who lives in Brooklyn. She released her experimental electronic-pop album Subtle Creature in 2016 and teaches group and individual writing workshops. A mental health advocate featured in Bust, the Huffington Post, and fields magazine, she is currently working on a poetry book titled Odes to Lithium. She also curates a monthly email zine.

Why I love her: I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without Shira. Hell, I wouldn’t be close to the person I want to be without Shira. I took workshops with her right after I came back from Pink Door and, no lie, she gave me a map that lead me right back to the truth of my heart.

Find her: On Twitter.


30. Joshua Jennifer Espinoza

Who she is: J. Jennifer Espinoza is a trans woman poet and a force on Twitter. Her first full-length collection, There Should Be Flowers, was published through Civil Coping Mechanisms. Check out five of her poems including “Poem (Let Us Live)” at PEN America, or a digital download of her first book, i’m alive/it hurts/i love it, from which all proceeds go to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

Why I love her: Early into Facebook Live being a thing, I saw her read some of her poems from i’m alive/it hurts/i love it. Her work made me believe in fate because I needed her work in my life right at that moment and how else would you explain that miracle?

Find her: On Twitter.


31. Dr. Eve Ewing

Who she is: Dr. Eve L. Ewing is a writer, scholar and artist from Chicago. Her first collection of poetry, essays and visual art, Electric Arches, was released by Haymarket Books last year, and she’s the co-editor of Beyond Ourselves, a fiction anthology of emerging writers of color. Ewing co-directs Crescendo Literary, is half of Echo Hotel with Hanif Abdurraqib, and is the current president of the Board of Directors at MASSLeap. She received her doctoral degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her numerous honors and awards include: 2011–16 Harvard University Presidential Scholar, 2017 Doing the Work Award from Being Black at School and 2017 Excellence in Literary Community Award from Chicago Independent Bookstore Alliance.

Why I love her: A month before Get Out premiered, Ewing published these poems in the Rumpus and I lost my mind. A poem where we’re in a horror movie, black people make it until the end, and black women are still the victim but victim turns revenge? I am about that shit. I am about pretty much everything Ewing has published. In one interview she also explains that Jordans are professional attire, up there with tuxedos, and that alone has solidified her place in my heart.

Find her: On Twitter.


32. Camonghne Felix

Who she is: Camonghne Felix is a poet, political strategist, media junkie and cultural worker with a master’s in arts politics from NYU and a MFA from Bard College. She is a Cave Canem fellow, Callaloo fellow and Poets’ House fellow and listed on Black Youth Project’s “Black Girl From The Future You Should Know.” Read two of her poems at PEN America.

Why I love her: I stumbled across Felix’s work when I was trying to convince myself that not going to college was an okay choice. Her two poems “The Therapist Asks 3” and “Killing the Form” both gave me affirmation that as long as my choices kept me alive and didn’t hurt anybody, they were definitely enough. I was enough.

Find her: On Twitter.


33. t’ai freedom ford

Who she is: t’ai freedom ford is a Cave Canem fellow, Pushcart Prize nominee, and high school English teacher. She won The Feminist Wire’s inaugural poetry contest judged by Evie Shockley in 2014. You can read poems and an interview with her at Brooklyn Poets.

Why I love her: I read how to get over sitting outside waiting for my barbershop to open. The shop is in a part of town that I don’t go to a lot – somewhere not as colorful as I’d like it to be, somewhere that makes me feel anxious and alone while I’m waiting for the store to open. Usually, as soon as I get inside, I can feel my shoulders relax around the familiar sounds of black joy and black critique and black family. Reading this book, I was able to tap into those feelings even before the barbershop opened. ford is unrelenting in her dissection and critique of queer black life. As a queer black woman, ford offers me a mirror, sure. But as a queer black woman who believes so firmly in her voice, her way of telling stories, and her right to be here, she offers me a guide to learning to do the same.


34. Aricka Foreman

Who she is: Aricka Foreman is a Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow. The enumerate editor for the Offing, she released her first chapbook, Dream with a Glass Chamber with YesYes Books in 2016. Read three of her poems, including “Consent Is a Labryinth of Yes,” in the James Franco Review.

Why I love her: In an interview with Luther Hughes, Foreman explains that Dream Within a Glass Chamber and the process of writing it was her “wanting a safe place to thrash and rage.” Foreman’s poetry gives me permission to examine and mourn and accept healing’s refusal to be linear or clean or understandable. But she also gives me room to figure out “how to let light in” and balance it with the whatever grief it touches.

Find her: On Twitter.


35. Vievee Francis

Who she is: Vievee Francis is an associate professor at Dartmouth College and associate editor for Callaloo. The author of three collections, Blue-Tail Fly, Horse in the Dark and Forest Primeval, her latest collection is the winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for poetry. Read her poem “Doubt” in the Raleigh Review.

Why I love her: I read “Taking It” in Muzzle magazine and it fucked me all the way up. The violence is dizzying but the survival is sharp and clear and those are stories I understand best. Francis’s writing doesn’t mirror; it pierces and opens.

Find her: On Callaloo’s site.


36. Siaara Freeman

Who she is: Creator of Wusgood.black, an artistic community and network focused on urban artists creating and sharing urban art and editor for Tinderbox, Siaara Freeman is a poet, slam team captain, and artist from Cleveland, Ohio. A Pushcart Prize nominee and proud Slytherin, you can preorder her book Good Morning, Hood Warning from H and O Press. Read Urban Girl Feeds Her Heart to the Birds from her Urban Girl Series in Tinderbox, or watch her perform one of her most famous poems, “The Drug Dealer’s Daughter,” at Button Poetry.

Why I love her: Siaara is one of my absolute favorite people on this planet. That thing about containing multitudes only made sense when I met Siaara. Her work weaves mythology, fantasy, grief, hope, and humor and all their intersections with a thread of truth. She “seeks whatever is good and true and honest and beautiful or devastating and or whatever gets them to sleep at night or whatever wakes them up that next morning” and with a compass like that, who better to follow?

Find her: On Twitter.


37. Jacqui Germain

Who she is: Jacqui Germain is a Callaloo fellow, Pushcart Prize nominee, organizer and essayist living in St. Louis, Missouri. Representor of Washington University in St. Louis at National Poetry Slam five separate times, she is the 2014 Katherine Dunham fellow and her book When the Ghosts Come Ashore is available from Button Poetry.

Why I love her: I read “Conjuring: A Lesson In Words And Ghosts” and everything stopped. A few months ago, a white boy I had just met put his hand in my new haircut and everything stopped. People kept talking and he kept sitting too close to me and there were still places we had to go and a person I had to be and conversations I had to participate in but that all fell away the moment he did that. Because later they talked about their fear of police as if I am not the one most likely to be a cop’s gun’s target. Because there are not people I can always get to in time, but this poem is early and on time. I don’t have to ask if anyone gets it, because this poem does, this poem sees me. Sometimes that’s enough.


38. Aracelis Girmay

Who she is: Aracelis Girmay is a Cave Canem fellow, 2011 National Endowment for the Arts fellow, and currently teaches at Hampshire College. She is the author three poetry collections — Teeth, Kingdom Animalia and The Black Maria — and a collage-based picture book, Changing, Changing. She is an Acentos board member and received the 2015 Whiting Award for Poetry.

Why I love her: I read “A Tending” after watching Fruitvale Station and going down that rabbit hole of anger and mixed conviction and hopelessness. I love Girmay’s work because she doesn’t just give you good art, she demands that you examine how you look at and create art too. Yes, she gives you lines that make your stomach fall to your knees. But she also asks you why it’s necessary your body respond like that, and after it does, what are you doing to do next?

Find her: On Twitter.


39. torrin a. greathouse

Who they are: torrin a. greathouse is a genderqueer trans womxn and mentally ill cripple-punk creating in Southern California. The co-founder and editor-in-chief of Black Napkin Press, greathouse is a columnist for ROAR and has a chapbook forthcoming from Damaged Goods Press entitled Therǝ is a Case That I Ɐm.

Why I love them: They created a new form called Burning Haibun, a series of erasures over an original piece. But “wind-chime aria [for four hands]” is what got me. It’s like following breadcrumbs through someone’s memory, only find the house you’ve been searching for is nothing but a pile of ashes. greathouse is succinct without losing musicality or power in their work. I’m excited for all the art they’ll share.

Find them:: On Twitter.


40. Tara Hardy

Who she is: Tara Hardy teaches at Seattle Central College and is a queer, femme, chronically ill writer. The founder of Bent, a writing institute for LGBGTQ writers in Seattle, Hardy is the author of two poetry collections, Bring Down the Chandeliers and My, My, My, My, My. Read and listen to “Bone Marrow” at Words For the Year.

Why I love her: I read a quote on Tumblr — “You don’t get to choose who handles your heart. There are simply people who were born with it in their teeth. When you meet them, it is best to build a bomb shelter.” — that lead me to Bring Down the Chandeliers. That book was one of the works that allowed me to understand that someone can abuse you and still be a person. That you can look for a monster but you will always end up with just a human who behaved monstrously.

Find her: On Facebook.


41. Joy Harjo

Who she is: Joy Harjo is a poet, activist, author, performer, professor at University of Illinois at Urbana-Campaign, and member of the Mvskoke Nation. She is the author of seven books of poetry, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas, and winner of the William Carlos Williams award, among others. You can read her 2015 interview with Indian Country Today on being named the first Native poet to win the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.

Why I love her: I read this line from How We Became Human on Tumblr: “I am asking you to leave the country of my body, my mind, if you / have anything other than honorable intentions.” and it was my mantra for a long time. Harjo’s work reminds me of something I too often forget, that there is so much more than I could ever know. Instead of cowering at that fact, I should grow in it.

Find her: On Facebook.


42. francine j. harris

Who she is: francine j. harris is a Cave Canem fellow, 2014 Boston Review Annual Poetry Contest winner, 2015 NEA fellow, and a finalist for the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and PEN Open Book Award with her book, allegiance. She is currently the writer in residence at Washington University in St. Louis. You can read four of her poems including “Anise Swallowtail, Moulting” at PEN America.

Why I love her: Stevie Edwards’s amazing review of harris’ collection play dead explained that this book could help the reader become less monstrous. I love the way harris works with and plays against language. I love how she believes in “twerking language”. I love how her poem “enough food and a mom” makes me feel like I don’t understand at all but know my body does. I love how work like this helps me bridge that broken.

Find her: On Twitter.


43. Lydia Havens

Who they are: Lydia Havens is a poet, performer and editor. A Pushcart Prize and Best of Net nominee, they’re the 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion and a 2017 Boise Poetry Slam team member and currently studying creative writing at Boise State University. They’re also the creator and editor of Sapphic Swan Zine, a zine for women and nonbinary people who love women. Read “Another Poem on Mourning and Suicide Attempts”.

Why I love them: I read “LESBIANFLIX” as I was coming down from one of those gay media binges and feeling overwhelmed that I wasn’t gay enough. This came at a time where I was still trying to untangle media that mirrored me as inevitable death (if I was reflected at all). This poem gave me solace in knowing I wasn’t alone in thinking there was something fucked up with this.

Find them: On Twitter.


44. Marwa Helal

Who she is: Marwa Helal is a poet and journalist. The 2016 winner of BOMB Magazine’s Biennial Poetry Contest, a Cave Canem fellow, Brooklyn Poets fellow and Poets’ House fellow, Helal was born in Al Mansurah, Egypt. She is the editor of the Poetry Projects newsletter, author of I AM MADE TO LEAVE I AM MADE TO RETURN, and a teacher in Brooklyn. You can read five poems in BOMB Magazine.

Why I love her: She created “the Arabic” poem form, which includes an Arabic letter with an Arabic footnote and an Arabic numeral, and must be read from right to left. A poem using the form, “poem to be read from left to right”, was published in Winter Tangerine’s Love Letters to Spooks series, and in her note when she refused to accept English as the dominant language (“As if it was a kind of weakness, nah.”) I knew I’d follow her and her work to the ends of the earth.

Find her: On Twitter.


45. Nancy Huang

Who she is: Nancy Huang grew up in America and China. She is a 2015 YoungArts fiction finalist, James F. Parker Award in poetry finalist, and winner of the Michigan Young Playwrights Festival. Her first book, Favorite Daughter was released through Write Bloody.

Why I love her: “The Ballad of Lily Magnolia.” I bought her first collection off of that poem alone.

Find her: On Twitter.


46. Tonya Ingram

Who she is: Tonya Ingram is a Pushcart Prize nominee; six-time poetry finalist; 2011 New York Knicks Poetry Slam Champion; co-founder of NYU’s Poetry Slam Team; and member of 2011 Urban Word-NYC team, 2015 Nuyorican Grand Slam team and 2015 Da Poetry Lounge Slam team. She is the author of Another Black Girl Miracle.

Why I love her: Ingram’s performance of “Unsolicited Advice (after Jeanann Verlee)” stuck with me for a long time. Stuck so long, it made sure to wait with me in the doctor’s office as I told them who tried to touch me and what my brain did wrong. Stuck so long, it made sure I stayed put instead of running again.

Find her: On Twitter.


47. Taylor Johnson

Who they are: Taylor Johnson is a Callaloo, Lambda Literary, Cave Canem, VONA, the Fine Arts Work Center, and Vermont Studio Center fellow from Washington, D.C. Read “The Transkid Explains Gentrification, Explains Themselves” in Split This Rock.

Why I love them: They are so giving in their art that they dig the most honest, necessary truths out of you while keeping you grounded. I wish I could learn from them all year-round. They are a marvel.


48. I.S. Jones

Who she is: I.S. Jones is staff writer at Dead End Hip Hop, reader at Voicemail Poems, poet, editor, grant-writing apprentice, and a Callaloo, Watering Hole, and BOAAT fellow. Read three of her poems including “Cain” in Matador Review.

Why I love her: These poems and interview from Puerto del Sol: Black Voices and the last lines of “Self-Portrait as Idola” absolutely gutted me. In the interview she says, “there was some distance I wanted from the outside world and the interior self. I didn’t want that name, a name I was still learning to wear, in the mouths of others.” That thinking feels like it gives me permission to look at my name and how I fit in it. It gives me space to really examine my whole self and how the world takes it. How I can act in a way that keeps my insides safe and keeping only for me.

Find her: On Twitter.


49. Britteney Black Rose Kapri

Who she is: Britteney Black Rose Kapri is a writer, educator, playwright, teaching artist, performance poet and petty enthusiast. A Teaching Artist Fellow at Young Chicago Authors, Kapri is a staff member and writer for Black Nerd Problems. A 2015 Rona Jaffe Writers Award Recipient, her chapbook Winona and Winthrop was published through New School Poetics. Her book Black Queer Hoe, is forthcoming from Haymarket Books. Read “We House: After Krista Franklin’s Definition of Funk” at the Poetry Foundation.

Why I love her: I’ve got this dream me that is my best self. They got all their shit together, contains multitudes, and bestows good love with the ones that fuck with them and they fuck with back. I am nowhere near that person yet but Kapri’s work gets me closer every time I read or listen to her. You know that meme I felt like shit but then remembered who the fuck I am? Kapri is that person to me. After listening to Gun Smoked, I looked her up because I wanted to learn how she says the stuff out loud that I don’t even want my own brain to hear. Kapri is one of the poets I’m in awe of the most. I am most thankful of the guiding line she shared earlier this year, amidst the seemingly endless (they’re endless) black murders. She wrote simply, powerfully: “Stop explaining your humanity to white people.” Everyday, I try my best to.

Find her: On Twitter.


50. Sarah Kay

Who she is: Sarah Kay is a New York poet, reader and educator. Founder and co-director of Project VOICE, she is the author of four books: No Matter The Wreckage, B, The Type and All Our Wild Wonder coming this March. Kay is a TED Conference speaker, Kundiman fellow, and has been writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook and artist-in-residence at Serenbe and Grace Cathedral. Read “They Give Him A Medal When His Parachute Fails To Open” in BOAAT.

Why I love her: I’m gonna be honest, Kay’s voice is one of the best gifts in this world and I love listening to her poems. “The Type”, is one of my favorite performances because she is deliberate and sure of her words and makes sure that you cannot mistake anything that she chooses to share. Her voice already calms my nerves in the most chaotic of times, but her words, those are the ones that keep my body still even when it’s keen on running.

Find her: On Twitter.


Next page for #51-#75

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Alexis Smithers (Lex Lee) is a black nonbinary person creating on the East Coast. They've volunteered for Winter Tangerine and currently are a Web Development Student at Bloc. A 2015 Pink Door Fellow & 2016 Lambda Literary Emerging Writer, you can find more of their work on their website and listen to them scream about poetry & other interests on Twitter.

Alexis has written 19 articles for us.

25 Comments

  1. Wow, this looks wonderful! Just a few weeks or so ago, I was talking with some friends in grad school about how alongside the research I am doing for my own academic project, which is focused on the 16th and 17th centuries, I have ended up reading a lot chicana literature, women poets of color, etc. to help keep my spirits up in these dark times and difficult spaces. That evening I suggested that we compile a sort of “survival syllabus” of all the people we have read in parallel to our regular projects. I am excited to see your take on a similar idea, Alexis (so much so that I am leaving this comment after only page 1), and to get to know some poets I haven’t read yet.

  2. This list is going to take me a while to get through!
    In the meantime, I thought I’d share this:
    I’ve been in love with this poem for a few weeks, now.
    It certainly gives grocery shopping a whole new meaning, and well it makes me want to hug her and hug myself,too.

  3. Although I am not a connoisseur of poetry, I would like to put Daphne Gottlieb on your (or anyone’s) radar. She came to my Women’s Studies class (way back in 2002) and read us her poems and I have been smitten ever since. Feminine Protection will forever be my favorite, although 15 Ways to Stay Alive is a close second.

      • Yaaaay! I basically stalked her throughout college, but she was very nice about it lol. BTW, if you ever read the short story Bette Williams wrote for Daphne’s book Fucking Daphne: Mostly True Stories and Fictions, the “small women’s college” where they met is my college, Mills, and I was at the reading that night. I feel semi-famous 🙂

          • Awww too bad you didn’t apply! We would have been in college together! They actually gave me a partial scholarship without me asking for it, almost a 50% reduction in tuition. It was still more than a UC or State, but having a guarantee of completing in 4 years (or less, like I was able to do) made up for it. They are actually going to be REDUCING tuition next year in order to make it more affordable. I love my alma mater 🙂

  4. This is EXTRAORDINARY thank you Alexis!!!

    PS Dear other readers, consider joining A+ if you haven’t! It starts at $2.50/mo. AS Staff are busy making killer content like this so that’s why I’m commenting about it 🙂

    • I love Tarfia Faizullah, 100 Bells is one of the poems that absolutely changed me. Just didn’t feel comfortable because I haven’t read enough of her books yet, and this is definitely more of a starter pack not a full list!

  5. Thank you so much for this! One of my goals for this year is to consume more healing media, and poetry is great for that probably because it’s one of the most instinctive art forms, so this is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

    I can’t see 26-50 and am not sure if the link’s not working or it’s just not working yet? If she’s not on the second part of your list, I would recommend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Her collection Bodymap focuses on her experiences as a disabled queer woman of colour and is so beautiful.

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