100 of My Favorite Poets For Your Survival Pack

51. Donika Kelly

Who she is: Donika Kelly is a Cave Canem fellow and winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Prize for her book Bestiary, which was also longlisted for the National Book Award and a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award. She is the assistant professor at St. Bonaventure where she teaches creative writing. Read “Self-Portait As a Door” at the Rumpus.

Why I love her: I was in the sunlit room of a public library I’ve only been to once, looking around as if I didn’t belong, in the city where I attach my adolescence, where I tried to bleach the black of me. I walked straight into the poetry section. In the middle of a book, I found “How to Be Alone,” a not-long poem about dogs and blackness and wounds and holding and truth and memory and a lot more besides that. It will overwhelm you in your need for it. There are lines that take forever to fit your mouth around, but each one sits in your ear pretty, though it does not want you to recognize it. This is the one that I’ve been saying over and over, the one I’ll keep in the locked fist of myself for a long time to come:

“Because she leaves.
And you are always your best.
And you are a fool.
Because you believe in reciprocity.
Because you are afraid of your own
hand. How could you have asked her to
stay?”

I’ve always been told that nature isn’t for us black girls, us black nbs, us black. This is one of the few poetry books that has me remembering the land and the animals and how the earth knew my name before any man decided to learn it. I’ve been fed Snow White as the only kind of person who can travel the earth, but Bestiary has me knowing I am the earth. It tells me that there is a responsibility in caring and trusting and listening to the dirt road and muddied lake and the many truths in this, in me.

Find her: On Twitter.


52. Kokumo Kinetic

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Who she is: Kokumo Kinetic is a Black trans femme activist, performer, poet and entrepeneur. You can buy her 2017 Lambda Award Winner Reacquainted with Life here and read her work in Heartspark Press’s anthology, Resilience. Read Five Poems in Wanderer.

Why I love her: Kai Cheng Thom wrote about her earlier last year, and said Kinetic “holds a map to a new way of thinking, of living, of being as queers”. I learned this was true when I went to Capturing Fire later last year and saw Kinetic perform at Alchemy: Celebrating the Works of TGNC Authors, Hosted by Dane Edidi. Kinetic sang and spoke in the coffee shop with a presence that trembled. Her presence didn’t tremble from fear though, but from a power that I’m not sure the store could hold. Listening to her perform made me feel like something was changing in me, something was rearranging itself better just from the words she shared.

Find her: On Facebook.


53. Madeline Lessing

Who they are: Madeline Lessing is an avid Predictive Text Poet, 2017 FEMSlam competitor and part of “one of the purest memes” in Buzzfeed LGBT. You can watch them feature at Bowery Arts + Science.

Why I love them: They are adamant about talking about your feelings if safe enough to do so, about being safe, about staying safe, about being the best strongest messiest person you can be. They post at least five things every day that unlock the windows in my heart. They remind me to stick my head out those windows and call to the ones I love.

Find them: On Patreon.


54. Ada Limón

Who she is: Ada Limón is a freelance writer and faculty to the online program for Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, 24Pearl Street, and the Queens University of Charlotte Low-Residency MFA program. She is the author of four books; her most recent, Bright Dead Things, is a 2015 National Book Award in Poetry finalist, 2015 National Critics Circle Book Award finalist, Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award finalist, and named a top ten poetry books the year it was published by the New York Times. You can read an interview with her in the Adroit Journal and her poem “The Leash” at poets.org.

Why I love her: I read Bright Dead Things as my grandma was dying. I wanted to stop writing just like my grandma stopped remembering. If my grandma lost a part of herself, I felt like I needed to do the same. Limon’s work gave me space to grieve and hold on to even when I let everything else fall apart.

Find her: On Twitter.


55. Carrie Lorig

Who she is: Carrie Lorig is a poet and the author of The Book of Repulsive Women Five Increasing/Rhythms.

Why I love her: As a recommendation from Dalton Day, I picked up The Pulp vs. The Throne and absolutely loved it. It’s so strange and different from what I usually read and it gave me a new way of looking at everything. I reviewed it in Words Dance two years ago and this still holds true of her writing today: “You’ve got to go […] into it with a lot of trust. But that’s okay. It’s good practice for everything else.”

Find her: On Twitter.


56. Caseyrenee Lopez

Who they are: Caseyrenee Lopez is the founder and editor-in-chief of Crab Fat Magazine, the founder of Damaged Goods Press, and has been published in several books including QueerSexWords. Currently an adjunct professor at John Tyler Community College, their books i was born dead and the new gods are forthcoming from About Editions and Bottlecap Press, respectively. Read “making fire out of ice” in tap magazine.

Why I love them: They are unwavering in giving queer and trans people a room of their own. They give us a place where we can create and congregate. Then they elevate those voices, so that we are part of every conversation we’ve been excluded from.

Find them: On Twitter.


57. Nabila Lovelace

Who she is: Nabila Lovelace is a first-generation Queens native and her people are from Trinidad and Nigeria. She is the 2013 Poets & Writers Award winner, a 2014 Emerge-Be-Surface fellowship finalist, a 2016 Poetry Witch Magazine Summer Solstice Bop Contest finalist and a 2016 Vinyl 45 Chapbook Contest finalist, a Callaloo fellow and the cofounder of the Conversation Literary Festival. Her debut book of poems, Son of Achilles, was released through YesYes Books. You can read and listen to two of her poems in the Adroit Journal.

Why I love her: Anything that makes me feel like I’m seen (not through dangerous eyes) is something I want to stay close to. Lovelace’s poem “CHOICES, AKA: ADVICE TO THE ABUSER & THE POEM” in Narrative Northeast is something like that. After hearing her read at an AWP off-site event, I stick close to anything she puts out.

Find her: On Twitter.


58. Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Who she is: Melissa Lozada-Oliva is a spoken word artist and educator. Currently pursuing her MFA from NYU, she is one half of chillona diaries with Tiffany Mallery and is the author of Plastic Pájaros and Peluda.

Why I love her: I read four of her poems in Freezeray Poetry and aside from being the absolute coolest person for writing a suite of poems inspired by/dedicated to one of the loves of my life, sonnet for letting you go aka the sandwich saved me has not let me known a moment’s peace since I’ve read it and I am thankful.

Find her: On Twitter.


59. Liv Mammone

Who she is: Liv Mammone is a poet, novelist, professor and MFA candidate. You can listen to her perform “For Christmas I Give My Grandmother a Prozac” in SlamFind.

Why I love her: I read her interview and poem with Brooklyn Poets and that poem knocked the wind out of me. I met her in person earlier this year at Capturing Fire and she performed a poem so strong, I was sure the earth was brought to its knees by the end of it.

Find her: On Twitter.


60. Dawn Lundy Martin

Who she is: Dawn Lundy Martin is a poet and activist. She cofounded Third Wave Foundation and Black Took Collective, co-edited The Fire This Time: Young Activists and the New Feminism with Vivien Labaton, and is the author of several books. She is an Academy of American Arts and Science’s May Sarton Prize for Poetry winner and Cave Canem Prize winner. Read “Violent Rooms” at the Poetry Foundation.

Why I love her: This book messed me up. The “you can’t judge a book by its cover” saying originates here, even extends to you can’t judge it by it’s inside either because even though the pages are simple, the feelings it produces are not. Like Juliana Spahr blurbs on the back of this book: “Life in a Box is a Pretty Life tells us there is no hope in the right now. But there is resistance.” There are works that dazzle with the promise and hope of change, but this is the book that comes to you demanding work. The kind that bloodies knuckles and scabs the face. It’s a book that demands you come here, real and ready, if you want to make it back out.

Find her: On Facebook.


61. Airea D. Matthews

Who she is: Airea D. Matthews is an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College. Winner of the 2016 Yale Poetry Series Prize with simulacra, she was awarded the Untermeyer Scholarship in Poetry from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and won the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, both in 2016.

Why I love her: Her poems in the Rumpus are the only things that made sense to me after the 2016 election. They gave me hope but not the pretty shining thing with feathers. No, Matthews gave me a realistic hope, something I could hold to. A hope that knows we were always gonna have to fight our way to be free, and the election is just a reminder of that fact. Whenever Matthews shares her writing, I’m waiting for the whole world to stop ‘til she says carry on.

Find her: On Twitter.


62. Rachel McKibbens

Who she is: Rachel McKibbens is a Chicana poet, resistor and noise maker. She is the author of several books, the 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion, and co-curator of Poetry & Pie with Jacob Rokovan in the Spirit Room Rochester.

Why I love her: I printed and pasted her essay “The Ghost Daughter Speaks” and several quotes from her poems into this torn little black notebook I kept from 2012 until about 2016. That notebook kept me afloat ‘til I could get help. It saw me through every treatment team meeting and family therapy session until I was stable. McKibbens is one of the kindest, truest, most love filled people on this earth. This last line got me through intensive outpatient therapy. Look through my old art therapy pictures and you’ll see this quote at least ten times in the beginning. Before I even got the chance to know her, she was saving me. She hosts a retreat for nonbinary and women artists of color called Pink Door. I was fortunate enough to attend in 2015. When I say it will change your life, I don’t mean it lightly.

Find her: On Twitter.


63. Sarah Maria Medina

Who she is: Sarah Maria Medina is a poet and fiction and creative nonfiction writer from the American Northwest. Poetry editor for Winter Tangerine, Medina is the winner of the 2017 Black Warrior Review poetry contest for “From a Poet to Her Rumbero,” selected by Rachel McKibbens. Read two of her poems in Powder Keg.

Why I love her: Medina started a little group where we’d go back and forth editing each other’s poems. You’d think I got the better end of the deal because someone as wonderful as her was editing my work but surprise! both ends were the best because I got to see her magic in progress.

Find her: On Twitter.


64. Natasha T. Miller

Who she is: Natasha T. Miller is a Sinola brand culture ambassador, Kresge Artist Fellow and founder and owner of Artists Inn Detroit, a bed and breakfast and community hub that provides quality lodging for visiting artists and the opportunity for them to give back to their host community. She’s been featured in CNN, Vogue, and Sprite, and you can read her Pushcart-nominated poem “On Turning my Nephew into a Vegan” in the Offing.

Why I love her: I’ve always been afraid of coming out. Even though I’m out in a lot of spaces it’s still a constant fear. Being black and woman-read already feels like asking to be killed twice. Presenting butch just feels like I’m begging for it (even though it’s not true). When I heard “Coming Out” I was thrown for a loop because I didn’t think that anyone else noticed how quiet everyone was when people like me were murdered. When Miller says, “You were born a hate crime,” I understand what it means to be hooked. I feel that sharpness right in the center of my stomach pulling me even when I’m desperately running in the opposite direction.

Find her: On Twitter.


65. Angel Nafis

Who she is: Angel Nafis is a Cave Canem fellow, founder and creator of the Greenlight Bookstore Poetry Salon, and one half of the internationally touring poetry duo The Other Black Girl Collective with Morgan Parker. She’s the author of BlackGirl Mansion, and half of the Odes for You Tour with Shira Erlichman. She is a 2017 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg fellow and National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellow. You can read “Gravity” at the Poetry Foundation.

Why I love her: The first line of “Angel’s Heart Reasons With Her Dad” in Muzzle still has me all the way fucked up. It’s the whole reason I bought BlackGirl Mansion. The book didn’t disappoint; my copy is covered in scribbles and notes and exclamation points because it is everything I wish I could give to every past self.

Find her: On Twitter.


66. Noor Ibn Najam (F.K.A Noor Jaber)

Who he is: Noor Ibn Najam (F.K.A. Noor Jaber) is a Callaloo and Watering Hole fellow and Pink Door alumnus. His released his chapbook, Sovereign Ancestral last year. Read three of his poems in Drunk in a Midnight Choir.

Why I love him: I saw Noor perform earlier this year above a bar in a freezing room that I’m 99% sure had no wall on one side. I do not leave my house for much, but I made sure to get to this. Noor is enthusiastic and loving and smart as shit and all of that comes across in his writing. He talked about gender in such a way that night that it had me looking into a room of questions I keep locked from myself, for weeks. He is also an herbalist and tarot card reader and his teas have grounded me during some terrible episodes, so while you read his work, grab some tea, too.

Find him: On Twitter.


67. kiki nicole

Who they are: kiki nicole is a blk poet and artist from Baltimore, MD. A Pink Door alumnus, 2016 Voice is a Muscle Grant semi-finalist and 2017 spring cohort of Destiny Art’s Queer Emerging Residency, they released their chapbook BLK / STILL / LIFE earlier this year. Read two of their poems in Radar Production’s Glow: Queer Poetry Feature.

Why I love them: “Community means love and love means doing the work,” they explain in the Shade Journal. That is something I’ve been keeping close. I forget that while creating can often be solitary, that doesn’t mean it will work or even be good. We need others uplifting us and we need to make sure we do the same for them. Because of nicole, if I see someone I love doing their work, I don’t just let my heart swell with pride. I tell them about it, even if we don’t know each other that well. nicole has a way of digging right to the heart of what needs to be said, what needs to be shared. Their work experiments in a way I didn’t know black people could do. Their work is inspiration for creating and connecting with others as truthfully as possible.

Find them: On Twitter.


68. Emily O’Neill

Who she is: Emily O’Neill is a writer, artist and proud Jersey girl. She was the inaugural winner of the Pamet River Prize with her book Pelican, and is also the author of and Make a Fist and Tongue the Knuckles. She is the 2016 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Series winner. Read two of her poems in Anthropoid.

Why I love her: The line “Am I a child until someone kills me?” obliterated me. This poem, and every one of her poems, is unflinching in its honesty. Everything I’ve read by O’Neill is the greatest thing I’ve read and then, I turn the page.

Find her: On Twitter.


69. Precious Okoyomon

Who she is: Precious Okoyomon is a black poet and the author of Ajebota. Read one of her poems in Lambda Literary.

Why I love her: I read this interview Okoyomon had with the Creative Independent and it completely changed the game for me. Okoyomon explains that everything a writer writes and says is part of their collection of work. That an interview, a Facebook post, a tweet are all part of the writer’s legitimate writing never occurred to me. You always put these things in separate categories. I can’t quote a text message without it sounding self-centered and over-important. Okoyomon shows me that it’s all writing and creativity and there doesn’t have to be an imaginary boundary between personal and professional writing, that it may even be better if they bleed into one another.

Find her: On Twitter.


70. Angelique Palmer

Who she is: Angelique Palmer is a 2014 Pink Door alumnus, 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam finalist, and 2017 Beltway Poetry Slam member. She leads workshops, hosts and performs at open mics and features, and volunteers with spoken-word based charities. She’s also the author of The Chambermaid’s Style Guide from Sargent Press. Read read five of her poems, including “Drunk In A Midgnight Choir,” and listen to “Indicators” at Button Poetry.

Why I love her: Palmer is one of the most light- and love-filled people I’ve ever met. She’s the person I focused on when my anxiety was sky high at Capturing Fire this year. I wanted to clam up but she helped me speak. I met Angelique at Pink Door, for a moment, and all I can remember about how we got where we are now, is that she gives great hugs, and she encourages me to create my best, and to always show up.

Find her: On Twitter.


71. Morgan Parker

Who she is: One half of the Other Black Girl Collective, Morgan Parker is a Cave Canem fellow, 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship recipient, and Pushcart Prize winner. She is the creator and host of Reparations, Live! at the Ace Hotel in New York and co-hosts the Poets with Attitude series with Tommy Pico. She’s the author of Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up at Night through Switchback Books and There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce through Tin House. Her third poetry collection, Magical Negro, is forthcoming from Tin House and her debut nonfiction book is forthcoming from One World.

Why I love her: I bought There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce the day it came out and got a physical copy of Lemonade, too, because I know how to live my best life.

Parker wrote an essay called “Love Poems Are Dead” that lowkey saved my life. I’ve written a lot of love poems, they’re all terrible, and I could never understand why. I thought there was something wrong with me (being black, being gay, being trauma, being) but could never hold that reasoning in place: if it’s because I’m black, why are my parents in love? If it’s because I’m gay, why is Ellen in love? If it’s because of my trauma then why does Celie get to love and be loved? None of it made sense until I read the last paragraph of this essay: “This is not a world for love poems. I wish it were. I wish my heart could feed a love poem, but this heart needs convincing to walk outside. I’d like to write a love poem someday, but I need to be taught how. I need to know I’m allowed, that I deserve it.”

Find her: On Twitter.


72. Xandria Phillips

Who they are: A Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow, Xandria Phillips is a poetry editor at Winter Tangerine and the curator of Winter Tangerine’s Love Letter to Spooks, a literary space for black people. The 2016 Seattle Review chapbook contest winner, her book, Reasons for Smoking, chosen by Claudia Rankine, is forthcoming in 2018. You can read and listen to “Thesarus Culture” in the Adroit Journal.

Why I love them: Xandria is a genius. Even though I had an inkling of Love Letters to Spooks, I wasn’t prepared for it to completely undo me. I read the spotlight within a week of its publication and I knew I needed to carry around everything Xandria creates when she explained in the editor’s note: “Not all grief is grace.”

Find her:: On Twitter.


73. Khadijah Queen

Who she is: Khadijah Queen is winner of the Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women’s Performance Writing and her work has been staged at the Theaterlab by Fiona Templeton’s the Relationship theatre company. She’s the author of five books, is core faculty in poetry and playwriting for Regis University’s Mile-High MFA in creative writing, and is raising a teenager.

Why I love her: In a review of Queen’s most recent book, I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men and What I Had On, I wrote: “Queen gives a lesson that all black women need: you (and by extension, your story) are important, crucial, and absolutely necessary. Black women need to chronicle their lives, to keep it permanent, especially when the world really just doesn’t give a fuck about them. Queen doesn’t write about a life lived, she writes about herself still living.” I still need to remember this. I don’t think about my story in the dark of night, in the dark of, in the dark or I don’t think about myself until it’s in danger of being erased. Queen’s poetry demands I write my story while I’m still around to tell it.

Find her: On Twitter.


74. Claudia Rankine

Claudia Rankine, 2016 MacArthur Fellow, New York, New York, September 7, 2016

Who she is: Claudia Rankine is a poet, essayist, playwright and editor of several anthologies. She has received fellowships from Lannan Foundation, Guggenheim, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She is the author of three award-winning poetry collections, including Citizen: An American Lyric. Read and listen to “You Are in the Dark, in the Car” from Citizen at the Poetry Foundation.

Why I love her: I read Citizen in the mall parking garage while I waited for my dad to get a haircut. There had just been a shooting in the mall and I couldn’t make myself go in. I always feel unnecessarily paranoid after things like this happen. Citizen told me it was okay to feel this way, that I had good reason to stay put if it made me feel safe.


75. Linette Reeman

Who they are: Linette Reeman is an Aries from the Jersey Shore, a poet, educator and performer, Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, the winner of Sundog Lit’s Inaugural Collaboration Contest with torrin a. greathouse and a Brett Elizabeth Jenkins prize finalist. They are the author of several chapbooks. Read five of their poems in Vanilla Sex Magazine.

Why I love them: “facts about tigers” was the first poem I read by them, and it make me want to read everything they’ve ever written. They write a lot of poems with history and I was never a huge history buff (I tend to get stuck in the past, so I try to never go there). But their work has me looking up Marie Antoinette and Virginia Woolf and Alan Turing to make sure I got their stories right. Reeman turns a lot of what I know on its head, and I love that they give me the chance to look at things in new ways.


Next page for #76-#100

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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 27 articles for us.

26 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.

  6. i’ve spent hours with this list looking through all of these brilliant writers’ works and i cannot wait to spend time with each and everyone of these artists’ works…. thank you for bringing me closer to other middle eastern queer womxn i could cry… (and your words about your personal connections to all of these incredible works made this list that much more special)

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