Five Modern Poets of Color to Read and Reread

This list is in no particular order. 

The quotes listed in closing for each description will come from the beginning of the author’s book; for authors with two publications, I will be sure to indicate which text.

Nayyirah Waheed

Waheed is excellent;  salt. was her first book, if I’m not mistaken, and it was my favorite of the two. Her description of race and her pride are poignant. She writes of love, loss, ethnicity, race, and community just to name a few. Both books are full of stunning works, and her generosity is how I was able to download nejma, bone, and Zimbabwe for free on salt.’s one year anniversary.

I would definitely suggest following all five of these authors on twitter and instagram. That’s where the news was for free downloads, and all of these stunning artists share work on social media fairly regularly. That’s probably the best way to get a good sampling of their works and see their personality before investing in their books, if you’re feeling thrifty.

“it was only ever love.” -salt.

Twitter

Instagram

salt. on Amazon

nejma on Amazon

Yrsa Daley Ward

Ward writes in a way that compels the reader to turn each page for fear of missing the next glint of pure light that she pours into the page. She is Jamaican and Nigerian, raised in England. Her writing blends those cultures beautifull, providing some perspective on her life and the way that each influence affected her.

bone contains some prose, which can be quite refreshing when breezing through a book as compelling as hers is. Taking a break, reading a slower page like that truly does show the versatility of her writing style. The title of the book is fitting for the nature of her writing; we are looking at the bones of who she is.

“because writing is a soft and a hard place, all at once.”

Twitter

Instagram

bone of Amazon

Rupi Kaur

I remember waiting for Milk and Honey to be released. I downloaded the preview on kindle long before I bought the book itself, and I followed her Instagram page religiously. Kaur truly captivates her audience through passionate and powerful writing, and through her gorgeous artwork. The sketches that some of her poems live inside of or are adorned with set her apart, and I honestly wouldn’t mind having my body covered in her artwork.

The four chapters that Kaur separates her poetry into are each like concentrated forms of the chapter title. The hurting deals with intense topics such as child-molestation, rape, loss, and pain. Reading it is like a swift punch that lasts for nearly forty pages. The loving is stunning; I remember quite frankly what an emotional relief it was to be pulled out of the dark place that the hurting put me in and to read those beautiful poems full of joy and love. The breaking was again, quite honestly hurts. We feel her loss, we are pulled through the rut of being left and feeling the ache that the loss leaves behind. The healing ends the book on a soft, sweet, inspirational note that never comes across as sappy. I thoroughly enjoyed every emotion that Kaur pulled me through, and I couldn’t put the book down until I’d felt it all.

Kaur writes about her Sikh heritage quite frequently, and even informs readers on how being bilingual shaped the way that she punctuates her work. She is based in Toronto, Canada. Her Instagram is often loaded with poetry, conversation, and other artwork.

Twitter

Instagram

Milk and Honey on Amazon

Tapiwa Mugabe

As the only man on my list, Mugabe stands out as an extraordinary writer on gender and family structure. He frequently writes on being similar to his mother, someone he loves dearly, and on how he doesn’t understand the way that his father and other men disaprove of his feminine qualities.

I selected him because his writing offers a different perspective, and one that is refreshing. A challenge to masculinity is so valuable, especially in such male-centric societies, and his willingness to write so openly about it is astounding.

“Ndinotenda Nayirrah and Yrsa for seeing this book in me when I was full of doubt, for sharing this wonderful journey with me.”

Twitter

Instagram

Zimbabwe

Warsan Shire

Shire is Somali-British, and she definitely writes with emotion. I can’t begin to convey how breath-taking her work is. She was the first poet on this list that I read; her title jumped out at me, and I could reread her work a million times.

She includes notes in the back of the book to help readers understand the terms and references she sprinkled throughout, a thoughtful touch. Her frequent references to Islam show her strength in faith and help to beautifully illustrate the intricacies of her personality.

Shire doesn’t provide much biographical information in her book, though she managed to write an entire book that is so raw it might as well have been carved into flesh.

“I have my mother’s mouth and my father’s eyes; on my face they are still together.” -Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth

Twitter

Instagram

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth on Amazon

Her Blue Body on Amazon

Her Blue Body is the only work on this list that I don’t personally own. I have read all other works on this list and would recommend them to anyone who admires poetry, modern poetry, African poetry, millennial poetry, stories from People of Color, feminist poetry, and writing on race. All are available in print or via ebook.

As a writer myself, I can also deeply appreciate their poems which deal with the subject of writing. Most, if not all, of these writers discuss the act of writing and the nature of poetry through their own poems. Such a task can often come across as cliche or trope-y, but their work reads organically even in those cases.

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