By L.G. Parker
For black and queer persons alike, much of the realities of our lives are considered “made up” by those who don’t and won’t understand us. Black, queer poets have access to new ways of approaching language as a result of this reality. As self proclaimed black lesbian warrior poet Audre Lorde said in her famous essay “Poetry Is Not A Luxury,” poetry “forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.”
These writers have used language to move American Letters, the public imaginary, and all who are touched by their work toward a tangible action unlike anything that came before them. You need them on your bookshelf.
1. R. Erica Doyle – proxy (Belladonna Press, 2013)
Proxy is an unrequited love story in prose poems, where the landscape of the beloved body becomes the windows of New York City, the deserts of North Africa, and the mangroves of the Caribbean. PROXY is a conversation with the calculus, plotting and space against the infinite capacities of desire.
2. Bettina Judd – Patient. (Black Lawrence Press, 2014)
Patient. explores black women’s trauma in medical settings by greeting and conversing with the ghosts of Anarcha Westcott, Betsey Harris, Lucy Zimmerman, Joice Heth, Saartjie Baartman, and Henrietta Lacks.
3. L. Lamar Wilson – Sacrilegion (Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series, 2013)
Wilson’s debut collection is rich with the spiritual traditions of his Southern home. Each poem beautifully assaults and inserts the reader intro an urgent conversation about racism, homophobia, and being differently abled.
4. Rickey Laurentiis – Boy with Thorn (Pitt Poetry Series, 2015)
In a landscape at once the brutal American South as it is the brutal mind, Boy with Thorn interrogates the genesis of all poetic creation—the imagination itself, questioning what role it plays in both our fascinations with and repulsion from a national history of racial and sexual violence. The personal and political crash into one language here, gothic as it is supple, meditating on visual art and myth, to desire, the practice of lynching and Hurricane Katrina. Always at its center, though, is the poet himself—confessing a double song of pleasure and inevitable pain.
5. Danez Smith – [insert] boy (Yes Yes Books, 2014)
Smith delivers, through a series of elegies for the black boy that is you, your brother, and cousins n’nem, a collection of poems that insist on and explore desire, the body, and how to say hallelujah anyhow.
L.G. Parker is a poet and writer living in Richmond, VA. She is a Callaloo fellow and regular contributor to Elixher Magazine, Blavity, and the Black Youth Project.