Read Harder

Read Harder 2023 Task #20: Read a Book of Poetry by a BIPOC or Queer Author

Hello, readers! We are on the 20th task, and it’s a fun one: read a book of poetry by a BIPOC or queer author. Like many people, I’ve had a mixed relationship to poetry for most of my life. I have always written little poems, but often felt like I couldn’t fully understand reading them, and so spent great swaths of time missing out on the beauty of the language poets use. Even though poems are written using the same words as anything else, there is something in the brevity, in the careful choice of phrasing, and in the imagery that is unmatched in any other format.

I’ve gotten back into reading poetry in the last few years, although I have a long way to go in discovering the many amazing poets out there. But I have found a few! For this task, I’ve selected eight books from the last few years, each of them written by a poet who is BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or a person of color), queer/LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, or any other queer identity not listed here), or both. They’re all absolutely gorgeous, and I hope one of them speaks to you!

cover of Black Girl, Call Home: Poems by Jasmine Mans

Black Girl, Call Home by Jasmine Mans

These gorgeous poems follow spoken word poet Jasmine Mans’s path as a queer Black girl in Newark, New Jersey, becoming a woman.

cover of Alive at the End of the World by Saeed Jones

Alive at the End of the World by Saeed Jones

In these poems, award-winning memoirist Saeed Jones explores his voice as an unreliable narrator confronting white supremacy and looking at America through cultural icons including Little Richard and Aretha Franklin.

cover of You Better be Lightning by Andrea Gibson

You Better Be Lightning by Andrea Gibson

In these poems, nonbinary poet Andrea Gibson explores the world through self-reflection, looking at everything from their own queerness to climate change.

cover of The Smallest of Bones by Holly Lyn Walrath

The Smallest of Bones by Holly Lyn Walrath

Queer poet and editor Holly Lyn Walrath explores the body in these tiny poems, taking the reader on a journey of questioning and acceptance. (Disclosure: I have written for Holly’s magazine.)

cover of The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak by Grace Lau

The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak by Grace Lau

In these poems, queer poet Grace Lau explores Hong Kong history and life as a Canadian immigrant, using reference points in popular culture including boy bands, food, and more.

time is a mother book cover

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

In his second collection, queer Vietnamese American poet, novelist, and MacArthur fellow Ocean Vuong reflects on his life and the experience as a product of war, following his mother’s death.

cover of Can You Sign My Tentacle by Brandon O'Brien

Can You Sign My Tentacle? by Brandon O’Brien

In Lovecraft-inspired horror poems, Black poet Brandon O’Brien explores Blackness through monsters in the form of racism, sexism, and violence.

cover of Where Hope Comes From by Nikita Gill

Where Hope Comes From: Poems of Resilience, Healing, and Light by Nikita Gill

In this collection, written during COVID-19 lockdown, Instagram poet Nikita Gill explores loneliness, mental health, and more. Included in the collection is her famous poem “Love in the Time of Coronavirus,” and the collection is illustrated with her own line drawings.

I hope you enjoy whatever book of poetry you choose for your Read Harder challenge!

Happy reading!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.