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Including Kwame Alexander, Ibi Zoboi, and Nikki Giovanni, this breathtaking Black YA poetry anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Amber McBride, Taylor Byas, and Erica Martin celebrates Black poetry, folklore, and culture.

Black experiences and traditions are complex, striking, and vast—they stretch longer than the Nile and are four times as deep—and carry more than just unimaginable pain—there is also joy.

Featuring an all-star group of thirty-seven powerful poetic voices, including such luminaries as Kwame Alexander, James Baldwin, Ibi Zoboi, Audre Lorde, Nikki Giovanni, and Gwendolyn Brooks, this riveting anthology depicts the diversity of the Black experience by fostering a conversation about race, faith, heritage, and resilience between fresh poets and the literary ancestors that came before them.

Edited by Taylor Byas, Erica Martin, and Coretta Scott King New Talent Award winner Amber McBride, Poemhood will simultaneously highlight the duality and nuance at the crux of so many Black experiences with poetry being the psalm constantly playing.


“Blacktime is time for chimeful / poemhood,” writes Gwendolyn Brooks in this anthology’s tone-setting introductory poem, “Young Afrikans.” The following entries are accompanied by track numbers and brief outros offering context, a fitting arrangement for a book that’s an “homage to the beauty and musicality of Black poetry.” This collection seeks grounding in those who came before; each section—“Livin’,” “Gawd,” “Haunting Water,” and “Magickal”—includes both enduring works by long-gone literary forebears (Phillis Wheatley, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes) as well as those of more modern poets (Nikki Giovanni, Kwame Alexander, Ashley Woodfolk). Highlights include Courtne Comrie’s sprightly “10:32 p.m.,” about the pleasures of living, while Audre Lorde’s “Power” is full of fury over the state-sanctioned death of Clifford Glover, a Black child murdered by a police officer in 1973. The editors were intent on selecting poems that “reflect, inspect, comment, and retell” Black folklore. For example, they include “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” a storied folk song used by the enslaved on the Underground Railroad, which juxtaposes nicely with editor Byas’ “Enough Room,” a lovely piece of lore on how the sun and moon came to live in the sky. This “patchwork quilt of poetry” is cohesive and curated with care, and it belongs in every library and classroom across the country. 

A rich, thoughtful anthology exploring centuries of Black poetry. (contributor bios) (Poetry anthology. 13-18)" 

-Kirkus Review

"Byas (I Done Clicked My Heels Three Times, for adults), Martin (And We Rise), and McBride (Gone Wolf) gather 37 writers to present an artfully arranged anthology that seeks to encapsulate the depth and diversity of the Black experience through poetry. Included alongside works by contemporary contributors such as Kwame Alexander, Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez are poems by James Baldwin (1924–1987), Gwendolyn Brooks (1917–2000), and Audre Lorde (1934–1992), among others. “By placing poems written sixty years ago beside poems written today,” the editors assert in an introduction, “words are able to reach across time and converse on the page.” This time-spanning theme is evident in the curation of the entries, as well as within many of the poems themselves, as when Tony Keith Jr. writes, “My ancestor is a nineteen-year-old Black boy/ who wrote poems and read books and smiled at me/ when saying his mother was beautiful,” in “Views for Damani.” Brief outros by the volume’s editors follow each poem, providing information about the selection, including illuminating historical context and thought-provoking structural analysis. This deep and complex assemblage of Black poetry culminates in a joyful, painful, and emotionally rich experience. Ages 13–up. (Jan.)"

- Publishers Weekly

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