20 Books of Poems by Queer Black Writers for the Queer Black Boy
Luther Hughes, our Editor at Large and Editor of The Shade Journal, has put together his 20 books that, as a Queer Black Poet, have guided him through a society often spiteful of his presence. Add these books to your empathy, your library—and share the list with as many young people facing the same set of struggles as you can.
I often think about the books that have helped me, shaped me, and guided me as a poet, yes, but also as a person. I think about who I was before reading certain books and who I am now that I have read them. I am thankful for the books and to the poets who have taught me what it meant to be human—no, what it meant to be a queer black boy in a country actively trying to see me fail. Die.
At one point in my life, I didn’t know many queer black writers, or if I knew them, I wasn’t told of their queerness. This list isn’t the only books and it isn’t, by far, the only queer black writers the queer black boy should read. To say this list is complete is to say queerness, and by large blackness, is limited. Both are vast and continually grow beyond the mind’s comprehension, ever-changing and restless. And, by God, that is so beautiful.
What have these books taught me? What have these poets taught me? They taught me tenderness, strength, celebration, violence, history, love, and so much more. They taught me to believe in myself and stand in my own truths, because if I can’t my story won’t be told.
June Jordan, in “Poem about My Rights,” writes, “My name is my own my own my own.” Thank you, June. Thank you everyone on this list. Thank you.
Books of Poems by Queer Black Writers for the Queer Black Boy
(alphabetized by last name)
- Vice by Ai (W.W. Norton)
- Sympathetic Little Monster by Cameron Awkward-Rich (Ricochet Editions)
- The New Testament by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon)
- proxy by r. erica doyle (Belladonna)
- Head Off & Split by Nikki Finney (NU Press)
- Call & Response by Forrest Hamer (Alice James Books)
- Play Dead by francine j. harris (Alice James Books)
- The Collected Poems of Robert Hayden (W.W. Norton)
- Ceremonies by Essex Hemphill (Cleis Press)
- Directed By Desire by June Jordan (Copper Canyon)
- Patient by Bettina Judd (Black Lawrence Press)
- Black Queer Hoe by Britteney Black Rose Kapri (Haymarket Books)
- Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis (Knopf)
- Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde (W.W. Norton)
- Discipline by Dawn Lundy Martin (Nightboat Books)
- The Rest of Love by Carl Phillips (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Indecency by Justin Phillip Reed (Coffee House Press)
- Spells of a Voodoo Doll by Assotto Saint (Masquerade Books)
- Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith (Graywolf)
- Sacralegion by L. Lamar Wilson (Carolina Wren Press)
Luther Hughes is a Seattle native and author of Touched (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2018). He is the Founding Editor in Chief of The Shade Journal and Executive Editor for The Offing. A Cave Canem fellow and a columnist for Frontier Poetry, his work has been published or is forthcoming in various journals including, Hayden’s Ferry Review, New England Review, TriQuartlery, Four Way Review, and others. Luther received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. You can follow him on Twitter @lutherxhughes. He thinks you are beautiful.