American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (Penguin Poets)

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An Anti-Racist Poetry Reading List

These recent poetry collections—featuring quotes from Publishers Weekly reviews—offer poignant narratives and snapshots of racial injustice in America, from lasting testaments of systemic violence to a public appeal for the vital work that remains to be done as the country confront its legacy of racism and exploitation.

American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin by Terrance Hayes
“Hayes…addresses this marvelous series of 70 free-verse sonnets to his potential assassin: a nameless, faceless embodiment of America’s penchant for racially motivated violence.”

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine 
“In this trenchant new work about racism in the 21st century, Rankine…extends the innovative formal techniques and painfully clear-sighted vision she established in her landmark Don’t Let Me Be Lonely…. Rankine’s poetics capture the urgency of her subject matter.”

Homie by Danez Smith
“These poems are a celebration of black culture and experience, and a condemnation of white supremacy and its effects.”
Hybrida by Tina Chang
“Primarily…this is a book about the speaker’s son: her love for him, and how she and he negotiate his blackness in the world.”

Magical Negro by Morgan Parker 
“Parker writes of the black experience not as an antidote or opposite to whiteness, but a culture and community where irreplicable nuances are created in spite of, not because of, pain and trauma.”
Living Weapon by Rowan Ricardo Phillips
“Phillips explores social ills while celebrating poetry’s ability to provide solace and sense during times of upheaval.”

Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry: Poems & Artifacts by Nikky Finney
Finney…returns with her first collection in a decade, artfully interweaving memories from her life with episodes from throughout black history.


The Tradition by Jericho Brown
“Brown’s book offers its readers a communion of defiant survival, but only ‘Once you’ve lived enough to not believe in heaven.’”
We Inherit What the Fires Left by William Evans
“Evans recounts the mundane moments of pride and learning that come with fatherhood, as well as the larger systemic threats and legacies of violence that underlie his experience as a black American.”
White Blood: A Lyric of Virginia by Kiki Petrosino
“In this deeply felt fourth collection, Petrosino investigates her family tree—especially its roots in Virginia—and reports back on this exploration and its gaps…. This is an important and remarkable exploration of heritage.”
Bonus Links:
An Anti-Racist Reading List
A Social Justice Resources List


This piece was produced in partnership with Publishers Weekly.

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