11 Poets Beyoncé Should Feature on Her Next Visual Album
Who will be the next Warsan Shire?
When Somali-British poet Warsan Shire’s work was featured in Beyoncé’s album “Lemonade,” sales of her chapbook Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth spiked 800 percent. Shire was already kind of a big deal, both in and outside poetry circles; she was named Young Poet Laureate of London in 2014, and her poems are frequently circulated on Twitter and Tumblr, popular for the way they express tricky issues of identity, intimacy, and justice. But “Lemonade” raised her profile further, opening up a whole new audience not only for Shire’s work, but for poetry in general.
Nobody knows when Beyoncé might drop another surprise visual album—they just have to descend fully-formed from the sky—but we’d love to see her spread the love around. Here are eleven sharp, brilliant, and socially conscious poets who deserve to be 800 percent more well-known.
In her spoken word and her collections Other People’s Comfort Keeps Me Up At Night and There Are More Beautiful Things than Beyoncé, Morgan Parker engages identity, depression, and mental illness through a pop culture lens. BuzzFeed called her poetry “a sledgehammer covered in silk, exposing black women’s vulnerability and power and underscoring what it means to be magical and in pain.”
A finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for poetry, Danez Smith writes from a place of eminence. Their poetry has been featured widely in BuzzFeed, Poetry Magazine, and The New York Times, and their notable performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert helped their work reach a wide audience. Their poetry collection, Don’t Call Us Dead, opens with an imagined afterlife for the black victims of police brutality, a place free of suspicion and violence, where black boys bask in the safety and love denied to them in their mortal life.
Samiya Bashir has put out five collections, including Field Theories, and is a founder of Fire & Ink, a festival for LGBT writers of African descent. She’s known for her intensely memorable live poetry performances, which blur media, spoken word, and poetry into something entirely her own.
Denice Frohman’s performances are so powerful and captivating that they’ve been featured and commissioned by ESPN, GALAEI, BuzzFeed, and YouTube, among others. Exploring the intersection of race, gender, and identity, Frohman’s work is that rare mixture of unabashed and utterly honest, capturing the beauty of what poetry does best.
Author of the collection BlackGirl Mansion, Angel Nafis has been lauded by countless organizations, including Cave Canem, Millay Colony, and the LouderArts poetry project. Founder of the highly-regarded Greenlight Bookstore Poetry Salon, she also runs The Other Black Girl Collective alongside Morgan Parker.
Prolific writer Kearney has published six books, including the California Book Award–winning Patter. Kearney, an influencer in both poetry and prose circles, exhibits a deft eye for poetics and performance, where each line of a poem is unleashed as both escape and revelation.
Eve L. Ewing
Sociologist and poet Dr. Eve L. Ewing uses her work to examine the impact of social inequality and urban policy. From poetry that reinvents using different forms and mediums to research focusing on the infrastructure crumbling around us, Ewing’s subtle yet provocative work leaves you breathless.
Hieu Minh Nguyen
Nguyen’s work has been widely published in POETRY, BuzzFeed, PBS Newshour, and more. Nguyen, whose most recent book is Not Here, writes poetry that can shatter your heart and repair it in three lines or less. The emotional vulnerability demonstrated is uncanny, and he is able to explore identity with amazing care.
Dawn Lundy Martin
Martin’s performances leave audiences stunned and utterly captivated. Her poetry, which explores the concept of otherness, is ripe with energy and identity; it’s no wonder she won the Nightboat Books Prize in 2011 for her collection Discipline.
Jackson’s work as both a social psychologist and poem explores loss, otherness, and identity. There’s a tenderness to her poetry that expertly captures the inner and outer strife that emanates from social perceptions of Blackness. Author of two chapbooks, Surveillance and Language Lesson, Jackson is also the co-founder of Women Who Submit, an organization that helps women writers submit their work for publication.
Elizabeth Acevedo, author of The Poet X, is known for her slam poetry, which has earned her numerous accolades, including a National Slam Champion and 2016 Women of the World representative. Watching Acevedo perform her poetry live is one of those life-altering and life-affirming moments, a wondrously transformative experience.