I didn’t grow up reading and writing poetry except for what was required in my high school AP English class. Sure, I wrote a catchy couple of verses for holiday cards and perhaps crafted a few dirty limericks in my youth but nothing terribly serious. Then I had a child, and that child grew up to be a poet – not just for fun, but as a career. He graduated college a few weeks ago with honors in English, has multiple poems published in literary magazines, and is heading off to grad school in the fall to work on his MFA. I’m more than just a little proud of him. I’ve learned so much from him about the world of poetry over the last four years, and he has kept me flush with reading recommendations that have expanded my horizons immensely. I wanted to find a new (to me) and a unique way to contribute to Pride Month, so I decided to pick his brain for some outstanding and diverse poetry to share with you. I hope you’ll check them out and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Homie by Danez Smith
Danez Smith is a black, queer, non-binary writer. They are a founding member of Dark Noise Collective with Fatimah Asghar, Franny Choi, Nate Marshall, Aaron Samuels, and Jamila Woods. Smith is co-host of the poetry podcast VS from the Poetry Foundation with Choi. Smith’s third book of poetry, Homie released earlier this year in January. Homie is rooted in the loss of Smith’s close friend. “In poems of rare power and generosity, Smith acknowledges that in a country overrun by violence, xenophobia, and disparity, and in a body defined by race, queerness, and diagnosis, it can be hard to survive, even harder to remember reasons for living.” I found this book to be incredibly poignant and timely, given the state of our world today.
Dispatch by Cameron Awkward-Rich
Cameron Awkward-Rich is an assistant professor of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at UMass-Amherst. Before that, he was a postdoctoral associate in transgender studies at Duke University and holds a Ph.D. from Stanford in Modern Thought and Literature. Cam’s latest book, Dispatch released in 2019. “Set against the media environment that saturates even our most intimate spaces, Dispatch attends to, revises, and thinks adjacent to the news of racial/gendered violence in the US, from the nineteenth century to the present day. These poems ask: What kind of revisions will make this a world/a story that is concerned with my people’s flourishing? How ought I pay attention, how to register perpetual bad news without letting it fatally intrude? Cameron Awkward-Rich is among the most bracing voices to emerge in recent years, a dazzling exemplar of poetry’s (and humanity’s) possibilities.”
If They Come For Us by Fatimah Asghar
Fatimah Asghar is a poet, filmmaker, educator, and performer. She is the writer and co-creator of Brown Girls, an Emmy-nominated web series that highlights friendships between women of color. Asghar is the co-editor of Halal If You Hear Me, an anthology of women, queer, gender non-conforming, and/or trans Muslim writers. Her debut book of poems, If They Come For Us, tells the story of a young Pakistani Muslim woman in contemporary America. Orphaned as a child, Fatimah Asghar grapples with coming of age and navigating questions of sexuality and race without the guidance of a mother or father. “In experimental forms and language both lyrical and raw, Asghar seamlessly braids together marginalized people’s histories with her own understanding of identity, place, and belonging.”