by Amanda Steele
Finding a new poet whose words ignite and inspire your own writing is a joy we as poets share. There are many contemporary poets out there who are creating influential, beautiful work. LGBT+ poets are breaking boundaries and pushing language to new levels.
This will be the first in a series of blog posts meant to highlight and recognize queer poets and their work. If you are looking for a resource to find contemporary queer writers and see what is going on in the world of poetry, this blog series can get you started.
A selection of influential, contemporary queer poets of color.
While queer poets of color have always been around and shaping literature and the written word, learning about poets producing work now is important. Poets such as Audre Lorde and James Baldwin should also be part of your poetry canon, but for today, the focus is on the recent and up and coming.
Contemporary queer people of color are reshaping poetry and spoken word in new and exciting ways. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it’s a good place to start if you are looking to add a new chapbook or two to your collection. This really is just a small selection of all the great poets of color out there, and we will definitely be adding more to the list in future installments.
1: Saeed Jones
Saeed Jones published his debut work of poetry, Prelude to Bruise, in 2014. This collection focuses on themes related to masculinity, race, power dynamics, intimacy, and much more. He is a queer black man who is also well-known for being a literary editor for Buzzfeed. Jones was born in Memphis, raised in Lewisville, and currently lives in New York City. He received an MFA from Rutgers University-Newark and is a recipient of the Pushcart Prize as well as a fellow for Cave Canem and Queer/Art/Mentorship. You can follow him on Twitter here: @theferocity.
2: Natalie Diaz
Natalie Diaz is Mojave and a member of the Gila River Indian Community. She has an MFA and is the author of the poetry collection When My Brother Was an Aztec, which was published in 2012. The New York Times called this work “ambitious” and “beautiful.” She has received many awards such as the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry and the Lannan Literary Fellowship, among others. Diaz lives in Mohave Valley, Arizona, and she is a Mojave Language Activist. She can be found on Twitter at this handle, @NatalieGDiaz.
3: Jericho Brown
Jericho Brown released his debut work, Please, in 2008. This publication won the American Book Award. His second poetry collection, The New Testament, was released in 2014 and was named by Library Journal as one of the best poetry books of that year. Brown also received the Whiting Writers Award as well as fellowships from Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has a PhD from the University of Houston. Jericho’s work is centered around themes such as race, religion, rituals, and love. He can be found on Twitter, too, at @jerichobrown.
4: Chen Chen
Chen Chen is the author of When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, released in 2017. This work won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and the GLCA New Writers Award. He has also written two chapbooks and was featured as one of “Ten Poets Who Will Change the World” by Poets & Writers Magazine. Chen Chen has also been the recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, Lambda Literary, and the Saltonstall Foundation. He lives in Rochester, New York, and has an MFA from Syracuse University. Chen Chen is also on Twitter and can be found at @chenchenwrites.
5: Erika L. Sánchez
Erika L. Sánchez lives in Chicago and is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She is a poet, novelist, and essayist, and her first collection of poetry, Lessons on Expulsion, was published in 2017. Her debut YA novel, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, was also published in 2017 and is a New York Times Bestseller and National Book Awards Finalist. She is also a 2017–2019 Princeton Arts fellow. Sánchez received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Mexico, and her work has been featured in Poetry magazine, NPR, and many many other publications. You can follow her on Twitter at @ErikaLSanchez.
6: Yosimar Reyes
Yosimar Reyes is “a nationally acclaimed poet, educator, performance artist and public speaker” according to the bio from his website. He is from Mexico, and his work is focused around themes related to migration and sexuality. His first collection, For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly…, was self-published. He is also co-founder of La Mariocolectiva. This is a performance group of undocumented, queer poets. Reyes’ work has been featured in many online journals, and he is an Arts Fellow at Define American. Find him on Twitter here: @YoSoyYosi.
7: Amber Atiya
Amber Atiya released her first chapbook, the fierce bums of doo-wop, in 2014. Her poetry has appeared in many literary journals including Black Renaissance Noire, Boston Review, Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color, and many more. Atiya is a 2012 Poets House Fellow. Amber Atiya was born and raised in Brooklyn, where she currently resides. You can find her on Twitter @AmberAtiyaNYC and on Tumblr, here.
8: Ryka Aoki
Ryka Aoki is the author of many collections and works including Seasonal Velocities, He Mele a Hilo (A Hilo Song), and Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul. She performed at the first ever Transgender Stage at San Francisco Pride and has performed at many other venues over the years. Aoki has an MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University, and she is also the recipient of the University Award from the Academy of Poets. Aoki is also the founder of the International Transgender Martial Arts Alliance and is a professor at Santa Monica College. Follow her on Twitter at @ryka_aoki.
9: Danez Smith
Danez Smith is a black, queer writer and performer from St. Paul, Minnesota. Their collection of poetry, Don’t Call Us Dead, was published in 2017 and was a finalist for the national book award. Smith also published a collection of poetry called [insert] boy, which was published in 2014. This collection won the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry. Their work has been featured in Buzzfeed, The New York Times, Poetry Magazine, and more. Danez co-hosts VS, a podcast sponsored by the Poetry foundation, with Franny Choi, and he is also a recipient of many fellowships. Follow them on Twitter under this handle: @Danez_Smif.
10: Franny Choi
Franny Choi is a “queer, Korean-American poet, playwright, teacher, organizer,” according to her website. Her published works include Floating, Brilliant, Gone, published in 2014 and Death by Sex Machine, published in 2017. She has many awards from the Poetry Foundation, Helen Zell Writers program, and more. She received a fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center and the Rhode Island Council on the Arts. Choi’s work has been featured in Poetry Magazine, Huffington Post, and more. She has been a finalist for the National Poetry Slam and other slam poetry competitions and co-hosts the podcast VS with Danez Smith. Look out for her collection, Soft Science, coming out in 2019, and find her on Twitter @fannychoir.
Check out, Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color. The new issue is coming out soon, and, if you can’t buy it, you can still see the list of contributors, making it a great place to find some new poets. Christopher Sota and Lambda Literary Foundation started this online journal in 2014.
Share your favorite contemporary queer poets of color below!
Amanda Steele is a queer poet and writer with a degree in Creative Writing and Gender Studies from Utah Valley University. She was born and raised in Idaho and currently lives in Salt Lake City. Amanda works as a freelance writer and blogger and has been published in peculiar, The Dandelion Review, and Sun and Sandstone, among others. She loves to mix her love of writing with her passion for activism and fandom. You can follow her on Twitter: @wordsaflame3 or on her blog here.