10 Books for National Poetry Month

This April marks the 23rd National Poetry Montha yearly month-long celebration that aims to spark engagement with poetry around the country. The Sonja Haynes Stone Center Library’s collection features a significant section of African and African American poetry books, so we decided to share 10 books of poems covering a wide range of African and African American Poetry throughout the past two centuries.    Stack of books in the stone Center Library
Click on the links to find these volumes in the UNC Library Catalog, or come browse the shelves at the Stone Center Library to find even more poetry books. We hope you’ll be able to find a book that interests you, and that it will help you gain an increased appreciation of African traditions within poetry. 

  • Abani, Chris. Hands Washing Water. Copper Canyon Press, 2006. These poems stem from contemporary author and poet Chris Abani’s experiences growing up in Nigeria, where he was held for a time as a political prisoner, as well as his time spent in the United Kingdom and the United States. The poems cover a variety of topics, including a fictional section in the middle of the book in the form of letters between two lovers during the Civil War.   
  • Hughes, Langston, and David E. RoesselPoems. Knopf, 1999. No list of African American poetry would be complete without selections from the man who was called “the poet laureate of black America,” and this small book is the perfect introduction to the essential poetry of Langston Hughes. With the cadence of a blues song, Hughes’ poetry captures the many facets of African American life and this small volume includes some of the most iconic poetry born out of the Harlem Renaissance. 
  • Smith, Tracy KDuende: Poems. Graywolf Press, 2007. This is the second poetry collection written by Tracy K. Smith, the U.S. Poet Laureate since 2017, and it brings together a number of beautiful poems. Smith uses her poetry in this book in particular to lend voices to people across cultures and showcases the diversity of topics and themes to be found in Smith’s work.