Poetry has served as an expression of our humanity since time immemorial. Fittingly, women have used rhythm, metaphors, and musicality as a way to expressing the inexpressible and illuminate the depths of the human experience. Drawing on their femininity, hardships, and strength, female poets of color have used their voices to take a stand and catalyze change.
Here are five female poets of color who empower us to get up and fight, day in and day out. While some are newer poets and others are older, all of their poems remain just as relevant — and inspiring — as they were when they were written.
1. Rupi Kaur
An Instagram-sensation-turned-New-York-Times-Bestselling-Author, Rupi Kaur serves as a testament to the strength of immigrant women everywhere. A woman of South Asian descent, Kaur’s poetry shines light into corners previously unexplored by mainstream feminist poetry. Her concise, beautifully-illustrated poems discuss themes of violence, body image, and the immigrant experience.
“it is a blessing
to be the color of the earth
do you know how often
flowers confuse me for home”
Dr. Maya Angelou
Although better known for her iconic autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Dr. Maya Angelou was also a prolific American poet. Her works continue to symbolized the strength and beauty of black womanhood. A courageous civil-rights activist, Angelou’s poetry explored womanhood, black excellence, and the human spirit. She was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.
“‘Cause I’m a woman
3. Audre Lorde
A black woman, lesbian, and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde’s literary contributions radically transformed feminist thought. Her evocative poetry expresses outrage at the societal inequality she experienced throughout her life. A lifelong warrior for intersectional equality, Lorde was a trailblazer for LGBTQ+ poets of color, leaving a legacy of hope for some of the most marginalized women in society.
“I am not free while any woman is unfree
even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
4. Gwendolyn Brooks
Gwendolyn Brooks’ enthusiastic poems serve as a celebration of the strength of individuals in a community. They are textured and vivid, providing an authentic perspective into the struggles of those in the inner city. As the first African-American woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Brooks broke innumerable barriers throughout her writing career.
“Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.”
5. Warsan Shire
British poet Warshan Shire is not yet thirty years old, but her fans include pop icon Beyonceé, who featured her work prominently in the film Lemonade. The daughter of African immigrants, heShire’s work has been described as a rallying call for refugees and an affirmation of our shared humanity.
“You are terrifying and strange and beautiful, someone not everyone knows how to love.”