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As Langston Hughes pointed out in his famous essay “200 Years of American Negro Poetry,” “Poets and versifiers of African descent have been publishing poetry on American shores since the year 1746 when a slave woman named Lucy Terry penned a rhymed description of an Indian attack on the town of Deerfield, Massachusetts.”

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He went on to write, “art is to be an intensification or enlargement of life, or to give adequate comment on what living is like in the poet’s own time.” Here are ten poets, from Gwendolyn Brooks and Hughes himself, to contemporary writers like Kevin Young and Tyehimba Jess, who intensify life with every line:

“Ode,” Elizabeth Alexander 

“Women Writers’ Workshop,” Tara Betts

“Old Mary,” Gwendolyn Brooks 

“Peach Picking,” Kwame Dawes

“The First Book,” Rita Dove

“After Birth,” Camille T. Dungy

“Do any black children grow up casual?,” Harmony Holiday 

“Blues on a Box,” Langston Hughes

“Blind Boone’s Pianola Blues,” Tyehimba Jess

“I Hope It Rains at My Funeral,” Kevin Young


More poetry available for free PDF download:

Winter Poems
Flower Poems
Love Poems
Nature Poems
Sylvia Plath Poems 


JSTOR is a digital library for scholars, researchers, and students. JSTOR Daily readers can access the original research behind our articles for free on JSTOR.

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