National Poetry Day: Poetry in an Era of #BlackLivesMatter by Author P.L. Thomas

Originally published on Radical Eyes for Equity | P.L. Thomas | P.L. Thomas is the author of Beware The Roadbuilders: Literature As Resistance, available on Amazon ($19.95); Trumplandia: Unmasking Post-Truth America, available on Amazon($14.95) and contributing author to United We Stand, available on Amazon ($14.95)

About National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day will take place on Thursday 28 September 2017 and this year’s theme is “Freedom”. National Poetry Day is an annual celebration that inspires people throughout the UK to enjoy, discover and share poems. Everyone is invited to join in, whether by organizing events, displays, competitions or by simply posting favorite lines of poetry on social media using #nationalpoetryday. (From www.nationalpoetryday.co.uk)

By P.L. Thomas

Maybe there is karma, or some confluence of the universe, but earlier today I began contemplating if and how to begin work on an anthology of poetry from poets past and present that speaks to and from #BlackLivesMatter.

And then in my Twitter feed:

Jen Benka, Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, speaks to the incredibly powerful fact that poetry matters in an era of #BlackLivesMatter—anchored by the printing of Langston Hughes’s “I, Too” in the NYT.

Hughes has been much on my mind recently—his “Let America Be America Again,” “Theme for English B,”and “Harlem,” notably [1].

As a poet and a teacher, I have been struggling with race and racism as well: first spring (Baltimore is burning) and Four Poems: For Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin.

Benka pointed to these poetic responses: what the dead know by heart, Dante Collins; A Small Needful Fact, Ross Gay; and the bullet was a girl, Danez Smith.

Maybe I am too hopeful as a poet, and reader of poetry, but I am compelled to think we may well need an anthology of poetry past and present to help begin the healing.

Anyone? Anyone?

Until (if) this idea gains momentum, please send me a list of poems (and if accessible online) to add below.

“Incident,” Countee Cullen

“Allowables,” Nikki Giovanni

The Talk,” Jabari Asim

“Middle Passage,” Robert Hayden

from Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: “Cornel West makes the point…,” Claudia Rankine


[1] See also Listening to Langston Hughes about “Make America Great Again” and Revisiting “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes.

About Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas is a recipient of NCTE’s George Orwell Award and author of Beware The Roadbuilders: Literature As Resistance. He engages the public in the most profound and controversial topics of our day, exposing the terrifying truths of the times in which we live. His work can be followed at The Becoming Radical (blog) and @plthomasEdD on twitter.

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