It's National Poetry Month—the perfect time of year to celebrate classic poets like Langston Hughes and James Emanuel, who helped capture the African American experience through their rhythmic words. It's also a great time to discover the poets who followed in the steps they established. As fresh voices begin to take over the spotlight on the stage and in print, April becomes an exciting time to visit your local bookstore and browse the poetry section for new titles and writers. Here are five Black male poets to get you started as you scan the shelves for new material. 

Cameron Awkward-Rich


Since his 2016 release “Sympathetic Little Monster,” won the Lexi Rudnitsky Editor's Choice Award in 2018, young poet Cameron Awkward-Rich has been on the literary world’s radar. He is also a Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and has penned a number of essays on gender and racial politics. Awkward-Rich continues to use his platform as an artist and educator to spread awareness of social justice and the unique experiences of transgender and Black individuals. 

Jamaal May

Born in Detroit, poet Jamaal May has shared his gift with students at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. May has released several books to critical acclaim, including his lauded debut Hum in 2013. In addition to his position as a professor, May has also spent his time giving back to his city and teaching the art of poetry at public schools in the Motor City. His efforts and talent have earned him the Spirit of Detroit award, among others. 

Jericho Brown

Popular poet Jericho Brown's work may be familiar to readers of popular magazines such as The New Yorker and Time, which have each spotlighted his poetry. The University of Houston grad has written several books, such as 2019’s The Tradition, which has been celebrated by critics and fans alike and earned Brown a Pulitzer Prize. Brown has since become the director of the creative writing program at Emory University in Georgia.   

Douglas Kearney

Aside from his job as a professor at the University of Minnesota, Californian poet Douglas Kearney is a prolific author of poetry books, including 2021’s Sho. Kearney has penned seven books and has even ventured into the world of opera to widespread acclaim. He has earned more awards, including the CLMP Firecracker Award for Poetry in 2017. Kearney has also branched into making live recordings and other forms of media for fans to enjoy while he works on his next project. 

Ross Gay

A writer and community gardener, Ross Gay has released a poetry collection, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, and several books of poetic essays in his The Book of Delights series, in which he searches for a simple daily delight. He co-founded The Tenderness Project, which he deems "an experiment in radical empathy."