I love writers who can weave worlds with words, especially when I want to escape into a new world. Reading poetry by writers of color was one of the first places where I saw myself represented as a queer Pakistani woman, and I often return to certain poems and lines when I’m in periods of transition like navigating heartbreak, moving or new beginnings.
Here are five poetry collections to check out for your next read.
“The sun and her flowers”
by rupi kaur (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $21.99)
Rupi kaur’s poetry book celebrates love in all forms and is broken down into five sections of growth from wilting and falling to ultimately rising and blooming. Many of them are accompanied by kaur’s signature black-and-white drawings. Although some poems are only a few lines, their impact is astounding, with mic drop moments like “you’re everywhere / except right here / and it hurts” and “never feel guilty for starting again.” As an homage to kaur’s identity as a diasporic Punjabi Sikh woman, poems are written all in lowercase, an homage to the way that Punjabi is written in Shahmukhi or Gurmukhi script, the latter of which has no uppercase or lowercase letters. This poetry is an invitation to tend to yourself like a garden, find the sun and what nourishes you, and keep moving forward. It’s also available in 42 languages and has sold over 10 million copies, so you’ll be in good company as a reader.
by Rudy Francisco (Button Poetry, $16)
You may recognize Rudy Francisco from his viral spoken word poetry “Scars/To The New Boyfriend” and “A Lot Like You” or quotes that have made the rounds on Tumblr, and there’s a reason that his work is so prolific. His poems follow themes of introspection, love and social critiques, while also reminding readers of their humanity. Some of the poem prompts are simple like for “My Honest Poem,” where Francisco divulges that he doesn’t know how to swim, hides behind metaphors, and wonders what his bedsheets say about him when he’s not around. Other pieces explore Francisco’s identity as a Black man and the realities of police brutality and violence in America. All of his poems are poignant and teach me something different every time I read them.
“No Matter the Wreckage”
by Sarah Kay (Write Bloody Publishing, $15)
The collection starts with one of Sarah Kay’s most famous poems with one of my all-time favorite lines about love: “I will love you with too many commas, / but never any asterisks.” Many of the poems are dedicated to places and spaces in New York where she was born, though her pieces extend much beyond that.
by Nayyirah Waheed (CreateSpace, $19.99)
Nayyirah Waheed’s content is a window into her world as a Black woman, and her poetry draws on themes of race, feminism, relationships and love. In Waheed’s words, I find myself “walk[ing] into a poem and walk[ing] out someone else.” Although Waheed has a private personal life, I’m glad to have this poem as a way to connect with her work.
by F.S. Yousaf (Central Avenue Publishing, $14.99)
F.S. Yousaf’s debut poetry collection was originally a love letter for his then-fiancée, though the dedication will let you know that it’s for anyone special who lights up your day. Yousaf has been sharing his work on social media since 2013 and has three published poetry collections including this one. Many of the poems are short and punchy, enabling you to enter his world with only a few lines.