In the summer of 2020, as protests against racism spread throughout the country, former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith began to view her work differently. She started seeing her own poetry as part of something bigger, a continuation of generations of Black poets who had used their words as proof of their own humanity for centuries. In honor of Juneteenth, Tracy K. Smith shares some of her favorite works from Black poets as well as one of her own.
You can read more poetry from Tracy K. Smith at the Poetry Foundation and more of Ross Gay’s work can be found at Split This Rock’s poetry database.