Elements to Consider When Writing a Black Poem


by Kenyatta Rogers



- after Cornelius Eady and Taylor Mali




there’s gotta be

a catchy opening

a combination of nouns and verbs

offensive and maybe

a little derogatory

such as 


or there’s always my personal favorite





say things like I want to throw a bucket of kittens into a river

zip tie a cardboard box full of puppies closed and lower it into a well slowly




talk about the self

talk about thinking whether or not to color Santa Claus black in grade school

mention your prior relationships and how you’ll never really get over what happened with Kate




drop names


fuck if they like it

they shouldn’t have gotten involved with a poet




the poem needs no protection

but everyone needs protection from the poem




justify random acts of violence by saying

“I’m a black American poet

and I have an inability

to sustain rage”




steal lines


“Life is beautiful”

Kathleen Rooney


“Moments when you hope God has selective hearing”

Avery R. Young


“My only fear of death is reincarnation”

Tupac Amaru Shakur


“This is just to say”

William Carlos Williams






why would you eat the plums

that you knew I was saving for lunch

then gloat about how good they were

I think I would have noticed them missing

when I went go make my fruit salad





use imagery


people here carry stones in buckets to throw at plastic houses

blue flamingos love me too

the zombie tells me “Life is beautiful”


use repetition




crack jokes about black people

because you’re a black poet you can make fun of black people



“My sista…orange hair, orange contact lenses, orange scarf, orange belt, shoes and bag

is not what’s hot in the street

or in the club or in your house”



“My brotha…I know you got a pair of headphones

somewhere because I nor anyone else on the train

want to hear whatever in the fuck is on your phone,

hell you don’t even wanna hear it,

that’s why you keep flipping songs so much”




make fun of white people

because you’re a black poet


because you’re a black person

you can make fun of white people



“it’s too cold for flip flops honey

it’s still March”



“wes anderson? 

Who the fuck is wes anderson

you haven’t seen Do the Right Thing

but I need to see Rushmore

tell you what

I bet you I know more people

who know Wes-ley Snipes

than you know that know 

wes anderson”




answer questions sarcastically

because you’re a black poet

you can answer questions sarcastically

“Well…I wash my hair with shampoo and water,

how did you think it happened?

Did you think in the shower I become the mystical negro


I’m not John Coffee

or Bagger Vance

or Morgan Freeman”




mention violence again in a nice voice

“Ok…I’ll mix some ground up glass in your applesauce for you grandpa”




mention childhood songs that make you happy

“This is the song that doesn’t end, yes it goes on and on my friends

some people started singing it not knowing what it was

and they’ll continue singing it forever just because” (x2)




be dangerous

make the language given to you dangerous

make your voice immortal




raise hell  leave


literally raise hell




bitchsmack Azazel


bitch betta have my money

bitchsmack Azazel


grab him by the throat


remind him


“I am

the best


in the



I am a black American poet and

I have an inability to sustain rage

and I’ll be damned

if I go out the same way I came in.”