The Best Poetry Collections are Queer, BIPOC, and Indie Published

At first glance, task #7 of the 2024 Read Harder Challenge might sound a little intimidating, especially if you’re not a poetry reader: Read an indie published collection of poetry by a BIPOC or queer author. Here’s the good news, though: if you go out looking for queer and BIPOC poetry, you’ll find that most of it is put out by independent presses. Poetry is not seen as a big money maker, so it’s indie publishers who tend to be the ones championing poetry for the love of it. And many indie publishers also prioritize queer and BIPOC authors. This is a Venn diagram with a lot of overlap.

In fact, there is so much overlap that all of my recommendations today are queer and BIPOC. Part of the reason for that is I firmly believe the best poetry being published today is queer, BIPOC, and indie published. Some of the most acclaimed poets writing (and performing) now are queer and BIPOC, and many of them got their start with indie presses.

So, whether you’re already a poetry reader or just dipping your toe into the format, you’ll find a book to love on this list. These poets are writing about racism, colonialism, queer love, family, immigration, disability, the nature of consciousness, and so much more in lines that will take up permanent residence in your subconscious. Poetry is one of the best ways to communicate pure emotion and to step into someone else’s life, which is why reading poetry from different perspectives can be so eye-opening.

So, let’s jump into seven of the best queer and BIPOC poetry collections published by indie presses!

Bodymap cover

Bodymap by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Let’s start with one of my favorite poetry collections. Bodymap is a “queer disabled femme-of-colour love song” about disability justice, politics, survival, and queer kinship. It’s written in an accessible style perfect for readers intimidated by poetry. It’s also published by my favorite indie publisher, Arsenal Pulp Press, based out of Vancouver, BC.

cover of Don't Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith

This collection was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry. It examines life in the United States when you’re queer and Black, discussing police violence, Smith’s HIV-positive diagnosis, and white supremacy. This is published by Graywolf Press (Minneapolis, MN), which is a name I saw pop up a lot while researching queer BIPOC poetry, so their catalog is a great place to start for more options!

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