As we prepare to celebrate the start of Black History Month next week, we may consider what black history means in the broader context of our literary history—the voices that broke ground in the past and the voices that continue to influence how we think about the written and spoken word today.

In a new feature this month, we asked twelve contemporary black poets from across the country to choose one poem they believe should be essential reading this month and to tell us a bit about why. Find out what poems Toi Derricotte, Tyehimba Jess, Camille Rankine, Afaa Michael Weaver, and more picked and why you should add them to your reading list.

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