9 Famous Poets from MSIs

by Aisha Bowen

Poetry is known as the art form of expression and March 21st is unofficially known as World Poetry Day. There are hundreds of phenomenal poets who hail from MSIs and whose work has changed the world of poetry as we know it today. Thus, today’s Monday Morning Line Up highlights 9 poets who come from MSIs.

1) Sherley Anne Williams: California State University, Fresno(AANAPISI/HSI)—Fresno, CA

Sherley Anne Williams (1944-1999)

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Sherley Anne Williams is a famous writer of literary criticism, children’s books, and poetry. She is originally from Fresno, California and earned her BA in English from Fresno State College. She was awarded the African American Literature and Culture Society’s Stephen Henderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature and Poetry. One of her most famous works, The Peacock Poems (1975), addresses single motherhood, the lives of African American women, and the blues.

For more information, click here.


2) Amiri Baraka: Howard University (HBCU)—Washington, D.C. 

Amiri Baraka (1934-2014)Howard .png

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Amiri Baraka was a famous scholar, poet and civil rights activist. Baraka graduated from Howard University in 1954, where he earned his B.A. in English. His most known works include his first published volume of poetry, Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note, in 1961 and Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing, which he co-edited with Larry Neal in 1968. He also produced a number of plays centered on civil rights. Two of Baraka’s plays that spoke out against police brutality were: Police and Arm Yrself or Harm Yrself.

For more information, click here.

3) Claude McKay: Tuskegee University (HBCU)—Tuskegee, AL 

Claude McKay (1889-1948)


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Claude McKay was a famous poet, writer, playwright, and prominent figure during the Harlem Renaissance literary movement. While McKay has a wide range of published works, all of his work centers on his “disdain for racism and the sense that bigotry’s implicit stupidity renders its adherents pitiable as well as loathsome.” McKay began his undergraduate studies at Tuskegee University (then known at Tuskegee Institute) (HBCU) and finished his degree at Kansas State College.

4) Robert Creeley: University of New Mexico (HSI)—Albuquerque, NM

Robert Creeley (1926-2005)

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Robert Creeley is widely known as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. One critic said his of poetry: “The much imitated, often diluted minimalism, the compression of emotion into verse in which scarcely a syllable is wasted, has decisively marked a generation of poets.” Creeley received an M.A. from University of New Mexico in 1960 (HSI). He is well known for his affiliation with “Black Mountain Poets,” a group of writers in the ’50s who were connected with Black Mountain College, “an experimental, communal college in North Carolina that was a haven for many innovative writers and artists of the period.

For more information, click here.


5) Alice Walker: Spelman College (HBCU)—Atlanta, GA

Alice Walker (1944-   )

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Alice Walker is one of the most famous symbols for “Womanism” in history. Her poetry and novels such as The Color Purple speaks to the woman’s experience more broadly and includes race and culture, class, gender, and a number of other intersectional identities. Walker began her studies and journey as a writer in 1961 at Spelman College (HBCU). Soon after beginning Spelman , she took time off from school to join the civil rights movement. Later, in 1963, she decided to continue her education at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

For more information, click here.


6) Jack Agüeros: Brooklyn College (AANAPISI)— Brooklyn, NY

Jack Agüeros (1934-2014)

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Jack Agüeros is poet, writer and community activist whose work “deals with the complexities, challenges, and struggles of the Puerto Rican experience in America.” Agüeros is originally from East Harlem, NY, and he received his B.A. in English literature with a minor in speech and theatre from CUNY Brooklyn College (AANAPISI). Some of his most famous work includes: Lord, Is This a Psalm? (2002), Sonnets from the Puerto Rican (1996), and Correspondence Between the Stonehaulers (1991).

For more information, click here.

7) Richard Blanco: Florida International University (HSI)—Miami, FL

Richard Blanco (1968- )



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Richard Blanco is a Cuban poet, teacher, and speaker, who moved to the U.S. before the age of 1. Blanco was raised in Miami, FL, and went on to earn a BS in civil engineering and an MFA in creative writing from Florida International University (HSI). Some of Blanco’s most famous poetry collections include: City of a Hundred Fires (1998), recipient of the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize; Boston Strong (2013); and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey (2013). Out of all of the Presidential Inaugural Poets, Blanco was the first Latino, immigrant, and openly gay writer, as well as the youngest recipient.



8) Joy Harjo: Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture—Santa Fe, NM (TCU)

Joy Harjo (1951-     )



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Joy Harjo is a famous Native American poet, writer, and musician from Tulsa, OK, and a member of the Mvskoke Nation. Harjo has seven published poetry books, which have won multiple awards. Her love for the arts began at a young age, when she became a student of Institute of American Indian and Alaska Native Culture (TCU) at age 16. She also attended the University of New Mexico (HSI) to receive an art degree. Her poetry centers on the Native American experience and has garnered honors including the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas; and the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.

For more information, click here and here.


9) Sheryl Luna: University of Texas at El Paso (HSI)—El Paso, TX

Sheryl Luna (1965-   )


Sheryl Luna

Sheryl Luna is from El Paso, TX, and received her MFA from the University of Texas at El Paso (HSI). Luna’s most famous work, Pity the Drowned Horses (2004), focuses on cultural identity, barriers, and bridges between the U.S. and Mexico. Luna’s work has won the first Andres Montoya Poetry Prize, sponsored by the Institute of Latino Studies and the Creative Writing program at the University of Notre Dame. Pity the Drowned Horses was also a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Colorado Book Awards.

For more information, click here.

How will you be celebrating World Poetry Day? Did we miss any of your favorite poets? 

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