To close out National Poetry Month, we rounded up poems that translate gentrification and the housing crisis into personal terms.
Terms like “gentrification” and “housing crisis” get tossed around so much that they’re often stripped of their human context, framed as abstract, hypothetical, and overwhelming concepts.
A good poem can take what is unwieldy and make it specific and human, showing viscerally how policy and development translate to everyday lives.
“Dispatches From The Black Barbershop, Tony’s Chair. 2011,” Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib
“…jeff got knocked out on east main by a sucker punch that broke up the 4th of july cookout in front of brenda’s hair shop and when he woke up it was a whole foods see that’s why you sittin up here talkin bout you lonely while my rent goin up every month but I still got my name on the door.”
“There is a Street Named After Martin Luther King Jr. In Every City,” – Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib
“…after all / are you less / of a ghost / if you die on a street / named for a man who / they will say / could have saved you?”
“Housing for All,” Tyrone Lewis
Lewis, from the Bay Area, wrote this when he was 12 about his own family’s struggle to find an affordable place to live.
We’ll Work hard
Day by day
‘til everyone has
A place to stay
I shouldn’t see couches
On the sidewalk
I should see a street
Full of U-haul trucks
“This Is Home,”Deandre Evans, Will Hartfield, and Donte Clark
This poem, produced in conjunction with The Center for Investigative Reporting, touches on the mismanagement of public housing in Richmond, California and the dreams and needs of people who live there.
Modified from an article by Natasha Bakwit, City Lab