Ecojustice Poetry in The BreakBeat Poets Anthologies


  • Marta Werbanowska University of Vienna



Ecopoetics, Ecojustice, Hip hop poetry, African American


Ecological modes of thinking and an awareness of environmental (in)justice are becoming increasingly pronounced in the ethics and aesthetics of hip hop. One area in which the culture’s growing interest in ecology as practice and metaphor is particularly visible is hip hop poetry’s turn to ecojustice, or an intersectional concern with social and environmental justice, liberation, diversity, and sustainability. This article examines selected works from the first two volumes of anthologies published by Haymarket Books as part of their BreakBeat Poets series, focusing on three ecojustice-oriented poems that address animal rights, (un)natural disasters, and gentrification. Their authors–all Black women– draw from African American history and culture to illuminate the intertwined ideological, political, and economic dimensions of some of the most pressing humanitarian and environmental crises of today. Samantha Thornhill’s “Ode to a Killer Whale” takes the form of a poetic monologue by the fictional character of Kunta Kinte, revealing similarities between human and animal subjugation and inscribing animal liberation in the Black revolutionary tradition. Candace G. Wiley’s “Parcel Map for the County Assessor” re-members and re-creates a culture of place that permeated the speaker’s countryside childhood to present the larger-than-human cost of rural gentrification. Finally, Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie’s “Global Warming Blues” juxtaposes the personal and the elemental dimensions of climate change in a blues remix that advocates for ecojustice for the disenfranchised.


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Author Biography

Marta Werbanowska, University of Vienna

Dr. Marta Werbanowska is a Postdoctoral Assistant in American Literature and Culture at the University of Vienna, Austria. She obtained her Ph.D. from Howard University in 2019, and was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte in 2014-15. Her research and teaching interests include contemporary African American and Caribbean poetries, literatures of social and environmental justice, Black Studies, and Environmental Humanities. Her scholarship has been published in Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment (ISLE) and the College Language Association Journal (CLAJ), among others. She is currently completing her first book manuscript, tentatively titled Vital Necessity: Ecological Thinking in Contemporary Black Poetry.






Articles: Hip Hop Ecologies