Mahogany L. Browne
Acclaimed Performance Poet Visionary & Activist NAACP Image Award Finalist
- Black Girl Magic
- Limbs & Language: a generative writing workshop
- Woke, and other ways to engage with your community
- Poems as a form of resistance
- An evening of Black Girl Magic
- An Evening with Mahogany L. Browne
“Out of necessity, Mahogany L. Browne has become her own revolution: she is one of those people who sees things in the world that need to change and actually makes real moves to change them. While there can only ever really be one Mahogany L. Browne, we’d be very lucky to have more poets/humans who are as fiercely visionary, hardworking, and resourceful as her.” —Ploughshares
“A searing voice that commands attention.” —Dhonielle Clayton
Writer, organizer, vocalist, performance poet, and educator Mahogany L. Browne is the author of poetry and fiction. Her YA poetry book Black Girl Magic celebrates a black girlhood that is “free, unforgettable, and luminous” (School Library Journal), while her children’s book Woke Baby is for all the littlest progressives who grow up to change the world; both were published in 2018 by Roaring Brook/Macmillan. Her most recent books include the YA titles Vinyl Moon (Penguin Random House, 2021) and Chlorine Sky (Penguin Random House, 2021). Her poetry collections are Chrome Valley (W. W. Norton, 2023); I Remember Death By Its Proximity to What I Love (Haymarket Books, 2021); Kissing Caskets (YesYes Books, 2017); and the NAACP-nominated chapbook Redbone (Willow Books, 2016). Of Redbone, Ross Gay wrote: “What I may love most about Redbone is the way it strains formally, with syntax and diction, with voice and perspective, searching for the right space on the page to make of this complex family story which, like most family stories, is made of sweetness and plain old hurt a kind of bearable song. It’s such a moving act. Such a caring and true telling. Such a singing.”
Browne has co-edited the anthology The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 3: Black Girl Magic, declared by Dazed as “one of the most important volumes of poetry in recent years.” She is also the author of the the YA anthology WOKE: A Young Poets Guide To Justice (Roaring Brook Press, 2020), co-edited with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood.
Born in Oakland, California, Browne dropped out of high school after being told not to write poetry during a English honors class. Using her personal experiences with addiction, racism, sexism and oppression to inspire her own brand of shameless authentic work, Browne’s spoken word performances create a platform for women and girls to feel empowered and heard.
She has a MFA in Writing and Activism from Pratt Institute, where she founded the Women Writers of Color Reading Room and became the director of the Black Lives Matter program. Browne is one of the founders of the socially active literary collective #BlackPoetsSpeakOut (with Amanda Johnston, Jonterri Gadson, Jericho Brown, and Sherina Rodriguez Sharpe), created out of urgency and as a response to the non-indictment of the Mike Brown’s murderer.
Browne is the publisher of Penmanship Books, curator of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe Friday Night Slam, founder of the Women Writers of Color Reading Room, and the director of Black Lives Matter at Pratt Institute, and artistic director at Urban Word NYC (a non-profit youth literary organization).
Her work has appeared in Poetry, Bustle, BET, Academy of American Poets, and other venues. She has also released five LPs, including a live album, Sheroshima. She is the recipient of literary fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, and Rauschenberg. Browne has been featured in PBS NewsHour reading her poem “Black Girl Magic” and in HBO’s Brave New Voices. She has toured internationally as a member of Global Poetics, an international arts exchange.
Mahogany L. Browne is the current Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College’s MFA Program. She is the founder of Woke Baby Book Fair, a traveling diverse reading campaign, and is the first-ever poet-in-residence at the Lincoln Center. Browne lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Mahogany L. Browne, selected as Kennedy Center’s Next 50 and Weseleyan’s 2022-23 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence, the Executive Director of JustMedia, Artistic Director of Urban Word, a writer, playwright, organizer, & educator. Browne has received fellowships from Arts for Justice, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg. She is the author of recent works: Vinyl Moon, Chlorine Sky, Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, Woke Baby, & Black Girl Magic. Founder of the diverse lit initiative Woke Baby Book Fair, Browne’s latest poetry collection Chrome Valley is a promissory note to survival and available from Norton Spring 2023. As she readies for her stage debut of Chlorine Sky at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, Illinois, she drinks coffee while living in Brooklyn, NY. She is the first ever poet-in-residence at Lincoln Center.Visit Author Website
A highly anticipated volume from critically acclaimed poet Mahogany L. Browne, Chrome Valley is at once a luminous hymn and a battle cry. Spanning the course of her own life as well as embodying centuries of virulent history, this collection pays solemn tribute to the women who came before her. Musically effervescent yet cutting poems capture the peculiar joys and pangs of Black girlhood: “you ain’t had freedom / ’til you climb on a bus 62 / & head to the closet mall / for a girl fight”; while others explore the inherent grief of motherhood, rhythmically intoning names like the tolling of a church bell: “Because Lesley McSpadden / Because Mamie Till / Because a Black mother know ain’t no song for that empty in ya belly.” Transcendent and grounded, funny and furious, the poems within bring depth to a movement, announcing Mahogany L. Browne as one of the most important poetic voices of our time.
Young Adult, 2022
A teen girl hiding the scars of a past relationship finds home and healing in the words of strong Black writers. A great companion for readers of Nic Stone, Amy Fellner Dominy, and Renée Watson. When Darius told Angel he loved her, she believed him. But five weeks after the incident, Angel finds herself in Brooklyn, far from her family, Darius, and the California life she has known. Angel feels out of sync with her new neighborhood. At school, she can’t shake the feeling everyone knows what happened—and how it was her fault. The only place that makes sense is Ms. G’s class. There, Angel’s classmates share their own stories of pain, joy, and fortitude. And as Angel becomes immersed in her revolutionary literature course, the words from novels like The Bluest Eye, The House on Mango Street, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Push speak to her and begin to heal the wounds of her past. Award-winning author Mahogany L. Browne weaves together prose, poems, and vignettes to tell the story of Angel, a young woman whose past was shaped by domestic violence but whose love of language and music and the gift of community grant her the chance to find herself again.
I Remember Death by its Proximity to What I Love
Mahogany L. Browne’s evocative book-length poem explores the impacts of the prison system on both the incarcerated and the loved ones left behind. I Remember Death by Its Proximity to What I Love is an expansive poetic meditation on who we think is bound by incarceration. The answer: all of us. Weaving personal narrative, case studies, and inventive form, Browne invokes the grief, pain, and resilience in the violent wake of the prison system. This poem is dirge work but allows us to revel in the intricacies of our human condition. Written by a beloved and prolific writer, organizer, and educator, this work serves as a practice of self-reflection and accountability. Browne steps into the lineage of Sonia Sanchez’s Does Your House Have Lions? with the precision of a master wordsmith and the empathy of an attentive storyteller.
Young Adult, 2021
“Mahogany L. Browne’s debut YA ia an absolute masterpiece. It will leave you breathless.” –Elizabeth Acevedo
She looks me hard in my eyes
& my knees lock into tree trunks
My eyes don’t dance like my heartbeat racing
They stare straight back hot daggers.
I remember things will never be the same.
I remember things.
With gritty and heartbreaking honesty, Mahogany L. Browne delivers a novel-in-verse about broken promises, fast rumors, and when growing up means growing apart from your best friend. A novel-in-verse about a young girl coming-of-age and stepping out of the shadow of her former best friend. Perfect for readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Nikki Grimes.
Woke: A Young Poet's Guide to Justice
Young Adult, 2020
Co-edited with Olivia Gatwood and Elizabeth Acevedo, Woke: A Young Poet’s Guide to Justice is a collection of poems to inspire kids to stay woke and become a new generation of activists. Historically poets have been on the forefront of social movements. Woke is a collection of poems by women that reflects the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy, and acceptance to speaking out. With Theodore Taylor’s bright, emotional art, and writing from Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood, kids will be inspired to create their own art and poems to express how they see justice and injustice. With a foreword by best-selling author Jason Reynolds.
“Bubbling with an easy joy and nascent sense of justice—and the notion that the two can certainly go hand in hand.” —Kirkus Review
For all the littlest progressives, waking up to seize a new day of justice and activism. Woke babies are up early. Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world. This lyrical and empowering book is both a celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke. With bright playful art, Woke Baby is an anthem of hope in a world where the only limit to a skyscrapper is more blue.
The Breakbeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic
“The poems in the collection, influenced by the rhythms, lyricism, and expressiveness of hip-hop music and culture, speak to the many dimensions of black womanhood.” —Poets & Writers
A BreakBeat Poets anthology to celebrate and canonize the words of Black women across the diaspora. Black Girl Magic continues and deepens the work of the first BreakBeat Poets anthology by focusing on some of the most exciting Black women writing today. This anthology breaks up the myth of hip-hop as a boys’ club, and asserts the truth that the cypher is a feminine form.
Black Girl Magic
Young Adult Poetry, 2018
“Browne celebrates a Black girlhood that is free, unforgettable, and luminous. Middle and high school poetry collections will want to consider.” —School Library Journal
Much of what twenty-first century culture tells black girls is not pretty: Don’t wear this; don’t smile at that. Don’t have an opinion; don’t dream big. And most of all, don’t love yourself. In response to such destructive ideas, internationally recognized poet Mahogany Browne challenges the conditioning of society by crafting an anthem of strength and magic undeniable in its bloom for all beautiful Black girls. She has traveled the world sharing her vision of Black Girl Magic, and now in collaboration with artist Jess X. Snow, presents her acclaimed tribute in a visual form. Black Girl Magic is a journey from girlhood to womanhood and an invitation to readers to find magic in themselves.
“Mahogany L. Browne transcends formal innovation. She doesn’t just use form — she makes form work for her. Browne writes in both doorways and catalysts, tackling gender, sexuality, racialization, the body, and the prison industrial complex.” —Medium
Like most young black girls growing up in Northern California, Mahogany L. Browne tussles with ideas of femininity and gender roles, addiction and the prison industrial complex, sexuality & seclusion. Inquiries of the living and dying survive on the pages of Kissing Caskets as the reader is invited to do the self excavation. Each poem a eulogized celebration of what we lose to the dark when no one is looking.
Articles & Audio
Read What’s In Print
• Beyond Cool, She Was Fly. Her Confidence Gave Me Wings – The New York Times
• Mahogany L. Browne Pivots to YA with Debut Novel, Chlorine Sky – Shondaland
• What’s in a Page: Chlorine Sky’s Mahogany L. Browne Can Write Quite Literally Anywhere – EW
• Mahogany L. Browne on what Kamala Harris Means to Her – The Guardian
• The Pen Ten: An Interview with Mahogany L. Browne – PEN America
• How to write a poem about Ferguson — PBS
• The making of The BreakBeat Poets Volume 2: Black Girl Magic — Chicago Reader
• Mahogany L. Browne: Black Girl Magic — PBS
• From Serena Williams to Michelle Obama: How Do We Portray Black Womanhood? — Broadly
• This ‘Black Girl Magic’ Poem Is An Illustrated Anthem Of Strength — Bustle
• This Is Just To Say: Mahogany L. Browne with Carrie Fountain — Kut.com
Listen to Audio
• Tell Me More with Kelly Corrigan: Mahogany Browne – Thirteen
• You Don’t Have to Always Be Right (with Mahogany L. Browne) – CROOKED
• Mahogany L. Browne Recites Poem in Honor of Fannie Lou Hamer – Vibe
• Read “Blueprint and Hymnal” — Academy of American Poets
I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holding me —Nina Simone
today i am a black woman in america
& i am singing a melody ridden lullaby
it sounds like:
the gentrification of a brooklyn stoop
the rent raised three times my wages
the bodega and laundromat burned down on the corner
the people on the corner
each lock & key their chromosomes
a note of ash & inquiry on their tongues
today i am a black woman in a hopeless state
i will apply for financial aid and food stamps
with the same mouth i spit poems from
i will ask the angels of a creative god to lessen
& i will beg for forgiveness when i curse
the rising sun
today, i am a black woman in a body of coal
i am always burning and no one knows my name
i am a nameless fury, i am a blues scratched from
the throat of ms. nina—i am always angry
i am always a bumble hive of hello
i love like this too loudly, my neighbors
think i am an unforgiving bitter
sometimes, i think my neighbors are right
most times i think my neighbors are nosey
today, i am a cold country, a storm
brewing, a heat wave of a woman wearing
red pumps to the funeral of my ex-lover’s
today, i am a woman, a brown and black &
brew woman dreaming of freedom
today, i am a mother, & my country is burning
and i forget how to flee
from such a flamboyant backdraft
—i’m too in awe of how beautiful i look