Roger Bonair-Agard

Award-Winning Performance Poet
National Book Award Nominee


If there is a poet for this Zeitgeist, of Arab Spring, of governments toppling, a poet to listen to the people, a poet not just for this country but all countries, a poet I have been looking for my whole life, it is Roger Bonair-Agard. —Sean Thomas Dougherty


Roger Bonair-Agard is his own revolution... —Patricia Smith


Roger Bonair-Agard is a veteran of the spoken-word scene and a two-time National Poetry Slam Champion. He is the author of Tarnish and Masquerade (Rattapallax, 2007), GULLY (Cypher Books, 2010), and co-author of Burning Down the House (Soft Skull Press, 2000). His most recent book of poems, Bury My Clothes (Haymarket Press, 2013), was longlisted for the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry. Aracelis Girmay writes of the collection, "These poems offer up a speech textured with both the violence of racial construction and the complicated gorgeousness born out of survival and adaptation." Roger moved to the United States from his native Trinidad and Tobago in 1987. Intending to begin university and eventually pursue law, Roger found himself instead exploring the seediest sides of New York City life. From Harlem to Brooklyn to Washington Heights, his poems explore the intersection between his twenty plus years as an immigrant in America and the Trinidad from which he came.

Roger has appeared three times on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and on the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour amongst other television and numerous radio appearances. For the last ten years he has worked with the youth at Urban Word in New York City, and for the last seven with the youth at Volume in Ann Arbor and Poetry Youth Organizations in Seattle, San Francisco, and the Adirondack Valley, NY. He is the co-founder and Artistic Director of the LouderARTS Project in New York. He has also been Adjunct Professor in the Creative Writing Department at Fordham University. Currently Roger is writer-in-residence with Vision Into Art, and Poet In Residence with Young Chicago Authors. He teaches poetry at the Cook County Temporary Juvenile Detention Center in Chicago, IL.

Roger is also a Cave Canem fellow and has studied under Yusef Komunyakaa, Cornelius Eady, Marilyn Nelson, Toi Derricotte, and Patricia Smith. He has lead countless workshops and lectures, and has performed his poetry at many American universities as well as international festivals in Germany, Switzerland, Milan, and Jamaica.

About BURY MY CLOTHES (Poetry, 2013)

"Serving up a gospel that teeters on the blade edge between calm and chaos, one of poetry's premier storytellers has taught the city to speak with his voice." —Patricia Smith

Bury My Clothes is a meditation on violence, race, and the place in art at which they intersect. Art—specifically in oppressed communities—is about survival, Roger Bonair-Agard asserts, and establishing personhood in a world that says you have none. Through poetry, we transform both the world of art and the world itself.

About GULLY (Poetry, 2010)

"In Gully, Roger Bonair-Agard presents the phenomena of muscle memory with such wit and lyricism that the body comes alive. The reader finds his or her own limbs twitching in response to the poems’ infectious groove. The aftershocks of history are revealed under that lens in all their vivid contradiction and verve. While the sidelines of history are theorizing 'postcolonial,' 'post-racial,' 'postmodern,' Bonair-Agard is in the game, 'all feint and dip sharp/ left jab-step and full sprint right/ split knuckle and the rust of blood in the cheek.' This collection is the pin that weaves together our disparate world. Why shouldn’t it prick the thumb to show us what we’re made of?" —Gregory Pardlo


Roger Bonair-Agard's book, GULLY, journeys from the subverted sport of English gentlemen to the place where a black man might be swallowed up in the throat of trouble. These poems show us GULLY's trickster position, the source of song, the lurking place on the pitch that requires quick hands. GULLY is metaphor for the subject position of these first-person lyrics filed with a street's athlete's dynamism and energy. GULLY is the site of risk and swagger that swings from cricket bats to the diamond crusted smile of Lil' Wayne. 


Roger Bonair-Agard blog