Joshua Bennett


Joshua Bennett is an American writer and professor born in Yonkers, New York. Bennett’s academic performance in middle school earned him a scholarship to a choice private high school, where he was one of very few Black students. He would spend four hours every school day commuting on the bus and train–time he would spend reading, nurturing his growing passion for literature. Bennett’s impressive academic resume is made up of a dual BA in English and Africana Studies from the University of Pennsylvania (where he graduated magna cum laude), a Theatre Performance Studies M. from the University of Warwick that he earned as a Marshall scholar in the U.K., and an MA and PhD in English from Princeton University. Bennett was a junior fellow at Harvard University and a visiting lecturer at schools like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Pittsburgh before becoming a professor of English and creative writing at Dartmouth University, where he currently works. Bennett’s academic research focus is broad and covers topics such as African American literature of the 20th and 21st centuries, Black poetics, and environmental studies. His personal writing and poetry pulls from his knowledge of African American history and literary tradition and explores topics of race and class, with his experiences navigating being a Black student in a majority white high school and a Black professor in a historically white industry also holding much relevance in his writing. He has made appearances to perform his work at the White House for President Barack Obama, the Sundance Film Festival, and at the NAACP Image Awards, where he was a finalist for his poetry. Bennett is the author of two collections of poetry, The Sobbing School (2016) and Owed (2020), and a book of literary criticism titled Being Property Once Myself: Blackness and the End of Man (2020). Source

Photo Credit: Kathy Ryan


Owed to the Durag

Which I spell that way because that’s the way it was spelled

on all the clear plastic packets I grew up buying for no more

than two dollars, two fifty max, unless I was at Duane Reade

or some likewise corporatized venue but who buys

the majority of their durags at Duane Reade anyway,

who would actually wage war on the durag’s good name

by spelling it d-e-w hyphen r-a-g, as I recently read

some sad lost souls do in an article in The Guardian,

this isn’t botany. This isn’t a device one might use

to attend to the suburban garden & its unremarkable

flora, drying freshly damp wisteria with black silk

or the much more common nylon-rayon-cotton blend.

I could see d-o hyphen r-a-g. That works for me.

One could argue this version makes more sense

even than the spelling I am accustomed to,

reflective as it is of nothing other than itself.

I have never heard the term ’do used in a sentence

by anyone other than a long-lost colleague

at Princeton who once reached wide-eyed

for my high top fade before a swift rebuke,

marked by my striking his wrist as if some large

though distinctly non-lethal mosquito, surely a top six

proudest moment of anti-colonial choreography

I have dared call mine in this odd, improbable

life I hold to my chest like a weapon. I know.

I know. This wasn’t supposed to be about them.

You make me inordinately beautiful. Let’s talk

about that. Or how I’m 12 years old & the cape

of a white durag billows from beneath my Marlins cap

like a sham poltergeist, flight & failure contained

within a single body, worthy core of any early

2000’s era New York rapper’s coat of arms.

I was lying before. Once, while we sat, quiet

as mourners on the front porch, my father spat

that’s a nice ’do you have there, eyeing the soft mess

of cork-screwed darkness atop his second youngest

son’s aging face, no sign of the good hair he praised

for years to family & co-workers alike. Alas, old friend,

you somehow make me even more opaque, make

me mystery, criminal, dope boy by the corner

of Broadway & 127th compelling respectable

women to reach for smart-phones, call for backup,

smooth, adjustable shadow, like policy

or fire, you blacken everything you touch.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Intersectionality & Culture

Poetic Form

Racial Injustice

Literary Devices:

Bleeding Title

when the title of a poem acts as the first line


visually descriptive or figurative language, especially in a literary work


the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect


a lyric poem in the form of an address to a particular subject, often elevated in style or manner and written in varied or irregular meter


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing