Discrimination Poems

These poems about discrimination delve into the complex experiences of individuals who face prejudice and marginalization. They explore various aspects of discrimination, shedding light on racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, and other forms of bias.

Some poems may capture the pain and frustration of being judged solely based on one’s race, gender, or sexual orientation. They may express the longing for acceptance, equality, and the right to be seen and heard without prejudice.


by Richard de Zoysa

The poem ‘Lepidoptera’ is a metaphorical representation of a mentally ill mind, likened to a broken butterfly wing. The poet is imploring society to support those with mental illness.

Richard de Zoysa addresses the issue of discrimination in Lepidoptera by using the metaphor of the butterfly's fragility and vulnerability to symbolize the human mind. The poem suggests that society tends to objectify and dehumanize individuals who do not fit into societal norms, treating them as if they are disposable. The use of enjambment in the poem creates a sense of continuity and fluidity, emphasizing the importance of treating the mind with care and compassion.

On broken butterfly wing,

your crippled mind fluttered into my schoolroom. Failed. And died.

I couldn’t do a thing to stir its organs

of poor maimed sense to life again.

Hard Rock Returns to Prison

by Etheridge Knight

‘Hard Rock Returns to Prison’ is an allegory of oppression and forced submission of Black inmates in America.

The poem relates to discrimination issues by portraying the experiences of a former prisoner who has been institutionalized due to mental illness. It highlights the injustice of the criminal justice system, which disproportionately affects people of color, and the ongoing struggle for equal rights and fair treatment.

Hard Rock / was / “known not to take no shit

From nobody,” and he had the scars to prove it:

Split purple lips, lumbed ears, welts above

His yellow eyes, and one long scar that cut

She Had Some Horses

by Joy Harjo

‘She Had Some Horses’ by Joy Harjo illustrates the plurality of differences among people.

The poem offers up images of discrimination that are both embodied and suffered by the various horses, revealing the ways in which such feelings of arbitrary prejudice are prevalent.

She had some horses.

She had horses who were bodies of sand.

She had horses who were maps drawn of blood.

She had horses who were skins of ocean water.


by Adrienne Rich

‘Planetarium’ by Adrienne Rich is a free verse poem elaborating on the triumphs and troubles of female scientists using astronomy-related metaphors. The poem also describes the wonders of the universe from the female astronomer’s perspective, thereby portraying their passion for the universe.

While not a focus of the poem, discrimination is a recurring topic. It is the punishment for women who do not follow society's expectations. They are seen as "monsters" and isolated in their own "galaxies."

I am an instrument in the shape

of a woman trying to translate pulsations

into images for the relief of the body

and the reconstruction of the mind.


by Hone Tuwhare

‘Monologue’ by Hone Tuwhare is a contemporary poem about the difficulties workers face when looking for a job and how temporary those jobs can be. 

In the lines of this poem, the speaker suggests that there are some workers, such as himself and those who filter in and out of the factory looking for jobs, that are discriminated against. For some people, it's harder to find work than others.

I like working near a door. I like to have my work-bench 

          close by, with a locker handy.

Caged Bird

by Maya Angelou

‘Caged Bird’, or ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ as the poem is sometimes referred to, by Maya Angelou, is arguably one of the most moving and eye-opening poems ever written.

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

He Told Us He Wanted a Black Coffin

by Jackie Kay

‘He Told Us He Wanted a Black Coffin’ by Jackie Kay is a heart-wrenching poem narrated by a mother whose son passed away from AIDs.

Love Nest

by Jackie Kay

‘Love Nest’ by Jackie Kay depicts the difficulties that same-sex couples face and society’s cruel infiltrates their relationships and homes. The poet uses a skillful, multilayered extended metaphor in this piece.

My Grandmother

by Jackie Kay

‘My Grandmother’ by Jackie Kay depicts the poet’s understanding of her grandmother. The includes a juxtaposition between her positive and negative qualities. 

My grandmother is like a Scottish pine,

tall, straight-backed, proud and plentiful,

a fine head of hair, greying now

tied up in a loose bun.

Explore more poems about Discrimination

These Yet To Be United States

by Maya Angelou

‘These Yet To Be United States’ by Maya Angelou explores the complexities of the United States. The poet suggests that the country has not lived up to its potential.

Tremors of your network

cause kings to disappear.

Your open mouth in anger

makes nations bow in fear.

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