"Between My Body and the Air" is a collection of poems by young voices from the Bay Area and beyond pushing us to think deeply about our COVID-clad world and the structural violence impacting our communities even before the pandemic hit.


Between My Body and the Air

We chose the title, "Between My Body and the Air" because it reflected a question that each of these young authors addresses in their own way: what does it mean to navigate the world in this body, where even the air has finally turned against me? We believe in the power and necessity of youth voice. That is why, in addition to reading the text of each piece, this anthology allows you to access a recording of each poem so you can hear the authors speak it from their own mouths. Some of these poems are songs! Some of these poems were recorded from a phone propped up on a counter with their bedrooms unfurling around them. And some are mural decorated, their voices mixing with the bustle of their cities, as captured by family or friend's loving hand. However you choose to crack this anthology open, promise to listen close because the next generation speaks for itself.

Praise for Between My Body and the Air

  • “Between My Body and the Air is the kind of anthology you get when a generation of young writers choose honesty, resilience and hope as the foundation on which they assemble their futures. This body of work evokes the true spirit of this moment, sitting in the intersection of a global pandemic, a worldwide uprising in response to a continued tradition of police murders of Black people, and the amplified uncertainty that almost always comes with adolescence. These writers use form, tension, language and voice beautifully, extinguishing the boundaries of what a poem can be and do for both the writer and their audience. This collection is truly a gift from one of the most drastically impacted populations of today’s sociopolitical climate and will be invaluable to the archiving this unprecedented time.”

    Imani Cezanne
    Founder of S.P.E.A.K.
  • “We’ve got it wrong in so many ways...us adults. But these young people, these flame-throwing supernovas of truth have written us into truth and light in these pages. May we never return to “normal”. May we read these words and know there is a new journey, a healing path that opens when Youth Speak.” 

    Sonya Renee Taylor
    Founder of The Body Is Not An Apology
  • “Trying to cultivate community is hard. It is easier to find excuses to drift away and lean into isolation. Trying to create art that is honest and insightful is hard. It is easier to despair. But these poets are not interested in what is easy. This anthology is an exciting example of young people choosing poetry as a way to forge kinship and make sense of the world; to mourn and fight and praise and dream and find language for what first seems language-less. This is such a good reminder of what poetry can be.”

    Sarah Kay
    Author of "No Matter The Wreckage"
  • “As our world hurtles into unknown territory the new generation of young writers are pushing the boundaries of poetry as well. In this anthology they have planted their flag in this historical moment. Listen to them—it’s their world now.”

    George Watsky
  • “A riveting and haunting collection exploring how everything is changing, and still so much of the same. This is America after all. These poets capture the details of how timeless the present moment can be, how the mundane ties us together, and how a country half answers to its own.” 

    Shannon Matesky
    Poet, Actor, Playwright
  • “In this crazier-than-ever world and this bugged-out pandemic of a year called 2020, who better to make sense of it all than the brilliant young poets of Youth Speaks. Making beautiful art out of brutal circumstances, these writers demand that America reckon with all the social and political diseases that make it so hard for so many to just breathe. Claiming their space in the canon and in the streets, these powerful, deeply personal poems remind us that even in a world of social distancing, good stories and good community will always bring us together.” 

    Josh Healey
    Former Youth Speaks Poet Mentor
  • “This anthology is: 

    1. A piece of string, both ends tied to a different can held between neighbors... 2. Telephone wires that travel across this country carrying thoughts, voices, and conversations of powerful young people. 3. A time capsule 4. The vaccine to white US pretense and propaganda in the time of COVID.”
    Coco Peila
    Rapper, Teaching Artist