A Peculiar People


Steven Willis, 2022


A Peculiar People creates an entire microcosm within these poems. Steven Willis crafts a cast of characters, showcasing their struggles, identities, & underlying emotions. Willis champions the art of storytelling: weaving pop-culture and screenwriting elements to allow the reader to view this social commentary with a fresh lens. This collection examines the author’s life experience; the pain of being Black and facing systemic racism.


2023 The Black Caucus of the American Library Association – Poetry – Winner
2022 Heartland Bookseller Awards – Poetry – Finalist

Praise for Steven Willis

Steven Antoine Willis uses his craft to highlight the multidimensional nature of Blackness by pairing politics with personal experience. A Peculiar People is succinct and focused but simultaneously addresses a wide range of topics such as family, music, hardships, and sacrifice. This book is insightful, brave, humorous and absolutely worth reading.

— Rudy Francisco, author of I’ll Fly Away

A Peculiar People is a declaration of love for Steven’s Blackness, family and life. It serves us grief, joy, and pain on the same plate without hesitation or apology. This collection is both bruise and salve. It is a mirror and a map. It is breathtaking and willful. Steven Willis has surely established himself as a momentous voice in contemporary poetry.

— Yesika Salgado, author of Corazón

Steven Willis’ work is brilliant in how it depicts Black folks as a special people that goes against the normative grain. Willis, himself, is quite peculiar in how he seamlessly plays with different forms, “non-form,” and various modes of language in ways that would impress most any writer. A Peculiar People is familiar to those who know and are of the people and wonderfully odd because it discusses Black personhood in ways that aesthetically and politically reject white ways of peopling.

— Javon Johnson, author of Ain’t Never Not Been Black

A Peculiar People meshes a deft understanding of traditional verse form and a deep reverence for the complexity of Black life that echoes the groundbreaking work of Gwendolyn Brooks’ Annie Allen. If poems are flexible things that can live in air or on any manner of page, then Steven Willis is a world traveler intent on showing us everywhere his poems can survive and thrive. The infusion of hip-hop sensibility and sentiment display for all a deep emotional intelligence at the center of this book. Wow. This is a worthy first effort from a promising and versatile artist.

— Nate Marshall, author of Finna

About Steven Willis

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, storyteller Steven Antoine Willis uses his poetic and theatrical background to embark on the daunting task of creatively articulating African American culture. With art heavily influenced by urban life and religion, Steven… MORE

Additional information

Weight4.8 oz
Dimensions8.5 × 5.5 × .25 in

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Publication Date

April 26, 2022

Author Hometown

Chicago, Illinois



eBook ISBN