Emerging BIWOC Poet Spotlight

This monthly series features poems by women of color in the early stages of their publishing careers. It is our intention to create more space at Perugia for the work of poets who are Black, Indigenous, and women of color (BIWOC). We hope using our platform to celebrate this work will expand the readership of the poets we spotlight. This series aligns with Perugia’s mission to support and promote emerging women poets; featured poems will be from poets with no more than one published full-length collection. We’d love to hear from readers with suggestions for poems & poets to feature.

January 2021 Poet: Destiny O. Birdsong

Photo by Hunter Armistead


At night, I peel off my skin and hang it inside my closet door. I like the feel of walking around without questions. Sometimes I stand over the pots on the stove, let the heat seep through my breastbone like a balm. Sometimes I sit in front of the box fan and sing into the stream of air. My voice splinters, comes back to me as chorus. Sometimes I fly short distances, like from the first-floor landing to the foot of the stairs. I like the way air feels on the exposed flexors in my feet. It reminds me there are many ways to getting free. When I’m done, I crawl into bed, my thoughts billow like open tents against the sky, its luminous grain. Into this he walks, like a husband returning from the fields. But we never talk about the fields. He begins by recounting my day, naming each stuttered word, each moment I held open my hand, awaiting the grasp of another. He cups my face with its lidless eyes and shudders, tells me never to have children. He slips into my skinsuit, performs a pantomime. He laughs about my secrets, remembers my childhood names, which he grinds into the air with his peppered tongue. The flakes fall against my houseless flesh. In the morning, I must return to my skin. Beneath it, I will burn until it is night.


Negotiations, Tin House Books, 2020

Poet Bio

Destiny O. Birdsong, MFA, PhD is a Louisiana-born poet, essayist, and fiction writer who lives and writes in Nashville, Tennessee. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Paris Review, Catapult, The BreakBeat Poets Presents: Black Girl Magic, and elsewhere. Her critical work recently appeared in African American Review and The Cambridge Companion to Transnational American Literature. Destiny has won the Academy of American Poets Prize, Naugatuck River Review’s 2016 Poetry Contest, Meridian’s 2017 “Borders” Contest in Poetry, and the Richard G. Peterson Poetry Prize from Crab Orchard Review (2019). She has received support from Cave Canem, Callaloo, Jack Jones Literary Arts, Pink Door, MacDowell, The Ragdale Foundation, and Tin House, where she was a 2018 Summer Workshop Scholar. Her debut poetry collection, Negotiations, was published by Tin House Books in October 2020.

To learn more about Destiny O. Birdsong, visit her website.