Emerging BIWOC Poet Spotlight
This monthly series features poems by women of color in the early stages of their careers. It is our intention to create more space at Perugia for the work of BIWOC, and we hope using our modest 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; all the featured poems will be from BIWOC poets with no more than one published full-length collection. We’d love to hear from readers with suggestions for poems & poets to feature.
August 2021 Poet: JESSICA NGUYEN
Tôi là người Việt
is my americanness a taboo for you because your politeness does not come from a “hello” but a “thưa dì bà cô bác” (1) what can I do to prove to you that I am vietnamese enough do I need to bathe myself in nước mắm (2) just so that you would be willing enough to taste me or should I sing the old tunes of cải lương (3) so that you can listen to me because all you hear is my broken speech heavily accented by the distance that comes between me and my parents’ motherland I will wear a white áo dài and a nón lá and grow long, straight, black hair out for you to look at me and see that my soul has always been harboring the east side of the mekong river ------------ (1) a formal greeting to older folks (2) fish sauce (3) traditional folk opera
softly, I speak, Louisiana Literature Press, 2020
Jessica Nguyen has had a nonlinear journey as a creative of many interests, including writing, podcasting, social justice, and philanthropy. Her prose and poetry appear in diaCRITICS, Womanly Magazine, Sinister Wisdom, Vietnamese Boat People, and AASIA Journal. Forthcoming publications include Slant’d and mimp. Her first book of poems is softly, I speak (Louisiana Literature Press, 2020), which was selected as part of Louisiana Literature Press’s chapbook series. To learn more about her creative projects and upcoming events, go to byjessicanguyen.com and follow her @byjessicanguyen on social media.