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.

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

Poet Bio

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.

To learn more about Jessica Nguyen, visit her website.