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.

February 2022 Poet: CYNTHIA PARKER-OHENE


Prevalence of Ritual

after a painting by Romare Bearden

these women
these salteaters
purl untucked sheets leftover from baptism
reset a paraffin lamp recessed in lichen
a perched daguerreotype atop
a scarred chifforobe
clutches an unknown grrrl standing beside
trumpeter swans
the inscription reads lucinda 1879 kilmarnock
its wings appear to cloak her hairline forming a muted halo
but it’s only the birthing caul
she came seeing an already
the camera angles her brand
she’s wearing a loose burnoose shawl
from potato sacks
crushed glass beneath her left foot
shines nacre from her shore
borrowed from turtle island
on the back of the frameless capture
a scrawl “somma dem bones is mine”


Daughters of Harriet, The Center for Literary Publishing, Colorado State University, 2022

Poet Bio

Cynthia Parker-Ohene is an abolitionist, cultural worker, and therapist. She graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College of California and was the Chester Aaron Scholar for Excellence in Creative Writing. She is a winner of the San Francisco Foundation / Nomadic Press Poetry Prize. Her recent work has appeared in The Rumpus, Black Warrior Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Kweli, Green Mountains Review, and West Branch, among others, as well as in the anthologies Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. She has received fellowships and support from Tin House, Callaloo, Juniper, the Postgraduate Vermont College of Fine Arts, the Hurston-Wright Foundation, and elsewhere. Her book Daughters of Harriet is forthcoming in March, 2022 and can be ordered now. 

To learn more about Cynthia Parker-Ohene and her new book, visit The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University.