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.

April 2022 Poet: KHALISA RAE

Photo by Tish Yvette

Pastoral Blues

Our bodies: broken-necked,
trampled weeds pushing blades
in the back of the countryside.
Our hue, off-note dahlias bouqueted
in an orchestra of daisies and dogwood.
Each sorrow song hangs open—
heavy and hollow.
But these tangled weeds reach
skyward, locked in formation, weaving
together like ivy. Our placement, so intricately
woven around each ancient tree. Each willow
keeping the secrets of centuries,
thirsting for the taste of rain.


Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat, Red Hen Press, 2021

Poet Bio

Khalisa Rae is a performance poet, author, and journalist in Durham, NC who speaks with furious rebellion. She is the debut author of Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat (Red Hen Press, 2021) and the chapbook Real Girls Have Real Problems. With over 10 years as an editor and compelling essayist, her work appears in Autostraddle, Catapult, LitHub, as well as articles in Blavity, B*tch Media, Parents.com, NBC-BLK, and others. Her poetry is featured in Southern Humanities Review, Tishman Review, Florida Review, PANK, HOBART, among countless others. She is the winner of the Bright Wings Poetry contest, the Furious Flower Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize, and the White Stag Publishing Contest, among other prizes. Currently, she serves as Senior Writer at Jezebel and Content Creator at BET News. Her literary engagement and stewardship include being Editor in Chief of Think in Ink BIPOC Collective and founder/host of Women of Color Speak Reading Series. Her YA novel-in-verse Unlearning Eden is forthcoming. Follow her at @khalisaandco on Instagram and Twitter.

To learn more about Khalisa Rae, visit her website.