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 2023 Poet: LAUREL NAKANISHI

Waimea Valley III

I've been saving this in my mind for you —
the loulu palms with skirts of crackling leaves,

the wide net of a monkey pod tree,
the bird with a branded face and backward steps —

how she walked over the lily pads
until she sank and floated like a duck,

how bromeliads love the mango bark,
how seeds stick to the wing.

Up mauka the ridgelines crowd
with ironwood, strawberry guava and grass.

But I've been saving this in my mind —
the forest that could be. The seedlings of lama,

wiliwili, and koa cast down roots. The ‘ohi‘a ‘ai,
‘ohi‘a lehua, and alahe‘e reach into the sky.

They will catch the clouds above the old stream beds
and pull down the rain.


From Ashore by Laurel Nakanishi (Tupelo, 2021). Reprinted with permission from Tupelo Press.

Poet Bio

Laurel Nakanishi is a writer, educator, and author of the book of poetry Ashore (winner of the Berkshire Prize for a First or Second Book of Poetry from Tupelo Press). She was born and raised in Kapālama on the island of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. She holds degrees from the University of Montana and Florida International University, and has been fortunate to receive fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and Japan-US Friendship Commission. She teaches creative writing to young people in Hawai‘i public schools.

To learn more about Laurel Nakanishi, visit her website.