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 2024 Poet: Omotara James

Got ‘Til It’s Gone

After a Mark Romanek video with Janet Jackson, feat. Q-Tip & Joni Mitchell
We pivot like we pray—for no gaze. Only Black shines
in its darkness and light, by which I mean on and on and on...
Like steam, music be how the message bodies to the sky
is what I see in Janet's smile. She, brown and glittered golden,
leathered in cool. Q-Tip on the beat and Joni Mitchell never lies:
Black be the thing you can never quantify. Catch us kissing
and mending our bodies in the blue black. Catch us blasting and
Dutty Wining in the lamplight, the summer Miss Jackson teaches
rhyme to hug its own line. My back bending, twisted t'ward sorrow
all that time
waiting, for song to arrive.


Song of My Softening, Alice James Books, 2024

Poet Bio

Omotara James is the author of the poetry collection Song of My Softening (Alice James Books, 2024). Her poems have been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, the Academy of American Poets “Poem-A-Day” series, and Poetry Daily. You can find her poems in print and online in Poetry MagazineThe Nation, BOMB Magazine, The Paris Review, The American Poetry Review, Literary HubGulf Coast, and elsewhere. Her chapbook, Daughter Tongue, was selected by African Poetry Book Fund (Akashic Books, 2018) for the New-Generation African Poets: A Chapbook Box Set series. She has performed on various stages including the Guggenheim Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, 92NY, the Brooklyn Book Festival, the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics, the New York City Poetry Festival and the Poetry Project. Her work has been anthologized and selected for inclusion in various publications including Embodied: An Intersectional Comics Poetry Anthology.

James is the recipient of the 2023 J. Howard and Barbara M. J. Wood Prize from the Poetry Foundation, a Café Royal Cultural Foundation Literature Award, a New York Foundation of the Arts Poetry Fellowship, and a 92NY Discovery Poetry Award. Her poems were shortlisted for the 2019 Brunel International African Poetry Prize in 2019. She has received residency fellowships from Cave Canem Foundation and Lambda Literary, among other awards and recognitions. Born in Britain, she is the daughter of Nigerian and Trinidadian immigrants. She has lived in England, Scotland, and was raised primarily in America. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Hofstra University and an MFA in Poetry from New York University. She currently lives in NYC, where she teaches and edits poetry.

To learn more about Omotara James, visit her website.