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Indie Spotlight on Perugia Press

By Elizabeth Haslam, Jessica Fisher, and William Swift  


Since 1997, Perugia Press has proudly published a beautifully designed book of poetry by a woman each year. Based in Massachusetts, USA, this non-profit aims to support and promote women’s voices in print by tipping the scales of gender inequity in poetry and widening the audience for poetry.


Founding Director and Editor Susan Kay made the decision to focus on female writers, as they have historically not been listened to as much as male writers. Kay states, “The more we listen to women, the better off we’ll all be.” Perugia presents the celebration of female poets as a necessary step for a more democratic and peaceful society.

Perugia’s books have won acclaimed prizes, and the press regularly gives back to the community through free writing workshops, providing resources for educators while using social media, book fairs, and national events to celebrate and promote their poets and poetry.


Notable Releases


Finding the Bear by Gail Thomas, 1997


This was the press’ first book to be published in 1997, after its author had struggled to find a home for her collection. Thomas’ poems are imaginative and explorative, assessing the natural and political world. She writes from a predominately female point of view, whether that be mother, daughter, sister or granddaughter. 





Kettle Bottom by Diane Gilliam, 2004


This collection of poetry is uniquely told through the voices of those working in the coal camps during the West Virginia coal mine wars of 1920-1921. Kettle Bottom explores the multitude of voices in this community who experienced this time of danger and the decisions they had to make. Gilliam’s book has won a range of prizes, including the 2008 Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing, the Ohioana Library Association Poetry Book of the Year and was an American Booksellers Association Book Sense Top Ten Poetry Book for 2005. In addition to this, Kettle Bottom is Perugia Press’ most used text in classroom teaching across the country. 


Girldom by Megan Peak, 2018


Girldom is a stunning collection of coming-of-age experiences which every woman will relate to at one point or another in her life. Allison Benis White, author of Please Bury Me in This, stated that Girldom is a “breathtaking and necessary book that confronts childhood mythology, sexual consciousness and violence, and the nature of love” (Perugia Press website). Peak examines how girls can view the same world through the lenses of rage and tenderness, with her poems exploding with strong voices. Most importantly, the book was written during the #MeToo movement, illustrating how much our society needs more texts like this one. Girlhood is a thought-provoking and relatable text assessing what it means to be a woman in contemporary society and examines the constraints and conventions women face on a daily basis. 


New Releases


The Book Eaters by Carolina Hotchandani, 2023


In this debut collection of poems, Carolina Hotchandani’s desire for agency over her life’s narrative pours from the pages in a heartfelt and powerful use of language. Written during a time of loss, this poet explores shifts in identity due to the Partition of 1947, immigration, birth and illness as well as the topic of belonging. As a Latinx/South Asian poet born in Brazil, Hotchandani’s words examine the decay of language, artefacts and history while keeping subjects of diaspora, new motherhood and the natural world at the forefront. The poems within this book are tightly woven into a carefully crafted collection which interrogates what it means to be full or empty of words, of cultures, of families and of the past. Thought-provoking and enduring, these poems strive to tell a complex and, yet unfinished, story of identity and culture in a debut that fills the heart and mind.


American Sycamore by Lisbeth White, 2022


American Sycamore delves into ancestry and the mythopoetics of wilderness in a poignant exploration of racial identity and the natural world. Lisbeth White is a ritualist and writer living on the unceded S’Klallam and Chimacum lands of the Coast Salish peoples. White ties the mythic, biological and geological landscapes together to ask beautiful and daunting questions;. Indeed, such questions as may never be answered about family, empire, violence, history and love. While some poems cover the brutalities of displacement and trauma, there is an undercurrent of a desire for reunion and sense of belonging running throughout this collection. The reader goes on a journey around the world from Belgium to Barbados while consistently interrogating America’s dark past/present. From an examination of the sacred feminine, ancestral reparation and the Black diaspora, the reader is invited to partake in deeper conversations about seeking and recovery.


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