Your Cart

Unterberg Poetry Center

Omotara James

2019 Discovery

Omotara James is the author of the chapbook Daughter Tongue (2018), selected by the African Poetry Book Fund in collaboration with Akashic Books for the New-Generation African Poets Box Set. Born in Britain, she is the daughter of Nigerian and Trinidadian immigrants. A former social worker in the field of Harm Reduction, she has been awarded fellowships from Lambda Literary and the Cave Canem Foundation and was a finalist for the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. Her poetry has appeared in The Paris Review Daily, Poem-a-Day, Literary Hub, the Poetry Society of America and elsewhere. She received an MFA from New York University and edits poetry for American Chordata. Visit her at
The poem and manuscript below were included in the printed program of the 2019 Discovery Winners’ Reading. “Promise” was first published by The Paris Review Daily.

  • Promise


    When they send the robot to replace me, do not be gentle with it. Place these chords where its heart chakra should be. Do not speak to it of a fountain— tell it, in the middle of its life, there will be a flower: a blooming petalled trauma. Tell it, I considered beauty, once, but there were white-iced, gingerbread cookies, brown with molasses, in the ceramic, black, Santa jar. My father’s mangoes, green, red and yellow, were in a wooden bowl on the kitchen counter, unharmed, having traveled so far beyond their home. There were the last hours before sleep, when mother borrowed energy from the next day to make at least three nights’ worth of dinners for us. Until the night roused me with more night and I masticated with tongue. Masticated with teeth. Masticated in my sleeping gown. Masticated beneath the sheets. Masticated in the bathroom stalls at school so quiet you wouldn’t hear me over the sound of a raindrop. I am a master-cator. I will masticate. Until there’s nothing. Until I’m full. Until I’m done.

  • Manuscript

From the Winners’ Reading: “Promise,” by Omotara James

Watch the 2019 Winners’ Reading.