two poets, one with grey-black beard, short cropped hair, pink patterned shirt, arms crossed, smiling; one in long brown dreads + blue-gold patterned headwrap, blue v-neck top; both with deep brown complexion and wearing colorful eyeglasses

Poetry Center Book Award Reading: Michael Kleber-Diggs and Cynthia Parker-Ohene

Thursday, November 16, 2023
Event Time 06:00 p.m. - 07:30 p.m. PT
Cost Free and open to the public
Location Webinar
Contact Email


The Poetry Center is honored to welcome Michael Kleber-Diggs and Cynthia Parker-Ohene, reading from their works and engaging with one another and their audience in conversation, for this online Poetry Center Book Award event. Kleber-Diggs's premier book of poetry, Worldly Things, from Milkweed Editions, was selected by Parker-Ohene, author of Daughters of Harriet, to receive the award, given annually since 1980 to a single outstanding book of poetry. Join us online together with our poets—appearing from St. Paul, Minnesota, and from Oakland, respectively—for this feature event.

  • I have chosen Michael Kleber-Diggs’s opus of perfection, Worldly Things. These poems will shake you up, as its poetic crescendos blaze nimbly, and “[become] space that nourishes—sanctuary within darkness.” Your ears will ring long after the last resounding word. Worldly Things enacts utterances of Blackness in all its ascendancy. Read, and be reborn. 

    Cynthia Parker-Ohene, judge’s statement, Poetry Center Book Award

REGISTER for this webinar here.

This event is free and open to the public. 

VIDEO for this program will be posted after editing at Poetry Center Digital Archive.

Michael Kleber-Diggs (KLEE-burr digs) (he / him / his) is currently writing a memoir about his complicated history with lap swimming called My Weight in Water (forthcoming with Spiegel & Grau). He is a 2023-2025 Jerome Hill Artist Fellow in Literature, a poet, essayist, literary critic, and arts educator. His debut poetry collection, Worldly Things (Milkweed Editions 2021), won the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, the 2022 Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award in Poetry, the 2022 Balcones Poetry Prize, the 2021 Poetry Center Book Award, and was a finalist for the 2022 Minnesota Book Award. Michael’s essay, “There Was a Tremendous Softness,” appears in A Darker Wilderness: Black Nature Writing from Soil to Stars, edited by Erin Sharkey (Milkweed Editions, 2023). His poems and essays appear in numerous journals and anthologies. Michael is married to Karen Kleber-Diggs, a tropical horticulturist and orchid specialist. They are proud of their daughter who recently graduated from SUNY Purchase with a BFA in Dance Performance with a Concentration in Composition. Photo by Ayanna Muata. More at

Cynthia Parker-Ohene is a therapist, abolitionist, and cultural worker. She is an MFA graduate in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College of California, and the Chester Aaron Scholar for Excellence in Creative Writing. She is a Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Poetry, Winner of the San Francisco Foundation/Nomadic Press Poetry Prize. Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Poetry 2022, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily. Obsidian, 5 Points Literary Journal/Georgia State University, Northwest Review, diode poetry journal, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Rumpus, Black Warrior Review, Bellevue Literary Review, West Branch, Kweli, among others. She has received or will receive support from VCCA 2024, Tin House, Callaloo, Juniper, Post Graduate Writers Conference/Vermont Fine Arts College, Wright-Hurston Foundation, Naropa, and elsewhere, as well as work in the anthologies, Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature, and The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South. She is also a Poetry Reader for The Adroit Journal. Her book Daughters of Harriet was published by The Center for Literary Publishing/Colorado State University in 2022 and Drapetomania published by Backbone Press in 2017.


The Poetry Center Book Award, some previous readings


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