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About Wanting A Love Story So Deeply, You Write Your Own: An Interview With Angelique Palmer
by Pamela Turchin

Angelique Palmer is a self-described “Black Woman Queer Mama forced to forge her own armor and create her own path.” In her new poetry collection Also Dark, published by Etruscan Press in November, bigotry, ageism, sexism, colorism, homophobia, and ableism are given voice and a voracious opponent in these poems—which are raw and candid, while at the same time personal, yet relatable.
 
No poets or writers inspired her to become a poet. But “June Jordan, Rita Dove, Sonia Sanchez, Nikky Finney, Patricia Smith, Ebony Stewart and any chance to read away a rainy day inspired me to stay in poetry. And teachers as well! It took two of my high school English teachers, one at community college, one at university and my Mama to tell me I was a good writer and to keep going.”
 
My first experience with Angelique was by watching a YouTube video for a Write About Now Poetry event from 2018, where she gave a powerful, jaw-dropping spoken word performance of a variation of her poem, “Passive Voice on a Tuesday.”
 
When asked how she became involved in spoken word, she said, “The short answer is trauma. I used to go to the Water Works and Grand Finale open mics in Tallahassee a long time ago. I thought I might be good at it. But it wasn’t until the heavy-duty trauma I wrote about in The Chambermaid’s Style Guide that I went looking for community in performance poetry. I used to drive home from my therapy meetings and pass an open mic sandwich board. Because of a chance meeting, I started going to the Literary Café Poetry Lounge on 125th Street in North Miami and there I was taught about Poetry Slam. I lost a lot. And a lot of people didn’t believe in me. But a lot more did. Ten years later I was standing on the final stage at The Women of the World Poetry Slam.”
 
Palmer lives in Fairfax, VA. She knits, dabbles in light hoarding, and is also an educator. She started out working at the African American Poetry Museum, then became an afterschool and kindergarten aide and substitute teacher. Later, she was promoted to assistant kindergarten teacher and now has her own homeroom in the first grade.
 
I asked her how she balances her writing life with being a full-time teacher and she said, “I have been off-balance since I began working on Also Dark in earnest. Fitting in edits after lesson plans; running late with notes while making games for little hands. It isn’t a teeter-totter thing but more of a juggling act. But I will say that I haven’t quit trying to keep all the important things airborne; to find the balance (I’m a Libra). I feel stronger because of this.”
 
My second experience with Palmer’s work, before reading her final manuscript, was when I read her synopsis for Also Dark. An excerpt:
 
Palmer cuts a path toward finding all the ways she names herself: with pride and with shame, with growth and with responsibility; with tantrum and humor; with understanding and a strong desire to understand the others who are just like her too. This full-length collection of poems is about hope and despair; about a life well-lived, danced, and limped through; about light and how that isn’t the opposite of Blackness, nor is all the many shades of gray; and about wanting a love story so deeply, you write your own.
 
I was immediately struck by the line, “about wanting a love story so deeply, you write your own.” It affected me on a personal level, but I was also awed by how such a simple statement could be so beautiful and profound. I told her this and asked if she could explain a bit more about what she meant.
 
“I appreciate that this statement touched you. I have been interrogating it a great deal lately. Your thoughtful question doesn’t have a simple answer but here’s my attempt at one: I am romantic. Full stop. I like handholding, long meandering conversation, and the softness of other attractive/attracted to me humans. I haven’t felt safe to explore that for a while. First, I had a profoundly broken heart compounded by a subsequent infidelity. Then life in all the ways it can, showed up. And then Covid-19! There isn’t a wall around me, but an intricate enough barrier and a specific tendency toward isolation preventing the exploration of the softness I crave outside of me. It hasn’t killed my romantic. I want my love story in the way most people want water to drink or air to breathe. But I’m a Palmer woman, so I’ll write the story myself.”
 
In this love story, there’s the self-consciousness we feel when we put ourselves out there: “Turn your whole body to her smile/give in to your colors, if you find them there/You’ll find them there. You are every color when she shines… They say it is simple/But she is beautiful, and you are clumsy/with simplicity, with words… (From “Flirting”)
 
The ache to love and be loved: “Make sure you are alone… That you are quiet with your secrets…That you swallow your sexuality/Make sure you don’t begin to wish…Make sure you are not actively thinking! That you don’t look for hidden meaning, where there is none/or think about the one you cannot touch… (From “On Listening to Meshell Ndegeocello in the Workplace”)
 
Our need to connect: “I say with my most honest self/Give us a good ground to trod, to trudge/Give us great sky to aspire to touch/Give us community like a song/we are surprised we already know the lyrics to… (From “And Maybe, Community”)
 
Within the pages of Also Dark, you’ll find poems filled with grief, joy, longing, and desire. But also the kind of hope that just won’t quit, and everything about what it means to be human on this Earth.
 
Angelique Palmer is a performance poet, a finalist in the 2015 Women of the World Poetry Slam, and a member of the 2017 Busboys and Poets/Beltway Poetry Slam Team. Author of The Chambermaid’s Style Guide, she’s a Florida State University Creative Writing graduate who calls northern Virginia home. Her work centers on Black Femme Narratives, Awkward Queerness, and Mental Health and Recovery. She makes her own ice cream.
 
Pamela Turchin earned a M.A. and M.F.A. in fiction from the Maslow Graduate Creative Writing Program at Wilkes University, where she serves as the production editor for Etruscan Press.

New Releases from Etruscan

We are pleased to welcome Angelique Palmer’s Also Dark to the Etruscan Press family.

What happens when a Black Woman Queer Mama forges her own armor and creates a Spoken Word collection? In Also Dark, Palmer confronts bigotry, ageism, sexism, colorism, homophobia, and ableism through perseverance and persistence, hope, resignation and peace. It’s about a life well-lived, danced, and limped through.  

Also Dark is Dark Skin, Dark Humor, Dark Nights. It’s how she fell in love with seven distinct voices in her head, including the one that tells her the beautiful truth that is, sometimes, Also Dark. Release date: October 15, 2021.
2021: Etruscan Press Executive Director Phil Brady; 2021 Etruscan Prize recipient John Cornelius of Nescopeck, Pa.; and Etruscan Press Production Editor Pamela Turchin at the June 25, 2021 Wilkes Graduate Creative Writing Program ceremony. (Photo credit: Kirsten Peters)

2021 Etruscan Prize

John Cornelius of Nescopeck, Pa. was awarded the Etruscan Prize during the Wilkes University Maslow Family Graduate Creative Writing Program residency. The Etruscan Prize is awarded each year to a member of the Wilkes Creative Writing student community who submits one page of any genre (prose, script, poetry or play) that sings. This was the twelfth consecutive year Etruscan Press awarded a Wilkes University Creative Writing graduate student for their writing excellence.
 
Cornelius’s submission, “Second Marriage,” was the prize winner. This was the fifth year the Etruscan Prize was awarded for a work of fiction. Prize recipients from prior years were awarded for works of fiction, memoir, and poetry. Cornelius is pursuing his Master of Arts in Fiction in the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing. Wilkes University faculty member Nancy McKinley has served as Cornelius’s mentor.
 
Etruscan author Karen Donovan judged the award. Donovan commented about Cornelius’s submission: “‘Second Marriage’ is a work of very short prose, as compact and evocative as any poem, that pops open a haunted room where events occur in a way they have never quite occurred before. The narrator, both the subject of and witness to this haunting, fastens on primal elements – sun, moon, forest, stars – to report its effects. The room stays suspended in magic time as the telling accumulates. In one last gesture, a foot touches down, and what is at stake reveals itself. The beauty of the craft here is that so much is made to happen in such a small space. Every sentence has a twist in it. Every idea is exquisitely tethered to the concrete. The images resonate and expand, pushing the room out until it is much bigger on the inside than it looks – big enough to summon ‘impossibly large owls’ that take up residence in a reader’s mind for a good long while.”
 
Donovan is the author of Aard-vark to Axolotl (Etruscan Press, 2018), a collection of illustrated short prose, and two collections of poetry, Your Enzymes Are Calling the Ancients (Persea Books) and Fugitive Red (University of Massachusetts Press). Planet Parable was published as part of Trio, an Etruscan Press Tribus imprint, in August. Donovan works for a social enterprise accelerator in Providence.
 
Click here to view the 2021 Etruscan Prize Broadside:
https://etruscanpress.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/2021-Etruscan-Prize-Broadside-05-17-21.pdf

About Etruscan Press:

Housed at Wilkes University and partnering with Youngstown State University, Etruscan is a non-profit literary press working to produce and promote books that nurture the dialogue among genres, cultures, and voices.

For the latest Etruscan events, please visit our website.
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