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  • Emerging Writer's Contest Winner Poetry

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In poetry, our winner is Aurielle Marie for her poem "a psalm in which i demand a new name for my kindred."

Of her poem, poetry judge Fatimah Asghar said, "The language in this poem is incredibly unique—every line is a slight twist, a turn, a surprise at the end of the breath. The language is just so alive, so right under the skin. This poem instantly captivated me upon reading it and the imagery stayed with me long after."

Aurielle Marie is a Black and queer poet, essayist and social strategist hailing from the Deep South. She writes and speaks urgently about hip-hop, class, race, sex, and politics from a Black feminist lens. She was selected as the 2019 Lambda Literary Poetry Writer-in-Residence. She's received invitations to fellowship from the Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for LGBTQ writers, Tin House, VONA Voices, and the Kopkind Colony. Her poems have been featured in or are forthcoming from the TriQuarterly, The Southeast Review, Adroit Journal, Black Warrior Review, and VINYL. You can find her essays on Wear Your Voice, NBC, in Essence, Allure, and The Guardian. Follow her: @ YesAurielle

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I don't know that there was a particular moment I realized I wanted to be a writer. I think more honestly, I looked up one day, when I was quite young, to realize that I had taken up writing as a sort-of grief practice. My brother died, and I wrote for him, or, maybe, toward him. My family lost our home, and in the shuttling to stay with cousins or extended family, I never let go of my journals. I was in a writing practice, and it became crucial to my survival. The moment I realized [End Page 221] I was a writer, though, that's easy. It began August 9, 2014. The day Michael Brown was murdered by a police officer in Ferguson, MI. I was tweeting and writing essays and poems about the lived experiences of Black youth in America as I organized in our communities. I realized how badly I wanted my writing to pursue a goal beyond my own quiet toiling, and so my poetry and essays began to reflect that charge.

What is your writing process like?

Well, I'm a Sagittarius, so it can be hard sticking to one routine. Instead of forcing more structure, I try to make my spontaneity into a discipline. I bring notepads to bars and coffee shops because my phone will absolutely die at some point, and I don't want to forget conversations I overhear. I scribble on sticky-notes during dates. I spend three hours talking to friends about the rigor of regional ebonics, or African American Vernacular. Then when my head is full, I braindump/purge. Sometimes it barely lasts ten minutes, and other times I crank out five or six different first drafts in one sitting. All of this freedom on the front end is coupled with a pretty rigorous editing process, where I try plugging the drafts into different forms, or using prompts as editing tools, etc. I used to hate editing, but now my free-write to final draft process feels adventurous, which of course I love.

What inspired "a psalm in which i demand a new name for my kindred?"

It's been rewarding to write about the lived experiences of marginalized folks who share my identities. But, I sometimes found myself caught in despair and fatigue as I wrote about trauma and state violence, especially in this political climate. After a particularly hard essay, I stepped back from the work like "Wait a minute, why is all this so sad? I love being Black! I love being queer! I rep the South hard! I need to put the joy back into what I'm writing!" I can't think of a more foundational part of my identity than my community. I have the privilege of being in friendship with some of the most brilliant, magical people I've ever known. I wouldn't...


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pp. 221-224
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