Spotlighting Black authors: Celebrating Black History Month with Amber Flame
By Emily Morris
Throughout the month of February, Red Hen Press has been recognizing the work and achievements of the incredible Black authors that have shared their words with us. One month of the year is not enough time to commemorate the momentous works of Black creatives or acknowledge this country’s fraught history, but Red Hen hopes to contribute in some small way to this important conversation. Read this article and follow this series for a glimpse into the triumphant works of Black authors here at Red Hen.
This article will spotlight Amber Flame, an interdisciplinary artist whose work garnered residencies with Hedgebrook, Vermont Studio Center, and more. Her first poetry collection, Ordinary Cruelty, was published through Write Bloody Press. Flame is a recipient of Seattle Office of Arts and Culture’s CityArtist grant and served as Hugo House’s 2017–2019 Writer-in-Residence for Poetry. Flame’s work featured in Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19. She is Program Director for Hedgebrook, a residency for women-identified writers. Amber Flame is a queer Black dandy in Tacoma, Washington, who falls hard for a jumpsuit and some fresh kicks.
Amber’s forthcoming poetry collection, APOCRIFA, is a nongendered love story told in verse, the journey of a lover and their beloved finding each other, falling apart, and then creating their own way to love together. APOCRIFA imagines a love that sits comfortably at the crossroads of commitment and freedom. The developing intimacy between a lover and their beloved is propelled by a compendium of words for love, romance, sex, relationships, and affection that do not lend to direct translation in English. Heavily inspired by the metaphors and structures of Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon), from the Apocryphal books of the Bible, the characters speak to each other with contrapuntal call-and-response while letting us into their private thoughts through epistles, sestinas, odes, and other poetic forms.
Emily Morris: What are some authors or artists that inspire your work?
Amber Flame: Nikki Giovanni, Danez Smith, Pablo Neruda, Brionne Janae, Prince, Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, NK Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Octavia Butler… I could go on!
EM: When did you begin writing, and why?
AF: I always had too many thoughts, so I’ve journaled to some degree most of my life. I started seriously writing while studying music in college, because there were more words than would fit in a song. I have so many ideas!
EM: What do we not discuss enough during Black History Month?
AF: A concrete actionable plan for reparations.
EM: Your upcoming book apocrifa is an inventive and non-gendered love story that poetically redefines the terminology of love. Can you elaborate on your vision for reimagining love and gender, commitment and freedom?
AF:I think it really comes down to shameless communication and a deep regard for self. I envision love in which we can each know what we want and need so thoroughly, so intimately, that we name it clearly and seek out those aligned to meet us there. As Eartha Kitt said, “I fall in love with myself, and I want someone to share it with me. I want someone to share me with me.” I dreamed into this story the kind of courage it takes to accept love as it is, not as one hopes or expects it to be.