The Halo-Halo Review is pleased to interview authors in the aftermath of their books’ releases. This issue’s featured author is Angela Narciso Torres.
What is your most recent book? Who published and when was it released?
What Happens Is Neither (Four Way Books, NY, 2021)
What has been the response/what has surprised you most about the response?
What Happens Is Neither, my second full length poetry collection, is both an homage and an elegy to my parents whom I lost in 2019 within eleven days of each other. It is a book about grief and mourning as much as it is a celebration of life and the reconstruction of a self after devastating losses. What surprised me most about this book was how readers resonated with my very particular experience of loss—my mother, gradually to Alzheimer’s, and my father, almost abruptly to cancer and a broken heart—half a world away, in Manila. When I give readings from the book, I’m almost always surprised at how audience members engage so fully with the idea of holding a space for grief, unapologetically, without trying to “lighten up the mood” with “happier” poems, as poets sometimes feel obligated to do. Sometimes, it’s okay to just be in that space, and to honor all those feelings without embarrassment or uneasiness. For truly, with grief, there’s no other way around it but through it.
Tell me something not obvious or known about the book.
This book came together a lot faster than I ever dared to dream. Four Way Books contacted me in June of 2019, barely a month after my parents died, to ask if I had new work for their publication consideration. Though I had been writing poems about my mother’s illness and decline since she had first been diagnosed in 2012, I really didn’t set out with a book in mind. With a poet-friend’s encouragement and support, I put together the manuscript within a week. Almost immediately, it was accepted for publication. A week later, I signed the contract.
What are you working on right now?
I just finished translating a collection of Filipino rhymes, songs, proverbs, and riddles for a Philippine publisher. The book is slated to come out this year. I’ve also been working on a collaborative series of epistolary poems with a Brazilian poet which I started during isolation for a breakthrough bout with Covid last year. I’m trying not to think of my third collection of poems yet. I need to allow the ground to lay fallow and prepare myself to return to creative work. So many losses in the past three years, both personal and global. I, and I suspect, many of us, need time to recover and replenish the creative energy we’ve spent on grieving and surviving the past few years. Doing what I love—reading, spending time in nature, yoga, and just enjoying solitude and silence—all of these have been restorative. This is the work, for now.
Angela Narciso Torres is the author of What Happens is Neither (Four Way Books 2021) and Blood Orange (Willow Books). Her work appears or is forthcoming in POETRY, Poetry Northwest, and Prairie Schooner. A graduate of Warren Wilson MFA Program and the reviews editor for RHINO, Angela has received fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Ragdale Foundation. She lives in Southern California.
To order signed copies: angelatorrespoet.bigcartel.com