Brother Nervosa, Ronald Palmer


Available for pre-order. Official release: April 15th.

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Feverish and oracular, Ronald Palmer fuses the terror of the body with the kaleidoscopic beauty of dreams in Brother Nervosa. Palmer writes: ‘Dear virus / arriving pregnant with vengeance / I am your foreign witness.’ And bear witness these poems do: to illness, anxiety, love and desire, the threat of one body being with another. The lovechild of Jean Genet and Arthur Rimbaud, Palmer offers us a bold and spectacular dreamscape that bears more than a small resemblance to our current time.

In Brother Nervosa, Palmer asks: What is the sound of my gender? Indeed, such questions of gender, sexuality, and queerness form the backbone of this new collection. Palmer continues to explore tensions between poetry, theater, and film. The poems read as phantasmagoria, featuring simultaneously real and imagined experiences. Ron Palmer’s poems fascinate the reader because the poet deftly creates in his lyrics an experience and a logic of their own: I score the boys in the music of longing. These are deeply felt poems of love, loss and fascination with the mystery and terror of our contemporary world.

Ron Palmer’s highly anticipated second poetry collection Brother Nervosa moves at the speed
of intergenerational trauma, virus mutation, and gender at its most fluid. These poems read like virtuoso fever dreams traveling through time. Brother Nervosa grieves for the unacknowledged violence of the past alongside the freedom of a younger self moving through a personal landscape not yet transformed by a career in big pharma. Even as Palmer rages against the unfreedoms that define queer life under capitalism, Brother Nervosa savors the luxe emotional contours of long-term love and the feral forms of public life that escape capture, raccoons and coyotes just at the edge of sight.


The Next Virus

When I was a coyote I carried a man inside me
whispering in a lisp my whole life—
squeamish for fur: flesh-rip, voyeur:

I hid in the seagrass of the dunes
and preened my tail with my teeth.
I watched surfers glide on waves.

I trotted over the Great Highway
like a psychopath.
I smelled of hot tar and brine.

The next virus will arrive in a radio-burst
enter us chanting in childlike wonder
scribbling out tainted copies

made visible in the hovering X-ray
of the next virus
speaking in an army made of mirrors.

The next virus will be more ravenous
than a red octopus: a snapshot
of my dismantling

I—orator mesmerize my host
and prey in equal measure.
I stir in my own helium

tapping out a Morse Code message
on your left lung: antecedent,
I arrive again.


Born in New Canaan, Connecticut, Ronald Palmer was raised in Bethel, Connecticut. He received degrees in English from the University of New Hampshire (B.A.), New York University (M.A.) and Binghamton University (Ph.D.). He has taught Literature and Creative Writing at Framingham State University, in Framingham, Massachusetts as well as New York University and The New School in New York City. He is the author of a first poetry collection, Logicalogics (Soft Skull Press, 2005) and a novel, Prick Queasy (Publication Studio, Fellow Travelers Series, 2013). Palmer received a postdoctoral stipend to work as a writer-in-residence at The Jan van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht, Netherlands. He returned to the United States in 2000 and began a career in biotechnology sales. Many of the poems in Brother Nervosa were written while working for Pfizer, Lilly, Teva, Gilead Sciences, Biogen, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). He lives in the Richmond District of San Francisco near Golden Gate Park with his husband, Kevin Rolston, and their magical Aussie Shephard, Kylie Fantastic.