Andrea Hollander Budy
Sixteen years ago, when I worked full-time as an innkeeper and part-time as an instructor at a nearby college, I won my first Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. I was forty-four years old and had not yet published a full-length poetry collection. The fellowship both encouraged and enabled me to devote more focused time to the completion of House Without a Dreamer, which was published two years later as a result of winning the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize. Although I no longer work as an innkeeper, my position as the Writer-in-Residence at Lyon College is half-time (I teach only one semester each year), and while this sounds ideal for a writer, I must find half-time work elsewhere in order to make a living. This second fellowship from the NEA will allow me to spend more dedicated time working toward my fourth full-length collection of poems (my second was published in 2001, my third in 2006).
I write because I believe in the power of poetry to positively transform our emotional lives. And I appreciate the affirmation this fellowship affords. The generous monetary award is significant, especially for poets, as we can never earn a living solely from creating poems. I am very grateful to the panel of contemporary poets who served as jurors this year, as well as to the staff of the NEA, who work to guarantee that writers continue to receive such grants.
"Poem in October"
After Dylan Thomas
It was my twenty-third year and heaven
broke away from my reach as I stood
at her grave. Rain carved
the morning's stone face into the earth,
and the sky grayed and lowered until
they were one. Back by the trees
men smoked, as if they had nothing
better to do. But I knew as soon as I left
they would cover even
the roses my father, brother and I
had tossed upon her as if our wishing
could do what prayer had not.
When I finally left, I thought her
gone. I am fifty-four. I was wrong.