The NEA grant has allowed me time to write - with what results, it's too soon to say. Beyond that, it has enabled me to expand my horizons and to seed the work of fellow artists in several ways: to travel to West Chester, Pennsylvania to attend the "Formalism" conference - the largest poetry conference in America, devoted exclusively to matters of form - imagine! - and I had never even heard of it before Dana Gioia recommended it; to visit the poet Samuel Menashe, with whom I had become friendly by e-mail, in New York City; to produce, together with my friend the poet and publisher Richard Denner, Exploding Flowers: The Selected Poems of Luis Garcia, a tribute to a poet whose work has influenced us both and yet is generally neglected. Yet the real substance of the gift is the sense of belief in myself as a poet if bestows. I am a woman of sixty-five,with a long career as a poet and teacher behind me. No doubt I would fear being all washed up were it not for this recognition.
from the sonnet sequence True Love
If Unrequited Love Were Visible
Imagine all our unrequited love
rising like a vapor from the globe--
all our tossing and turning, our stifled sobs,
emanating in a greenish glow that throbs
above the neighborhood, a veritable
fire ball above the moonlit junior high.
Such unilateral love that refuses to die
though inadvertently, is charitable,
and thus makes love's true nature visible,
and pleases God. He uses it again.
He gathers it in plastic nets, as drizzle
in the Amazon is harvested for rain.
Boiled down, nothing beats it for adhesion,
persisting, as it does, past hope, past reason.
It isn't even unrequited love
I mean, but inappropriate- suppressed,
contained, but barely keeping its head above
suspicion. Not really dead, but laid to rest.
In mind's eye, a figure stooping in an attic
blinded by a sudden flashlight stands
amid a swirl of moths and opera tickets,
a heart shaped box unlatching in her hands.
Much flutter and commotion. Not really squandered,
but boiled down, beaten, laundered, anyway used,
cleaning wax from the ears, snot from the noses of toddlers
who do not care whose naked arms they bruise
with hard bright shoes, as the dearly beloved gather,
and seat themselves in rank beside the father.
Belle Randall attended the University of California (Berkeley), where the poet Thom Gunn was her Freshman English teacher (1960). A decade later, she was awarded a Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Poetry at Stanford, where she completed her first and only full-length book of poems One Hundred and One Different Ways of Playing Solitaire, published in 1973 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Her poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals - Poetry, The Threepenny Review, The Southern Review, Triquarterly and PN Review (England). Her most recent chapbook is True Love, from Wood Works Press (2003).
Photo by Juliana Edwards