At a time when I'm making many transitions--starting a family, traveling overseas for an extended period, and having finished one poetry manuscript, trying to begin another--it is deeply affirming to receive an NEA Fellowship. I am grateful to the panel of judges made up of accomplished writers whom I admire for sending me the message right now that my poems deserve encouragement and recognition. This practical and generous gift will allow me the financial wherewithal to carve out time in my changing life to pursue different directions in my poetry spurred by new experiences.
I take pride in an affiliation with the institution of the National Endowment for the Arts as I believe its fellowship programs make a bold statement of commitment to and faith in the myriad voices of American contemporary writers, and I am humbled my voice is counted among them.
After the spring rains' glut and drain--
the adults drove to the river with nets
and buckets tethered to pick-up beds.
At the docks they peeled off their socks,
unbuckled shoes. The men rolled up dungarees
and sleeves over the knobs of elbows and knees.
Women gathered dress hems into knots
above calves to keep their shifts from sipping
the current. Nothing to hurry: the fish
straggled in the shallows, coal-dust
catfish, striped bass, and the glass
of sunfish along the bank. A convergence--
men and women came twisting down woods-
trails from the bluff until river mud sucked
at their feet. Nets swooshed over fish-bodies,
they'd twitch and writhe until slapped
into buckets, and still more, flip-flopping
in the shallows. The wet, mouthy odor
of water, river-grit spangling ankles. The adults
crooned I'll be damned's, as they met the flesh
shouldered up on careless waters.
Chanda Feldman grew up in Tennessee. She earned her MFA from Cornell University and her BA in English Literature from the University of Chicago. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, Cave Canem, Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, the Djerassi Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, the Wallace E. Stegner Fellowship program at Stanford University, and Vermont Studio Center. Her poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Northwest Review, Prairie Schooner, Southern Review, Verse Daily, and other literary journals, and in the anthologies Gathering Ground and The Ringing Ear.
Photo by Morri Feldman