The NEA Fellowship is a kiss, an embrace, a dare. While I've had support and encouragement from family, friends, and colleagues, this nod from the NEA is the great legitimizer--of my work and of prose poetry--and the mandate to keep writing.
When I was first able to take my writing seriously, in my mid-40s, seasoned poets laid out the steps for me: workshop, literary journals, contest, chapbook, contest, manuscript, contest, book--and then, way down the road, the mythic NEA. And lo! here it is, 15 years after my first poem was published.
I will use my funding to support work on two projects, each a collection of prose poems, each based on historical events. One addresses the more serious "boom" of the baby-boom era, drawing on ephemera like a 1957 civil-defense brochure on the homemaker's role during nuclear attacks. The other looks at the role of nostalgia in the Cuban community in Miami. Entitled Walking to Cuba, it considers the impossibility of return to an imaginary island, the Cuba before Castro. In addition, it reflects the challenges of learning a new language while finding myself exiled from my own history.
Because the work is its own reward, the NEA fellowship is icing (thick butter cream) on a three-layer chocolate cake. The poems have been graced upon me; they come and go. My job continues to be staying awake and opening the door when they arrive. Mixed metaphors, I know, but giddy gratitude is like that.
Season of the Witch
The shift blows in, rattles the trees, sets leaves to whispering tenuous thoughts, shreds of dreams, as though they too had trusted lyric's impulse before epic kicked the door down, sized up the interior and found it lacking.
Only the photos in matching frames suffice, generations shelved in proper order, dressed in clothes they can't afford, each wedding attached to a war, the wars tumbling onto each other like dominoes of romance--bride, groom, bride, groom, bride, groom, bride.
(Reprinted from Angles of Approach, White Pine Press, 2010)