What a pleasure to have been selected a recipient of this award and what an honor to have been selected by such a wide-ranging and talented panel. In the day to day of writing poems, one receives little recognition. That is to say, in our small world, the pleasure is in the doing, not really in the applause of what is done. For me, poetry is a private way of staving off a desertification of the soul, what's left of it anyhow. It is a watering place, as Frost put it, and to be able to go often enough to restore and feel restored is a gift.
The NEA award had come at a time when I was working on the final version of my new book, Miscreants, published by W.W. Norton. The award was a moment when I could pull my head out of the claustrophobic darkness of that book and breathe a little easier.
In the coming months, I hope to spend time working on new poems that center around the myth of Persephone and the development of New York City's water system. I imagine that this project will require much study and devotion. Hopefully, this award will grant me the necessary time.
"Late Autumn Wasp"
One must admire the desperate way
itself through air amid winter's slow
and clings to shriveled fruit, dropped
any sugary residue, any unctuous
and slug-drunk grows stiff, its joints
wings stale and oar-still, like a heart;
too easily like a heart the way, cudgeled,
waiting for shift of season, light, a thing
to drink down,
gnaw on, or, failing that, leaves half of
willingly, ever-quivering, in some
Prior to teaching, James Hoch was dishwasher, cook, dockworker, social worker and shepherd. His poems have appeared in Slate, Kenyon Review, Gettysburg, Ninth Letter, Carolina Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, and many others. He is the recipient of fellowships and scholarships from Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and Summer Literary Seminars, and received a 2007 NEA grant, as well as a grant from the PA Council on the Arts. Miscreants will be published in June 2007. A Parade of Hands won the Gerald Cable Award and was published in March 2003. Originally from Collingswood, NJ, he resides in Mahwah, NJ with his wife and son. He has taught at Franklin and Marshall College and Lynchburg College. Currently, he teaches at Ramapo College of NJ.
Photo courtesy of the author