Living in America, poets can sometimes feel lonesome and beside-the-point. Our culture, which thrives on commerce and entertainment, places little value on the slow, contemplative pleasures of poetry or on its reach for complex truths.
Thus, to have the government of the United States make it a priority to honor and support poetry is very significant and encouraging. And it gives me hope when, even in a dark time, our government says to poets, without any requirement that their work serve or justify the state: "What you do matters. We need you."
That is the best part of sharing this award, for which I am indeed very grateful.
"Tantrum, with Mistletoe"
I've tried, like a peony, to explain myself
in a hundred dark petals or less.
I've been clear as the insatiable hands of the rain.
I've been Rachmaninoff and ragweed, cornflowers and castanets,
sunset swollen behind me like a red crescendo.
Yes, I've worn my heart up my sleeve. And Lord knows
I've been love's bull's-eye--
Saint Sebastiana of the Backslid Baptists.
Now snow mutes the buds and the barbed wire,
and you're out there somewhere, too, with your hot
blood and your cold shoulder, with your boots
finding fault with the garrulous white. But, honey,
what good's the last word if it just gets you gone?
I've coaxed the coals back into flame, uncorked
a sweetness even you can't argue with, and tacked up this truce
I scavenged for the doorjamb. Why don't you
come on in, and give me the slip
of your tongue? Why don't you put your mouth
where your moody heart is?
Lynn Powell was born and raised in East Tennessee. Since 1990, she has lived with her family in Oberlin, Ohio. She is the author of two books of poetry, Old & New Testaments and The Zones of Paradise. Her nonfiction book, Framing Innocence: A Mother's Prosecution and a Community's Response, is forthcoming. She has been awarded Individual Artist Fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council, and she has taught extensively as a poet-in-the-schools and as a visiting writer at several colleges.
Photo courtesy of the author