For the past several years I have been working on my first poetry manuscript, Oblivio Gate, between extended periods of time in which my writing life has been sidelined by my teaching and administrative lives. I know this predicament is a common one for writers and am deeply appreciative of the opportunity the NEA has provided me. This Fellowship will allow me release time from teaching to dedicate myself fully to my poetry. I will be able to give the last poems in Oblivio Gate the time they deserve, and sink my teeth into a new project that has been simmering for a while.
In addition to the very real financial impact the NEA Fellowship will have on my life, there is also a psychological aspect to the award that is even more transformative. The NEA is a tremendous nod of confidence and it is a great honor to have my writing recognized alongside the prestigious catalog of past recipients. It is even sweeter to know that a panel of such accomplished writers did the nodding.
In the solitary act of writing, self-doubt is often my first reader; encouragement like this is a rare, sustaining and precious gift. Thank you NEA.
We estimate a man by how much he remembers.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Things seem to take on a sudden shimmer
before vanishing: the polished black loafers
he wore yesterday, the reason for climbing
the stairs, even the names of his own children
are swallowed like spent stars against the dark
vault of memory. Today the toaster gives up
its silver purpose in his hands, becomes a radio,
an old Philco blaring a ball game from the '40s
with Jackie Robinson squaring up to the plate.
For now, it's simple; he thinks he is young again,
maybe nineteen, alone in a kitchen. He is staring
through his own reflection in the luster and hoping
against hope that Robinson will clear the bases
with a ball knocked so far over the stadium wall
it becomes a pigeon winging up into the brilliance.
And perhaps, in one last act of alchemy,
as Jackie sails around third, he will transform
everything, even the strange and forgotten face
glaring back from the chrome, into something
familiar, something Solomon could know as his own.