NEA Literature Fellowships

Allison Titus

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(2011 - Poetry)


[Southside Unemployment Commission]

And after the half-hearted leave-takings.

And after the legalese, the broad signature thrust
And bestowed upon, to compose an ending.
That clutch of papers.
Thickset wrists visible beneath the ex-boss’s professional sleeves.

And after my position was eliminated:
The dismantling and the putting forth in boxes.

After the search and subsequent escort:
Thus, annulled.

And after.

And elsewhere, in the ruined afternoon of impermanence and daytime TV
in the flickering light of which I cut my hair
off with the kitchen scissors.

And after, for months, the radio reports.
And towns boarded up, and empty coal cars bedding the outskirt tracks, and clearance sales,
and trembling woods gaunt with trembling deer.

We were on the brink of a strange harvest.

We were waiting it out in a city graved by the smallest vaccines,
rendered to symptom and rust and murmur and all through the winter feral dogs
scammed the corner for bread crusts and chicken bones.

And we watched them hollow out.

Allison Titus' book of poems, Sum of every lost ship, was published in 2010 by Cleveland State University Press. She holds an MFA in fiction from Virginia Commonwealth University, and an MFA in poetry from Vermont College. New poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, A Public Space, Gulf Coast, and Unsaid. She lives in Richmond, Virginia, with the poet Joshua Poteat.

Photo by Joshua Poteat

Author's Statement

I'm not sure I can sufficiently explain how miraculous the NEA grant feels, and how grateful I am for the way in which this award bolsters--to think that the work done in such isolation might also matter beyond the self is incredibly restorative and exhilarating. I plan to spend the next two years concentrating on two major projects: what I hope will eventually become a book of poems concerned mostly with "work" (what we do with our hands all day, the gestures that make something or don't) and "animals" (how to convey their sentient lives without sacrificing craft for personal/political agenda), and my second novel. The generosity of the grant will allow me to work part-time and write part-time--a luxury of hours I never imagined possible. My deepest, deepest thanks to the NEA, the award panel, and the taxpayers, for funding this tremendous gift.