NEA Literature Fellowships

Anders Carlson-Wee

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(2015 - Poetry)


My brother hits me hard with a stick
so I whip a choke-chain

across his face. We're playing
a game called Dynamite

where everything you throw
is a stick of dynamite,

unless it's pine. Pine sticks
are rifles and pinecones are grenades,

but everything else is dynamite.
I run down the driveway

and back behind the garage
where we keep the leopard frogs

in buckets of water
with logs and rock islands.

When he comes around the corner
the blood is pouring

out of his nose and down his neck
and he has a hammer in his hand.

I pick up his favorite frog
and say If you come any closer

I'll squeeze. He tells me I won't.
He starts coming closer.

I say a hammer isn't dynamite.
He reminds me that everything is dynamite.

("Dynamite" originally appeared in Ninth Letter)

Anders Carlson-Wee was a professional rollerblader before he studied wilderness survival and started hopping freight trains to see the country. He has bicycled across the United States twice, hitchhiked to the Yukon and back, and walked on foot across Croatia and Bosnia through the farm villages of the Dinaric Alps. He is the winner of Ninth Letter's 2014 Poetry Award, New Delta Review's 2014 Editors' Choice Prize, and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in New England Review, The Missouri Review, West Branch, Blackbird, The Journal, Linebreak, Best New Poets 2012 and 2014, and elsewhere. A recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Sewanee Writers' Conference, Anders is currently an MFA candidate in poetry at Vanderbilt University.

Photo by Kai Carlson-Wee

Author's Statement

As a young writer enrolled in an MFA program, it is an immense honor to receive this NEA Fellowship. I am humbled beyond words by the list of writers who have been fellows over the years. I receive it with gratitude, excitement, and with a passion to make use of the support.

The financial side of the fellowship offers vital focused time for completing my first collection of poems, which focuses on the explosive bonds between brothers. The poems are full of floods, freight trains, dumpsters, rail-cops, weird jobs, and wilderness survival techniques.

I also plan to use a portion of the funds to continue filming and producing a sequence of "poetry videos" that my brother Kai and I have been making. The first two (already complete) were filmed as we hopped freight trains across the country, and along the Pacific Coast. We have several more videos planned, on various themes, and will begin shooting the next one this summer.

For me, the most moving aspect of the NEA fellowship is receiving the blessing of the panelists. I take this blessing as a call to action, and I go forward with a vivified heart.