NEA Literature Fellowships

Anna Journey

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(2011 - Poetry)

Adorable Siren, Do You Love the Damned?


The devil pries open my red hibiscus like skirts. On the crack
            corner those transvestite hookers won't quit
competing with my garden's

barbed and carnal tongues. The bitch
            scent of the silver-

and pink-clawed possum in heat--all rhubarb-breath and unbelievable
            udder--is sharp as fuchsia

spokes of my oleander. I could put
      my eye out looking. I could run with knives. Outside the brine

of b.o. tangles with perfume--bodies that snag
            men like my singing

can't. This song won't dress up, won't wear black
            patent leather, won't even shave

its five o'clock shadow--lazy sliver
            slumming the telltale animal. What song, devil, is best
sung from my balcony

in my birthday suit, by my heartleaf nightshade's
            liquory patina? I'm drunk,
though I won't wear heels, honey, or I'd fall

for anyone. I'd fall devil
            over heels over edge over oleander
over open mouth

over birthmark over forked
            tongue over forked tongue
that turns on mine.

Anna Journey is the author of the collection If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting (University of Georgia Press, 2009), selected by Thomas Lux for the National Poetry Series. Her poems are published in American Poetry Review, FIELD, Kenyon Review, Shenandoah, and elsewhere. Her essays appear in At Length, Blackbird, Notes on Contemporary Literature, Parnassus, and Plath Profiles. Journey's won a number of awards for her writing, including scholarships from Yaddo and Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, the first place award in Diner's Poetry Contest, Sycamore Review's Wabash Prize for Poetry, and multiple academic fellowships. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Virginia Commonwealth University and a PhD in creative writing and literature from the University of Houston.

Photo by Anna Journey

Author's Statement

At this point in my career--that space between graduating from the University of Houston's PhD program and finding my first academic teaching job--receiving a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts means I'll have the freedom to focus entirely on my creative work. I'll use my grant from the NEA to complete my second book of poems and begin work on my third collection.

Similarly to my debut collection, If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting, my second book, Whisper to the Hive, references the quirky magic of a folk superstition. According to an English tradition, after a family member dies one must go to a beehive and tell the insects about it. This way, the bees won't abandon their hive. I'm drawn to the elegiac implications of such a myth, as well as its hints of seductiveness and danger. I'm looking forward to completing my new book, and I'm grateful to the NEA for their generosity and encouragement.