NEA Literature Fellowships

Averill Curdy

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(2007 - Poetry)


Standing on this deck I have watched

morning's first pale peach jeopardy

of light flush alleys and rooftops,

just touching my neighbors' gardens,

until they seethed like the green smoke

of a new world. On these sidewalks,

with the linden's melon scent twined

around an untuned engine's blue carbon

monoxide and Wednesday's trash,

I've looked for an authentic eloquence:

Frobisher returning three times

from Baffin Island, Boreal winds

still on his tongue, timbers strained by tons

of fool's gold. Circled with lamplight

I've imagined sailing under discipline

into strange seas where the sun hangs

dumb as a cabbage all day in ice.

Even as sirens squall down the block,

I've fallen asleep in my armchair,

tired as any theoretical geographer

after dinner, who dreams of trading

his knives for nutmegs, mirrors

for cinnamon and pearls, and beyond-

finding by brute necessity and skill

some route between suffering and song.


Averill Curdy received her MFA from the University of Houston and a PhD from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Poetry, The New England Review, 32 Poems, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, and others. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, as well as fellowships from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the Illinois Council for the Arts. She lives in Chicago and is a Visiting Assistant Professor at Northwestern University.

Author's Statement

I started writing poetry seriously a decade ago, after working for years as an arts administrator, as well as a marketing manager and technical editor in the software industry. I write slowly-always, it seems, at the very limit of what I know-and I'm currently working on finishing the last poems for my first book, Ovid in America. These longer poems and sequences find their subjects through the voices of early American naturalists and explorers. The NEA fellowship provides an inestimable gift, not only research travel and writing time, but also, more importantly, from the judges' faith in my work, a deep and hidden well of psychological support during a crucial period.