NEA Literature Fellowships

Edgar Kunz

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(2017 - Poetry)

"After the Hurricane"

                                                                              Three hundred

miles north, my father beds down in a van by the Connecticut River.
Snow tires rim-­deep in the silt. He has a wool horse blanket

tacked inside the windshield. A pair of extra pants bunched
into a pillow. He has a paper bag of partially smoked butts.

A Paw Sox cap. A zippo. He has state­-sponsored cell phone minutes
and a camo jacket hung on the sideview to dry. He can see the Costco

parking lot through the trees. Swelling and emptying out. He wants
to fix things with his wife. He wants a couch to crash on.

He wants a drink. He wants sex. He has a few cans of kidney beans
and a tin of ShopRite tuna. Wrinkled plastic piss bottles line the dash.

Sometimes he walks out to the river and lets the wind sift his lank
and matted hair. Sometimes he peels his socks and stands

in the murky current and thinks about his wife. The birthmark
on her neck. Her one toe longer than the others. Her freckled hands.

He tries to hold her hands in his mind. He tries to remember
the birth years of his sons. He tries to make sense of the papers

he signed. The icy water wetting the hem of his pants. The river stones
sharp underfoot. The wind. I hold him like this in my mind

all afternoon.

(originally appeared in the Indiana Review)

Edgar Kunz  is a poet from Massachusetts. His work appears in AGNI, Narrative, New England Review, The Missouri Review, Gulf Coast, Best New Poets 2015, and other places. He has received support from the Academy of American Poets, the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and Vanderbilt University, where he earned his MFA and was a post-grad teaching fellow in the Department of English. He is currently a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and lives in Oakland, California.

Photo by Kai Carlson-Wee

Author's Statement

What a miracle this is! To be awarded an NEA fellowship so early in my writing life is both a humbling vote of confidence from artists I’ve long admired and a welcome financial relief. It is, at its core, the gift of time– to write, yes, and also to build community, to read widely, to travel, to gather the raw materials from which poems are made. That it might also mean that more people will read and engage with my work is a blessing I may never have words for.

I’m a handyman’s kid from working-class New England. Growing up, I never considered that an artist’s life was an option for me, that it could be a viable way of living in the world. And, if I can be honest, I never expected to have this much money in the bank at once, let alone for writing poems. This fellowship is, in every way, an immeasurable gift. I aim to make the most of it.