NEA Literature Fellowships

Hadara Bar-Nadav

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(2017 - Poetry)

"Lullaby (with Exit Sign)"

I slept with all four hooves
                         in the air or I slept like a snail

            in my broken shell.

The periphery of the world
                         dissolved. A giant exit sign

            blinking above my head.

My family sings
                         its death march.

            They are the size of the moon.

No, they are the size
                         of thumbtacks punched

            through the sky’s eyelid.

What beauty, what bruise.

                         (What strange lullaby is this
            that sings from its wound?)

Here, my dead father knocks

                         on a little paper door. Here,
            my family knocks, waits.

Come through me, my darlings,

                         whatever you are: flame,
            lampshade, soap.

Leave your shattered shadows

                         behind. I’ll be the doorway
            that watches you go.

Hadara Bar-Nadav's newest book of poetry, The New Nudity, is forthcoming from Saturnalia Books in 2017. She is the author of Lullaby (with Exit Sign) (Saturnalia Books, 2013), awarded the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize; The Frame Called Ruin (New Issues, 2012), runner-up for the Green Rose Prize; and A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight (Margie/Intuit House, 2007), awarded the Margie Book Prize. She is also author of two chapbooks, Fountain and Furnace (Tupelo Press, 2015), awarded the Sunken Garden Poetry Prize, and Show Me Yours (Laurel Review/Green Tower Press 2010), awarded the Midwest Poets Series Prize. In addition, she is co-author of the best-selling textbook Writing Poems, 8th ed.(Pearson/Longman, 2011).  She is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Photo by Sharon Gottula

Author's Statement

I am honored and grateful to receive an NEA fellowship, and also deeply humbled. In these vexing times, I am reminded again that the arts do matter.  In truth, art would matter if I had won an NEA or not. But for a moment, I had forgotten about the power of creativity—its unyielding, beautiful force in the world—and that art is a necessary counterbalance to destruction. In the face of various national and global issues, I had for a time stopped writing. And then I asked myself: what does it mean to be human in these times? What are the words for these images, experiences, and silences?   

The NEA fellowship is a recognition that the arts are absolutely vital. It reminded me that there is a way to ask difficult questions, create conversation, and perhaps even to heal. It also underscored my responsibility as a writer to bring language to issues that are seemingly impossible to consider or even articulate because they are too difficult, painful, or confusing. 

The fellowship is a heartening recognition of the power and necessity of art as it moves against, with, and through the chaos of the world. In regards to practical matters, the fellowship will also provide me time to write and cover childcare costs, so that art, my own art and that of others, can flourish. I am infinitely grateful for this gift.