NEA Literature Fellowships

Jane Satterfield

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(2007 - Poetry)

"Instant Combat Kit"

For years my father's bag stashed in the car "boot"
leather worn raw, this side of suede,

packed and ready in case--flight suit,
polished boots, an instant combat kit

signed, sealed, to be delivered due east--
the border, the base, the last battle left.

How it hummed, the air, with imminent action,
our house under the flight path, weekend

war games, the enemy out there--
always expected and just within reach

through cross hairs and radar screen.
And though it seemed unique to our age,

apocalypse now--blackout, bombardier,
passage of flame (the use of stock photos

is strictly forbidden)--really, what's different?
Just our hands on the switch?  In the old

dream of empire, in late afternoon, the story
the child saint raced into, a covert host in his cloak,

is simply a case of street violence and the body
sent into the streets--stand-in and look-out--

a shape divested of meaning.  And the blows
coming down until you see you have to forego it,

reason, the right explanation, plot whispering
Did you deliver? What can be reached?

Born in England and educated in the U.S., Jane Satterfield received an MFA from the University of Iowa. Her first poetry collection, Shepherdess with an Automatic received the Towson University Prize for Literature; her second, Assignation at Vanishing Point, received the Elixir Press Poetry Prize. She has received three Individual Artist Awards in poetry from the Maryland State Arts Council and is also the recipient of fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Sewanee Writers Conference, and the Wesleyan Writers Conference. Her nonfiction has received the Heekin Foundation's Cuchulain Prize for Rhetoric in the Essay, the John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Award, and the Florida Review Editors' Prize in Nonfiction. She teaches at Loyola College in Maryland.

Photo courtesy of the author

Author's Statement

In recent years, I've divided my creative energy between poetry and literary nonfiction. How wonderfully gratifying it was, then, to receive the call informing me that the NEA would support a return to my first love, poetry. Beyond the financial award which will allow travel to Great Britain and facilitate research on the poems for a third collection, I'll be able to devote uninterrupted writing time to the exploration of compelling landscapes, both imaginative and literal. I'm particularly interested in the ways that poetry can bring to life the experiences of women, whether in the domestic sphere or within environments politically or culturally volatile. Thanks to the NEA, poetry will again become my principal medium for reflecting on how women's lives intersect with the larger culture.