NEA Literature Fellowships

Jay Leeming

Back to NEA Literature Fellowships
(2009 - Poetry)


That was the year I rented an apartment
inside the poems of Wang-Wei.
His lines about cassia blossoms falling
were a window I looked out from
as city buses downshifted on Hennepin Avenue.
In the afternoons I went to my job
inside the poem "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg.
All summer I walked the corridors of his long sentences.
In autumn the weather turned cold,
and the newspaper began talking about the Super bowl
and the Presidential election. Wang-Wei's poems
died on the branch, and fell to the ground.
We raked them into piles.
And a few weeks later the world was covered
in the cold, beautiful poems of Yeats.

Jay Leeming is the author of Dynamite on a China Plate, a book of poems published in 2006 by The Backwaters Press. His poems have appeared in a variety of magazines, including Ploughshares, The Gettysburg Review, Rattapallax, Poetry East, and Black Warrior Review, and have also been featured on Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac radio show on NPR. He has been a featured reader and teacher at Butler University, the Omega Institute, Robert Bly's Great Mother Conference, the Woodstock Poetry Festival, Yosemite National Park, the Block Island Poetry Festival, and the Edinburgh International Centre for World Spiritualities in Edinburgh, Scotland. He lives in Ithaca, New York.

Photo by Chris Leeming

Author's Statement

It's often said that the work of writing is done alone, yet in many ways that work is never complete until it is heard by another, whether it is a single reader, a listening audience, or an institution such as the NEA. I was overjoyed to hear that I was the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship. American poets too often live with a sense of real or imagined isolation, and to have my work recognized in this way reassures me that imagination, beauty, and the jolting reflections of poetry are a crucial part of our national life. I have just finished my second book manuscript, and hope to spend the next year working on new poems. This award will allow me to give more poetry readings than I would have otherwise, and will also give me the needed time to begin anew with a pen and a blank page. I feel honored and immensely grateful.