NEA Literature Fellowships

Jenny Molberg

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Jenny Molberg

Photo by Erin Adair-Hodges

(2019 - Poetry)

"Epistle from the Hospital for Text Messaging"
          to T.B.

I have made of myself a rabbit.
I can no longer speak. Language

is only the click click click of my heart
ticking faster now.

I stepped out of my dress.
I autofilled myself. I slipped

the gray skins over my head.
I know you love to watch the animal

of me, my fast-pounding brain.
How I enter the garden

to pluck berries with my teeth,
then the (...) (...) (...) of my leaving.

I know you love to watch the end
of me. I vanish beyond the field

whose borders I built
with your thousand barbed unsaids.

I vanish into the sky.
I vanish into the moon,

this lemon slice of dead volcano.
Here I wait, my fingerless ears

poised as satellites, projecting my rabbit-
shaped silence on space’s blank walls.

Something I don’t understand about myself
makes people want to hurt me.

(originally appeared in Gulf Coast)

Jenny Molberg is the author of two poetry collections: Marvels of the Invisible (winner of the 2014 Berkshire Prize, Tupelo Press, 2017) and Refusal (forthcoming, LSU Press). She edited the Unsung Masters book, Adelaide Crapsey: On the Life & Work of an American Master. Her work has recently appeared in Ploughshares, the Missouri Review, Gulf Coast, The Journal, Tupelo Quarterly, Boulevard, and other publications. She has received scholarships and fellowships from the Sewanee Writers Conference, the C.D. Wright Conference, and the Vermont Studio Center. Currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Central Missouri, she also directs Pleiades Press and edits Pleiades magazine.

I am deeply grateful and humbled to receive this fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, an institution that is vital, necessary, and one I have long admired. The arts provide an invaluable gift: that of breaking silences. Through language, lyric, metaphor, and vulnerability, I am able to put form to my truth in the hope that my words might reach others who are struggling. It is a privilege to join the legacy of NEA fellow poets, and I intend to continue writing with my poetic responsibility in mind: to refuse to be quiet under forces of oppression, and to speak what, at times, seems unspeakable.

Writing poetry, for me, has long been a solace through times of hardship, financial and emotional struggle, and confusion. In the wake of the recent #metoo movement, it allowed me to voice my experience with abuse, harassment, and trauma brought on by patriarchal structures of power. Poetry and the support of my poetry community has given me courage. Poets whose work inspires me, many of whom have received fellowships from the NEA, have been gifts for my life and work, and this recognition from the NEA is a valuable gesture of faith in my own creative endeavors.

With these fellowship funds, I will have the financial support I need to hone and revise my forthcoming collection of poems, Refusal, and to begin work on a new collection that seeks to uplift the voices of women who have, over the course of history and today, been silenced. This is a true honor, and I am thankful for this affirmation.