NEA Literature Fellowships

Kathleen Peirce

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(2005 - Poetry)

"Hall of Light" (from The Ardors)

In the way the orange canary's phrase protruded
in the quiet of the room, there was the passing of
a sunflower seed across a gap between two cardinals
outside, and the final color of the grass achieved
the rosiest of its browns. In the way a solitary thought
keeps hid a chamber, lit only by reflections
on its inner walls of jade and gold, we could feel
absence as a bird's indifference to the color
of a leaf, being the most lucid thing among a field of leaves,
or a hawk's indifference to the passage of a labial cloud
above its back, or a breast-cloud, or a mouth. Do you hear
how morning feels? There is singing where you are?

For thirteen years, Kathleen Peirce has been teaching poetry in the MFA program at Texas State University. Her books include Mercy (University of Pittsburgh Press), Divided Touch, Divided Color (Windhover Press), The Oval Hour (University of Iowa Press), and The Ardors (Ausable Press). Alongside her grant from the NEA, her work has been awarded The AWP Award, The Iowa Prize, The William Carlos Williams Award, and a fellowship from The Whiting Foundation. She lives with her son in Wimberley, Texas.

Photo by George Krause

Author's Statement

To receive an NEA grant is an amazing experience. Using it allowed
me to work in an intensely focused way that wouldnít have been possible otherwise. For me that meant buying books I had been coveting for years, release from summer teaching to immerse myself in them, and my first overseas travel, where I spent long days among the astonishing holdings at the Green Vault in Dresden and the collection of sacred objects at Melk Abbey in Austria. Experiencing these holdings and these places deepened my preoccupation with handmade and sacred objects, and has charged my approach to images in the poems I have written since. My NEA fellowship came just after the publication of my most recent book, a time perfect for submersion in what might be possible next. What an honor and joy it was to be given time and means to follow my thoughts across the world.