NEA Literature Fellowships

Matt Yurdana

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(2007 - Poetry)

"Shaking Hands"

It is successful, he thinks, for lack of a better word,

a reflexive, pleasant, well-balanced joining of the public sides
of two selves, the tongue and groove
of every honest welcome he has ever known,

but sometimes it is, like this evening, too much or not enough,
misaligned between the thumb and forefinger, the palm, the wrist;

a stumbling or a jockeying at the leading edge
of this first impression, this soft, almost-hot hand of an old friend of his wife,

and the way he comes at it sideways, holding on
a moment too long, his elbow crooked out away from his body
suggests the eagerness of compensation,

not for a particular mistake, not a lie or a bribe, or even
an old affair with his wife,

but something deep and sustained this handshake has pointed to
like a compass, for which he will never forgive him.

Matt Yurdana's first collection of poems, Public Gestures, was published in 2005 by the University of Tampa Press, and was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. His honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Academy of American Poets Award from the University of Montana, and the C. Hamilton Bailey Fellowship from Literary Arts. His poems appear in many journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, The Massachusetts Review, The North American Review, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and two children.

Author's Statement

I am deeply grateful to the NEA for honoring me with this fellowship, and am thankful not only for the financial "breathing room" that allows me more time to write, but for the psychological and emotional boost as well. This fellowship comes on the heels of the publication of my first collection of poems, and has given me a wonderful momentum as I work on the manuscript for my second collection.