NEA Literature Fellowships

Meg Day

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Meg Day. Photo courtesy of Ms. Day

Meg Day. Photo courtesy of Ms. Day

(2013 - Poetry)

Draft for Conflagration

The day my body caught fire, the sun licked the red clay
          clean. Water skeeters dried bent-bodied
                    into the cracks of The Blair's cratered floor,
the lake's basin full with the fumble
          of panting cormorants, their necks hung low
                    like broken reeds. Ten paces from
the front porch, the bottlebrush stretched cat's
          cradle for the trashliner's web, the naked
                    birches a lithe army along the bank.
In the time of yellow pollen, that's where we began:
          barefoot & chapped by the daily dust bowl, the earth
                    forever feverish by noon. A place barely still

standing. Where we could be boys together. The hush
          of abandoned clapboards molting & front-yard
                    fences for as long as a running stick could drag.

Up the driest of three hills, the fence turned barbed,
          like my shyness, & beyond it, a donkey grazed deep
                    enough in my memory so all that come after will also

be called Patrick. At night, the crickets slowed time to snap-shots:
          the creak of the stairs. Candlelit hand-shadows.
                    The metallic yawn of the hide-away. A fly

on the pane, a small death. But in the swarm of every hot dawn,
            the pot-bellied stove ticked cool, unaccompanied;
                    we were streaks of sweltered blur, barreling 

toward The Blair, & on that day, ignition: a tethered rope
            splintering against my palm, our bodies standing strange
                    among the thistles & dust, overalls boiled down

to our bare bulb cannonballs, swung out over the empty lake
            & back again. A flicker, then, like kindling catching;
                    the calm turn & stare mid-swing, the noticing.

His body, like a cattail, aerodynamic & mine, flush with disconnect,
            a hot white quiet swinging hard toward the rushes
                    then back into the upswell, burst & let go.

(first published in Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics. Edited by TC Tolbert and Tim Trace Peterson. Callicoon, New York: Nightboat Books, 2013. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.)

Meg Day received her MFA from Mills College and is currently a PhD fellow in Poetry & Disability Poetics at the University of Utah. A three-time Pushcart-nominated poet and veteran arts educator, Day hails from Oakland where she taught young poets to hold their own at the mic with YouthSpeaks and as a WritersCorps Teaching Artist in San Francisco. Day is a former recipient of a Lambda Literary Foundation Emerging Writer Fellowship (2010), a Hedgebrook Fellowship for Women Authoring Change (2011), and a Squaw Valley Writers Fellowship (2012); she has received numerous grants and awards including the 2012 AWP Intro Journals Award, the 2011 Shirley Award for Emerging Poets, the Mary Merritt Prize in Poetry, and two Creating Queer Community grants from the International Queer Arts Festival. Her poetry has appeared in, or is forthcoming from Omnidawn Online, Kore Press: Best of 2012, Southern Humanities Review, The Atlas Review, Troubling the Line: An Anthology of Trans & Genderqueer Poetry & Poetics, Flicker & Spark: A New Anthology of Queer Poetry, This Assignment is So Gay: Poems from LGBTQ Teachers, & in the chapbook, When All You Have is a Hammer, planned for publication in 2013 by Gertrude Press.

Photo courtesy of Meg Day

Art Talk with Meg Day

Author's Statement

This award comes at a time when a number of transitions--personal, geographic, professional, creative--are beginning to settle out, providing some of that crucial and ever-elusive mental legroom that writing requires of me. I have never been one to sit and write; I do not have a practice or habit that necessitates long periods of silence or a set number of hours at a typewriter or desk. Instead, I want for time to think. I crave time to read & research. Much of the thinking, reading, and researching I do, however, pertains to the needs of my students.

I teach, and I love it. Perhaps a little too much. While the NEA is wildly generous in its creative affirmation--and I am deeply grateful to the panel of writers who so kindly considered my work--the practical financial support of this award grants me permission to spend the next two summers doing the unthinkable: not teaching. My first manuscript will finally receive the focus it's been begging for and the research my second manuscript demands--located in the American Sign Language archives on Martha's Vineyard--has suddenly become possible. It's a little unreal.

I'm humbled to have my work included in such a long and striking lineage of poets supported by the National Endowment for the Arts. More than that, though, I'm honored to feel the welcome weight of a larger responsibility: I'd like to channel the NEA's gesture of faith forward into my own creative work, yes, but I'd like to also feed it back into the artistic communities that built me and continue to hold me up. Many of those organizations and publications were made possible by support from other NEA grants, and I feel particularly lucky to have the opportunity to, as we say in Oakland, continue feeding the beast. Thank you.