NEA Literature Fellowships

Melissa Stein

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(2017 - Poetry)


Tadpole with legs.
Hawk with a long tail
that is a snake
dangling from its beak.
The apple limb
grafted to the plum tree,
blue Mustang
with the dull white hood,
Ken with the head of Barbie.
The boy with a new plump fist
of heart or kidney
or some shining pins or discs
or a thick, imperative tube
fastening a mechanism
of breath. What’s wrong
with me is you.

(first appeared in Narrative Magazine)

Melissa Stein is the author of the poetry collection Rough Honey (APR/Copper Canyon Press), winner of the APR/Honickman First Book Prize. Her second collection is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2018. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares,Tin House, American Poetry Review, New England Review, Best New Poets, Harvard Review, Southern Review, and many other journals and anthologies. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and her work has won awards from Spoon River Poetry Review, Literal Latté, Redivider, and the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation, among others. She is a freelance editor in San Francisco.

Photo by John F. Martin

Author's Statement

I write intuitively and move from obsession to obsession. Rather than by project or theme, my books come together poem by poem. I’m fascinated by the ways in which lushness of language can intersect with and complicate disturbing subject matter, challenging our senses or beliefs. I write to uncover what’s not said. I write to find out what I’m writing about. I write to surprise myself—and hopefully the reader. Giving myself permission to exist in this state—and having the physical and mental space to get there—is something I’d never take for granted. I see the NEA fellowship as a sudden room in which this can happen—enormous, radiant, breathing.