NEA Literature Fellowships

Michael Bazzett

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(2017 - Poetry)

"The Invisible Book"

Sometimes when I’m reading,
I’m distracted by the invisible
book underneath the book
I’m actually reading and the problem

is this: it’s better. It’s like
the superball under the couch
that your fingertips barely brush:
the slightest contact and it’s

gone, gliding easily away,
because its form is nearly
perfect, there, a sphere
in the darkness and dust.

You can’t get to this book
so you read the other one,
the actual fabric and paper
tilting in your hand, whose
primary virtue is suggesting
the other, hinting at the unseen

that was whispering something
wonderful into existence
as the pen wrote down slightly
different words, approximations,
compromises, all those choices
that seemed good enough,
maybe even thrilling, at the time.

(first appeared in Ploughshares)

Michael Bazzett’s debut collection, You Must Remember This, received the 2014 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry from Milkweed Editions. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, Pleiades, Guernica, Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Iowa Review, among others.He has two forthcoming poetry collections: The Interrogation, (Milkweed, 2017) and Our Lands Are Not So Different, (Horsethief, 2017), as well as a verse translation of The Popul Vuh, the Mayan creation epic (Milkweed, 2018). He teaches at the Blake School in Minneapolis, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Photo by Leslie Bazzett

Author's Statement

I believe our current impoverished relationship with the world and each other stems from our inability, quite literally, to imagine it could be otherwise. This NEA fellowship will fuel a little bit of that imagining. It feels simultaneously to be a blessing, a happy accident, and a call to action. I am hugely grateful for the gift – a gift that will help create time and space for the making of poems, yes, and the gift of validation as well. But perhaps even more importantly, it will provide open hours in which I will be able to read widely (I am tempted to say wildly) and eclectically, something that feeds my writing easily as much as the rearranging of words on a page. Thank you.