NEA Literature Fellowships

Paula Bohince

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(2009 - Poetry)

Still Life with Needle

Mending by oven heat-
push-pin painted to mimic a peach, its felt
leaf dusty as the black ribbon
I used to snake through my braid
each morning.

And there, wedged in the kit: an orphan
earring, opal pried out,

a mussel shell, smoke-blue, its sand loose
on the satin.

Nightgown limp on my lap, torn
at the shoulder where I leaned hard against
a sycamore, waiting for a comet,
then falling asleep,

feeling myself carried to bed, waking
with dirt in my mouth,
then remembering.

What comfort, these stitches like footprints
unspoiled by a body. Such pure
walking muffles the mind,

and the spray of bridal birds
swerving past the curtain wakes it. There goes
my wedding
, I'd say as a girl. As every
girl did in the valley.

Paula Bohince grew up in rural Pennsylvania. She is the author of a poetry collection, Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods (Sarabande Books, 2008). She has received the "Discovery"/The Nation Award, the Grolier Poetry Prize, residencies from the MacDowell Colony, and the Amy Clampitt Resident Fellowship. Her poems appear widely in such publications as Harvard Review, Literary Imagination, Ploughshares, Salmagundi, Slate, and The Yale Review. She holds an MFA from New York University and lives in Pennsylvania.

Photo courtesy of author

Author's Statement

I am honored and humbled to receive a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, which will enable me to continue work on my second poetry collection. This book concerns itself with Appalachia and violence, cultural loneliness, and brideliness and decay in the natural world. For a good while, I'll be able to concentrate completely on this project, and I know that the poems will be better as a result of unencumbered time and undivided attention. To have this time to write; to make new explorations I might otherwise bypass; to feel buoyed by the encouragement of this fellowship: all gifts beyond measure. So often when I read the work of contemporary writers whose work I love, I look at the NEA Fellowship on their biographies with awe. Receiving one means more to me than I can express. I am so thankful.