NEA Literature Fellowships

Rebecca Dunham

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(2007 - Poetry)


             "Study of God the Father," 1555-1560

His hands rubbed blood-
bright, Primaticcio struggled

to bring forth a man in his own
image, the kind of monster
who'd hoard holy relic & limb.

These nine muscled arms all
that he could manage.

A hand surfaces, wrist up,
palm flat as a waiter's beneath                                  
his dinner-laden tray. Like

a worm chopped to pieces,
caught & scattered, the segments
curve amid death's                                   
throes on his pinked tablet.

Faith is a grisly contest.

This portrait devours sight.
Eyes awash in the body's
red, it casts itself over my retinas --
phantom green flood, a prayer
to ligament & gristled limb.

The hand makes the man.
I recognize him:

God the Braggart, God the Afflicted,
God who Holds-the-Line.
God the Tempter.
His fingers reach for mine.

Rebecca Dunham's first book of poetry, The Miniature Room, won the 2006 T.S. Eliot Prize and was published by Truman State University Press. Currently, she is an assistant professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa and Assistant Editor of the North American Review. In 2005-2006 she was the Jay C. and Ruth Halls Fellow in Poetry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Poems are forthcoming or have recently appeared in FIELD, The Antioch Review, The Iowa Review, and AGNI among others.

Photo courtesy of the author

Author's Statement

Since becoming a mother, I've grown to appreciate the act of writing in a new way. I now feel an incredible sense of gratitude whenever I shut the door and sit down at my desk, alone, to write -- an emotion which lends my writing a new sense of energy and urgency, I believe. I am profoundly grateful to the judges for honoring my work with an NEA grant. The money from this grant will enable me to carve out more time for my work by releasing me from teaching obligations and allow me to complete my current manuscript, Aviary. The poems in this collection explore the tension between individualism and interdependence in both historical and contemporary women's lives, focusing particularly on the life and writings of early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft.