NEA Literature Fellowships

Ruth Ellen Kocher

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(2017 - Poetry)

"Olio 65"

A pink sweater not dark but light almost not pink her tongue a flower which he says isn’t pink because no pink exists in nature but we brought him pink pink everywhere in beer bottles in milk containers in our hands in bunches everywhere which made him love us and hate us as we loved him and hated him whose tongue was not pink in the way you imagine but in the way red fades from being red although red is not part of this story because red turns away from pink as a brother turns away from another brother when a woman is involved and her pink sweater pushes each to think pink nipple pink lip pink flower in the way Boethius thought pink flower thinking woman thinking man not thinking to keep the allegorical away because the allegorical does not tolerate pink which is soft and weak because it is nature at its failing because a girl sparkles from her feet to her head in pink backpack scarf gloves because she is too young to understand how pink hates a woman because she is too young to know how pink hates a man:

Ruth Ellen Kocher is the author of seven books of poetry, including Third Voice (Tupleo Press, 2016), Ending in Planes, winner of the Noemi Poetry Prize, Goodbye Lyric: The Gigans and Lovely Gun (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2014), and domina Un/blued (Tupelo Press 2013). Her poems have been translated into Persian in the Iranian literary magazine, She’r, and have appeared in various anthologies including, Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poets, Black Nature, From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, An Anthology for Creative Writers: The Garden of ForkingPath. She has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Yaddo, and Cave Canem. She is the current Chair of the Department of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder where she teaches poetry, poetics, and literature in the undergraduate and MFA writing programs.

Photo courtesy of Ruth Ellen Kocher

Author's Statement

The NEA Fellowship comes at an important time in my writing career. My work requires a great deal of research, reading as well as writing, always, but also historic and ancestral research. And, of course, I also need experiential research. I am writing about Otherness, and this NEA fellowship helps to affirm that experience matters, that voices such as my voice have a place in the American landscape. Additionally, NEA has granted me something both rare and hard earned: a year with the freedom to write when and where I choose to write. Without the NEA, I would be siloed in my own material surroundings. The award will facilitate my ability to travel widely and chronicle the experiences of Otherness essential to my work. I can never say thank you enough for believing in me, my writing, and my vision.