NEA Literature Fellowships

Sarah Blake

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(2013 - Poetry)

A Day at the Mall Reminds Me of America

Recently, my 14 year old sister was approached at the mall to see if she'd be interested in working at Hollister, or Abercrombie and Fitch, or American Eagle. I can't remember.

She's that beautiful. And with the mall's lights all around her--I can only imagine.

Yet on Facebook, one of her friends calls her a loser. More write, "I hate you."

I wonder if Kanye knows that these girls are experimenting. As with rum. As with skin, all the ways to touch it.

My day at the mall begins with a Wild Cherry ICEE and an Auntie Anne's Original Pretzel. A craving.

I pass women who you can tell are pregnant, and I know we all might be carrying daughters.

The mall is so quiet. The outside of the Hollister looks like a tropical hut, like the teenage girls should be sweating inside.

No one's holding doors for me yet, but they will as I take the shape of my child.

And if my child has a vicious tongue, it will take shape lapping at my breast.

(originally appeared in Boston Review)

Sarah Blake lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and son. She curates NPM Daily, the tumblr of poetry-related micro-essays that appears daily through the month of April. She has studied poetry at the College of New Jersey, University of Texas at Austin, and Pennsylvania State University. Her poetry has appeared in Boston Review, The Awl, Witness, Sentence, and many other journals. She is at work on a collection about Kanye West. Find her online at and @blakesarah.

Photo by Cris Maloney

Author's Statement

I got the news about the fellowship while I was working. My mother-in-law was watching my son downstairs. The implications of this award are right there--for a year, we'll be able to afford daycare for my son. It will allow me more writing time than I have ever had in my entire life.

But the implications are more than financial. I like to take risks in my work. I often think about what poetry is capable of. Can it be documentary? Biography? What can narrative poetry do after we've called it dead? How do we resist the trends of poetry? Should we?

I am left with many odd poems. Being a 2013 Literature Fellow tells me that my files of odd poems are ok. It tells me I should keep up my risk-taking ways. I think I will be forever grateful for that message at this moment in my young career.