NEA Literature Fellowships

Sean Nevin

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(2007 - Poetry)

"Losing Solomon"

       We estimate a man by how much he remembers.
                                      -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Things seem to take on a sudden shimmer
before vanishing: the polished black loafers
he wore yesterday, the reason for climbing
the stairs, even the names of his own children

are swallowed like spent stars against the dark
vault of memory.  Today the toaster gives up
its silver purpose in his hands, becomes a radio,
an old Philco blaring a ball game from the '40s
with Jackie Robinson squaring up to the plate.

For now, it's simple; he thinks he is young again,
maybe nineteen, alone in a kitchen.  He is staring
through his own reflection in the luster and hoping
against hope that Robinson will clear the bases
with a ball knocked so far over the stadium wall
it becomes a pigeon winging up into the brilliance.

And perhaps, in one last act of alchemy,
as Jackie sails around third, he will transform
everything, even the strange and forgotten face
glaring back from the chrome, into something
familiar, something Solomon could know as his own.

Sean Nevin teaches creative writing for Arizona State University where he serves as the assistant director of ASU's Young Writer's Program. He is editor of 22 Across: A Review of Young Writers, and his poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Gettysburg Review, Blackbird: an Online Journal of Literature and the Arts, North American Review, Cutthroat, 5AM, JAMA, Hayden's Ferry Review, Runes: A Review of Poetry, and Family Matters: Poems of our Families. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and his chapbook, A House That Falls, won the 2005 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Prize. Other honors include the Alsop Review poetry prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize and a fellowship from the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Photo courtesy of the author

Author's Statement

For the past several years I have been working on my first poetry manuscript, Oblivio Gate, between extended periods of time in which my writing life has been sidelined by my teaching and administrative lives. I know this predicament is a common one for writers and am deeply appreciative of the opportunity the NEA has provided me. This Fellowship will allow me release time from teaching to dedicate myself fully to my poetry. I will be able to give the last poems in Oblivio Gate the time they deserve, and sink my teeth into a new project that has been simmering for a while.

In addition to the very real financial impact the NEA Fellowship will have on my life, there is also a psychological aspect to the award that is even more transformative. The NEA is a tremendous nod of confidence and it is a great honor to have my writing recognized alongside the prestigious catalog of past recipients. It is even sweeter to know that a panel of such accomplished writers did the nodding.

In the solitary act of writing, self-doubt is often my first reader; encouragement like this is a rare, sustaining and precious gift. Thank you NEA.