NEA Literature Fellowships

Susan Firer

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(2015 - Poetry)

"Dear Baby Star, Dear Little Astronaut,"

Night's asterism in the southeast
sky:  bluish Vega, Altair, Deneb,
a ghosty band of Milky Way (our
own galaxy!) smack through the summer
triangle's middle -- I walk loud with
ghosts.  The trees breathe crows
that collect in roosts and murders.
The ventriloquy of waves.  In my head
I am always trying to move the moon
with soft scold swears & jetty happy
desecrations.  Another asteroid crashes
into Jupiter causing a hole the size of Earth.
Words keep me -- parade me through
Jupiter's debris.  What will happen now
Dear Baby Star, Dear Little Astronaut, now
that backwards orbiting planets have
been discovered?  I build
cairns of hope from collected words
and lake stones.  Morning, a cicada drops
from the purple chokecherry.  I leave
it where it lands, square on my right
shoulder, my own strange-
dark-winged-lopsided epaulet.

(Appeared in Verse Wisconsin)

Susan Firer's most recent book is Milwaukee Does Strange Things to People: New & Selected Poems 1979–2007. Her previous books have been awarded the Cleveland State University Poetry Center Prize, the Posner Award, and the Backwaters Prize. She is a recipient of a Milwaukee County Artist Fellowship, a Wisconsin Arts Board Fellowship, the Lorine Niedecker Award, and in 2009 she was given the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee Distinguished Alumnus Award.

She has published poems in a number of anthologies, including Best American Poetry, Visiting Dr. Williams: Poems Inspired by the Life and Work of William Carlos Williams (University of Iowa Press), The Cento: A Collection of Collage Poems (Red Hen Press) and The Book of Irish American Poetry: From the Eighteenth Century to the Present (University of Notre Dame Press). Her poems have appeared in  Chicago Review, jubilat, Court Green, The Iowa Review, New American Writing, and others.

Photo by Josh Modell

Author's Statement

Lorine Niedecker, the great Wisconsin poet, writes: "Nobody, nothing/ ever gave me/ greater thing/ than time...." The NEA gives me this great gift of sustained time to focus on The Transit of Venus, the manuscript on which I'm currently working. The affirmation the NEA provides is another great gift. The affirmation says continue your investigations of transience, the transience of empires, cities, love, language, stars, and people. Continue your explorations of time and what we attempt to fill it with: happiness, poems, clothes poles, grief, grapefruit, money, celebrations, wind, and more. With the gift of the NEA Fellowship, I will have the sustained time to focus on the completion of my manuscript of epistles, prose poems, list poems, centos, and fractured lyrics muscled with facts.

With  gratitude, I thank the NEA and all involved in this honor and award.