NEA Literature Fellowships

Suzanne Buffam

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(2013 - Poetry)


I am wearing dark glasses inside the house
To match my dark mood.

I have left all the sugar out of the pie.
My rage is a kind of domestic rage. 

I learned it from my mother
Who learned it from her mother before her

And so on.
Surely the Greeks had a word for this.

Now, surely the Germans do.
The more words a person knows

To describe her private sufferings,
The more distantly she can perceive them.

I repeat the names of all the cities I've known
And watch an ant drag its crooked shadow home. 

What does it mean to love the life we've been given?
To act well the part that's been cast for us?

Wind.  Light.  Fire.  Time.
A train whistles through the far hills.

One day I plan to be riding it.

(from The Irrationalist, Canarium Books)

Suzanne Buffam is the author of two collections of poetry, Past Imperfect (House of Anansi, 2005), and The Irrationalist (Canarium / House of Anansi, 2010). Born and raised in Canada, she lives in Chicago with her husband, the poet Srikanth Reddy, and their daughter, Mira. 

Photo by Anna Knott

Art Talk with Suzanne Buffam and Srikanth Reddy

Author's Statement

It would be hard to overstate the value of this grant at this particular moment in my life. Hand a check for 25 thousand dollars to any writer with a full-time job and a four-year-old, and she will likely shed a tear or two of elation. Over the course of the next several months, I hope to complete the book that has been flickering at the edges of my attention for so long, and, in the process, model for my daughter a life of serious play. My gratitude to the members of the jury, and to the institution of the NEA, is immense.