March 20, 2012

Nothing Collapses

There are a few poetry books I read annually, mostly out of nostalgia but also because I find something new to appreciate each time. Every fall, I read Robert Hass's Field Guide. Each winter, Brigit Pegeen Kelly's Song. Spring, Mark Doty's My Alexandria. And in the summer, I read Song of Myself. The last in particular is so vast, there's only so much one can  absorb on a first, second, or third reading. I've read it each year since 2007, and since Madison has recently been struck with summer-like weather, I'm picking it up again.

It amazes me that it was first published in 1855. It could have easily been published 100 years later. How can you not love a poem with lines as fierce as this: "All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, / And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier"?


I found out earlier this month that I've been named a 2012-'14 Stegner fellow at Stanford. My mind is a bit blown and my immediate life plan has taken quite a shift. Brandon and I are now moving to the Bay area. I've never been to West coast, and aside from a summer I spent on a Navajo reservation in Arizona, Wisconsin is as far west as I've really explored. I feel very lucky and very grateful.

In other good news, my manuscript was a finalist in the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize. I'd been hoping my book would place as a finalist somewhere this year, if only as validation that it's on the right tack. Many congratulations to Will Schutt, this year's winner and whose work I admire greatly. I read his poem "Sussing out" for linebreak a few years ago.


Mark Doty gave a reading last week here in Madison, which was such a treat. He's one of the most important living poets to me. I first read  "The Embrace" on the top floor of the UMF library in the fall of 2006, and it was the first poem I really loved, the first poem that made me want to write poetry, and also the final impetus for my coming out. If I may be so sentimental, I would say this poem saved my life.