Writer, editor, teacher, other.

I am thrilled to see three poems from my prose poem sequence up at Kenyon Review Online. This sequence has really taken shape, and I plan to do some revision to it through the summer and submit it as a chapbook later this year.

Tonight, seeing these poems, I am thinking about a geneticist and racehorse trainer who entrusted me with his prize filly at a time when I didn’t deserve any trust at all. I was a mess—could hardly figure out who I was or wanted to be—-and the last racehorse I’d handled had spooked & escaped from me after cracking several of my ribs. I knew when John tossed me his filly’s lead shank that I wasn’t worthy of the task. I didn’t really trust myself. But I trusted him and his faith in me, and I’m still pleased to report that I returned his filly unharmed.

I’ve been fortunate to have an astonishing number of lovely and supportive people in my life over the years, and I’m grateful for all of them. But I think about John and his filly a lot. 

At the end of that summer, after watching me follow the paths I thought I wanted, he told me to quit kidding myself, to trade out my comparative anatomy class for some English courses, and to go become a writer. I didn’t drop comparative anatomy (and it is still one of the hardest but most enjoyable classes I took in college, despite the many hours I spent in the lab doing dissections), but I did enroll in my first college English class—American Women Poets—and that changed pretty much everything.

I can’t say I’ve never faltered in this choice—there have been times when I’ve wavered in my commitment to writing, when I’ve dabbled with other lives or other pursuits—but I can say this: none of the work I’ve done in the last fifteen years would have been produced without that moment at the track with John. 

Though I’m sure there were others, I remember reading two specific books that summer: Virginia Woolf’s THE VOYAGE OUT and a textbook on immunology. I never dreamed this is where I’d end up—-with a poetic sequence about medical history—-but it makes perfect sense. You might even say it’s where I was headed the whole time.

(xo

My review of what I refer to as the Zenyatta phenomenon is up today at 300 Reviews. It’s nice to see its publication right on the heels of Derby weekend. 

The Kentucky Derby’s a thing in my house. My husband always buys me roses. We always watch the race together. I normally yell loudly at the tv. My horse normally runs somewhere around eighth. 

This year, though, I had a completely different experience. I watched it from Tuscaloosa, my hometown and the place I’d spent the previous week trying to do what I could to help people I love deal with the devastating tornadoes that swept through town. My husband was states away. This year, I was the one buying flowers—I kept bringing them into the house where my sweet friends Brian & Barry live, the house where I helped cook so people could congregate after volunteering or dealing with their own displacement and damages from the storm.

The flowers were frivolous, particularly given the fact that many of my friends spent their days helping people—sometimes attempting to recover belongings from the rubble of their homes, other times, helping them pick out a starter’s supply of new possessions at one of the emergency relief groups working in Tuscaloosa. You might argue that it wasn’t a time for flowers. But I believed it was precisely such a time, believed that we needed to be reminded that some ephemeral things are quite beautiful. I believed that while we confronted all the bad things nature can hold and enact, we also needed to be reminded that it is often very lovely, that we needed to acknowledge that things are not all bad or all good, that life is much too complex and interconnected to be so black & white.

And in many ways, that’s what this review is about—why we should care about things that appear to be completely outside of our own experiences and concerns. 

I should add that I’m not sure anyone who passed through that house over the ten days I was there gave any thought to those flowers, or, if they did, that they thought anything close to what I was thinking about them. And I’m okay with that.

(Also, my horse this year was Shackelford. He ran fourth.)

(Also, in case you’ve missed my previous post, you should check out the stunning TUSCALOOSA RUNS THIS, the book my friend Brian Oliu put together in support of tornado relief efforts. It’s worth your time.)