A New Year Message From the Poet
Dear Facebook Friends,
I am a maudlin mess whenever the year ends, far too sentimental to get anything done. But when the new year rises up and actually begins to unfold, the air feels suddenly blue, electric, as if honey has been poured on the tongue -- of everything. All things seem possible. When this new beginning actually gathers steam, I am finally able to release my sentimental heart, think about the things that need to get done, and focus on the great mysterious horizon of life again. Today is the morning of the fourth day of the newest year, three months since my name was first called as one of five finalists for the National Book Award. I want to thank each and every person who took the time, made the time, to write and send me their best wishes, their bright poems, their orange lights, their streaming tears, their hugs, their flowery words, their lavender cheers, their arms raised in the air right along with my own. It absolutely felt that each of you walked through that moment with me, arm in arm.
I made a conscious choice several months ago, when Head Off & Split was released, to not BE ON Facebook, at least for the time being. The sheer time it takes to monitor everything was too much for my life and writing schedule. But my able and brilliant Representative, Vaughan Fielder, has kept me close to what you are thinking, saying, and feeling. I read each and every message (sometimes twice) that is written, whispered, sent to Facebook and to Twitter. I may not be responding directly but I am close by. Your words and voices have been my many harbors as I walked from the finalist chair to the winner's podium.
I have never experienced anything like what was streamed around the world, for all to see, on the evening of November 16th, 2011 at the National Book Awards dinner. What you couldn't see: When the Chair of the NBA judges panel, Elizabeth Alexander, called my name, my dear sweet mama, leapt first from her chair and put my head in a World Wrestling Federation headlock! When you watch the tape of that evening, you might notice that it took me a long long time to get to the microphone. Mama had me in a tight mama-hold, screaming "You won! You won!" and papa, with his cane in hand, tapping the floor, was trying to tell her, "Honey, let her go! She's got to walk up front now." Weeks before that stunning heart-stopping moment, when I could only ponder what I might say, if the heavens actually pushed back and allowed this poet into that fine arena, I decided to read some of the archived speeches from previous National Book Award winners.
I was deeply inspired by Rachel Carson, W.H. Auden, Adrienne Rich, and Lucille Clifton. I wrote my possible acceptance speech -- understanding that whatever I might be called to say-- had to be about more than one poet and one poet's book of poetry. Head Off & Split was launched one year ago next month. At the time, I had high hopes that my fourth book of poetry would find its way back into the hands of the readers who had encouraged and supported me for the last 25 years. I also had high hopes that this book would find its way to new readers who had never heard of me before. Dreams not only do come true -- sometimes their truth outdoes the dream.
Stay close in 2012!
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