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Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception a Noted Book of 2011

The Academy of American Poets has named The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception a Noted Book of 2011.

It is a great honor to be in the company of such wonderful poets, many of whom have been my teachers-from-afar since I began this whole "I'm going to be a poet" thing when I was around fifteen. Robert Bly, whose Talking into the Ear of the Donkey is on this same list, was the second poet I ever heard read his poems aloud (my first was Allen Ginsberg). I can still remember how he looked up on stage (his hair was silvery and wild), and when he put on a mask to read one of of his poems I thought, wow, this guy is so out there (and I meant that in a good, good way). For the next ten years I would read all of Bly's work, memorizing several of his poems from Silence in the Snowy Fields and The Man in the Black Coat Turns. He is one of my poetry fathers.

Donald Hall, another poet included for his book The Back Chamber, has been a touchstone poet of mine for over 20 years; last summer I savored his book Life Work, which made me go back and read many of his poems. "Lie for the sake of assonance," he whispers in my ear each time I begin to write a poem. He also reminds me nearly daily to read the 17th Century poets, but I have to admit that most of what those old guys wrote is lost on this B-average Jersey girl.

When David Wagoner allowed me to sneak into his poetry writing workshop at University of Washington in the fall of 1991 as a non-matriculating student, he summoned the name of Tess Gallagher as the rationale for letting me attend: Tess, he said, had also sat in. I never forgot the fact that she was my predecessor--talk about big shoes to fill. I doubted I would make it through David's class, let alone through a second round as an official MFA candidate at UW.  To be on this list with Tess Gallagher is testament to the notion that poetry writing, if it's done with passion and fervency, can be taught.

I am not much of one for using this blog to toot my horn, but I wanted to share this good news mainly because I am so thrilled to be doing right by my editor and publisher, Henry Israeli. He was the one who put my manuscript into the hands of Campbell McGrath, and, once Campbell had chosen it for publication, it was Henry who assisted me in weeding out the weaker poems. He is also responsible for the gorgeous design.

Finally, I would like to thank the Academy for choosing to include books from both highly established and independent publishers. I am deeply grateful.