My poetry manuscript — The Pear Tree: Elegy for a Farm — has won the 2023 Sally Albiso Poetry Award from MoonPath Press.
I’m feeling stunned and honored and — even after a week has gone by — a bit disbelieving.
I’ve shared here some of my process in cobbling this book together, but just to recap, it’s the book that wouldn’t lie down and be “done.” Three years ago in a Hugo House course taught by Deborah Woodard, I rather shamefacedly introduced myself by saying I was working on a book of poems about losing my parents, adding, “I really should be finished with these poems.”
Deborah said, “Maybe the poems aren’t finished with you.”
That is exactly what it felt like. It’s about more than my mother and father; it’s about growing up on a farm, and it’s about giving up that farm after my dad’s death in 2010. It’s about letting go of trees, fields, cows, fences, wells, ponds, bee boxes, books, orchard trees, creeks, barns… It’s about my mother’s memory loss, and how keenly that paralleled our folding away the family place, the farm my grandfather had owned before my father owned it. It’s about…so much.
Last year I began sending the manuscript out as “Genesis” (meaning to evoke an idea of where I began, where I set out from), and despite having paid some hefty entrance fees, I withdrew it. It didn’t feel ready. Early this year I began sending it out again, rearranged, with poems added (and quite a few removed), with a stronger theme, or thread, poems about my maternal grandmother, running all the way through it, holding — I hoped — the long chronology together.
In May I reworked it yet again, and it was only then that I felt brave enough to retitle it as The Pear Tree.
I could not have been more shocked when it won. Lana Hechtman Ayers wrote in an email, “These are poems to feed the soul.”
They have certainly fed mine.
The book will be out this winter, and, never fear, I will be here, telling you all about it.