Winner of the 2021 Acheven Book Prize
My parents often checked on me before going to bed, concerned I might suffocate from falling asleep with my nose in the crack of the dictionary, or burn my retinas gazing obsessively through a microscope at the subvisible world living an ivy cutting’s water.
Born and raised in Southeastern Connecticut on an estuarial cove, my childhood was inflected by water and the swarming life it supported, boats, animals (a geriatric horse, goats, rabbits, chickens, dogs, iguanas, guinea pigs, cockatiels, a tame skunk named Right Guard), field collecting missions with my biologist father, numerous inscrutable elders (my grandparents and seven great aunts and uncles who all lived on steep road leading to the family orchard), vegetable gardening, canning and preserving, houseplant collecting, and books. I read indiscriminately whatever came into my grasp, including the Encyclopedia Britannica, field guides to pond life, Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, romance novels, Viking paperbacks from her father’s college days (Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, Ovid’s Metamorphoses), and the mildewed, leatherbound edition of Tennyson inherited from my great Aunt Susan.
I began writing poems and stories and crafting handmade books as a child, but upon arriving at Middlebury College I switched focus to mastering Russian. Graduating with dual majors in Literary Studies and Russian, I entered the PhD program in Slavic Literatures and Languages at University of Southern California, completed my Masters and one year of doctoral coursework, then dropped out after I was gently chided that the undergraduate poetry workshop I’d enrolled in for pleasure would be an unfortunate distraction from my scholarship. My life pivoted from studying poetry to making it. I completed my MFA from the University of California, Irvine, and then the PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri.
My young adult novel, The Collagist, forthcoming from Fitzroy Books, is my first fiction since my teenage years, but in some ways the most urgent and direct exploration of my lifelong writing obsession with how secrets and unhealed wounds atrophy the heart; how they affect even subsequent generations; and how such wounds can be faced, soothed, and mended. I grew up in a secretive family, in which the most potent and formative ordeals were placed into solitary confinement. I wrote the novel with my daughters in mind, to help them understand how to inhabit this difficult and often hate-filled world while remaining intact, large-hearted, and joyful. And how to forgive: perhaps the hardest work humans are called to do. The Collagist also draws from my interests in book art, collage, papermaking, plant lore and foraging, and is a tribute to the British-born collagist John Digby, whose gentle, whimsical, earth-loving animal collages I have long admired.
I’ve published two poetry collections, The Perseids and Axis Mundi, and individual poems and essays in such magazines as New England Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Poetry East, and Black Warrior Review. I also write and publish art criticism, particularly on collage and book art. I live in Corvallis, Oregon where I teach poetry writing, literature, and letterpress printing in Oregon State’s MFA Program in Creative Writing, and where I delight in foraging mushrooms, eco-printing, seed saving, fermenting foods, and other forms of absorbing, ordinary magic.