2023 + 2024: looking back + looking ahead!

2022 was a little bit of a bonkers year–after 15 years at Virginia Tech, I took a new job as a professor and MFA program director at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and moved my whole family halfway across the country. I had taught at UW-Madison 20 years before, as the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing from 2001-2002, and I am delighted to be back in Helen C. White Hall, overlooking Lake Mendota and the Memorial Union Terrace.

My newest book, Useful Junk, was published by BOA Editions in April of 2022, and despite the chaos of moving, I managed to do 30 events for the book in 2022, and 20 more in 2023 all across the country, from California to NYC to Miami and points in between. I’m so grateful to everyone running readings series and book festivals, to booksellers at the indie bookshops who supported me and Useful Junk, to all the poets who read with me, and the people who taught my book in their courses–and also to everyone who came out to all these readings to hear embodied poems and be in community with me and each other!

In the Fall of 2023 and Spring of 2024, I’ve been on research leave from teaching, and I’ve been lucky enough to have some amazing residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, T.S. Eliot House, and Loghaven Artist Residency, where I was able to finish my next manuscript, Assembled Audience, that deals, in part, with climate change. At VCCA, I wrote an elegy for Sinéad O’Connor (that’s also on climate change) that became the most read piece on Electric Literature in 2023. I have one last residency coming up at Marble House Project in late spring, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Vermont inspires me to write. I was also named a Mandel Institute Cultural Leadership Fellow for 2023-2025, and it’s been wonderful getting to know my fellow fellows–we have a comic, a dancer, a video game designer, a filmmaker, and multiple visual artists and theater folks and musicians and singers. We get to visit New Orleans in April together for our next retreat.

This has been the warmest winter in Wisconsin ever, since they started tracking temperatures in 1869. Lake Monona experienced its shortest period of ice cover on record: 44 days. I didn’t even have time to take my skates out. Winter Carnival on Lake Mendota was cancelled. Walleye fish populations are experiencing something called “whiplash.” Sturgeon spear-fishing season was a bust this year. There were tornados in February. The birds are all back on Tiedeman’s Pond, my favorite walking spot, and it’s only early March. I am delighted by the weather. I am alarmed by the climate. I have a new poem about all of this in a fantastic anthology called You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World, curated by the Poet Laureate of the US, Ada Limón, in conjunction with the Library of Congress, out in early April from Milkweed Editions.

I’m gearing up this spring for readings at Denison University (during the eclipse!) and the Cúirt International Festival of Literature in Galway, Ireland. I hope I get to see some of you out on the road!