ARTIST OF THE MONTH: FEBRUARY 2010
Pattiann Rogers is a poet of nature—but also a profoundly theological poet. “Everything I see of heaven,” she writes, “I know by the earth.” Hers is a theology grounded in the hard particulars of the natural world, an anagogic way of knowing that, as she demonstrates in a poem called “Whence and the Keeper,” finds in the images of horses and rivers, glaciers and plankton, a vocabulary for understanding a thing as cosmic and distant as the Milky Way. With the power of sustained attention and persistent observation, she brings to her writing a field biologist’s eye for the details of species and phenomena. Alive to the earth’s scents, moods, and variety, her gaze reveals nature’s power and terror, but also its grace and comedy. Like God’s answer to Job from the whirlwind, Rogers’ work locates in the animal, vegetable, and mineral world a theology more profound than abstract systematics could ever offer.
I have several projects that I’ll be working on during the coming months. My book, The Grand Array, consisting of 18 essays written over 25 years and three interviews conducted over the same period, will be published by Trinity U. Press in the fall, 2010. I’ll be involved in seeing the manuscript through this process of becoming a book. A chapbook of my poems,Summer’s Company, is being published by Brooding Heron Press, a fine, hand-set press run by Sam and Sally Green. I’m following along with that production too.
I’m also working in partnership with The Poets House, NYC, the Milwaukee County Zoo, and the Milwaukee Public Library on a three-year project, The Language of Conservation. Five zoos nationwide are participating in this project. My title is Poet-in-Residence at the zoo; however, I’m not living there. In consultation with my partners, I’m selecting poems and excerpts from poems to be installed on signage throughout the zoo. The object is to aid zoo visitors in making connections with the animals housed there, to see these animals both as individuals and as ambassadors for their species, to respect them, to appreciate their beauty, and to value them. Hopefully this will lead to a support of conservation efforts and a desire to see these animals and their habitats preserved. Other goals are to introduce people to the many conservation efforts the zoo is engaged in and to understand that the zoo is a cultural institution important to the welfare of our society. And a third aim is to make poetry available and accessible and a pleasurable part of visiting the zoo. The library will offer events in coordination and support of the zoo, and the zoo will promote these events and other connected library functions. I’m greatly enjoying this work, and I’m learning much about conservation and the work of the zoo all along the way.
Pattiann Rogers has published eleven books of poetry, a book-length essay, The Dream of the Marsh Wren, andA Covenant of Seasons, poems and monotypes, in collaboration with the artist Joellyn Duesberry. Her most recent books are Wayfare (Penguine, 2008), Firekeeper, Selected Poems, Revised and Expanded Edition(Milkweed Editions, 2005) and Generations (Penguin, 2004). Song of the World Becoming, New and Collected Poems, 1981 – 2001 (Milkweed Editions) was a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize and an Editor’s Choice in Booklist. Firekeeper, New and Selected Poems was a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award from the Academy of American Poets and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 1994. Rogers is the recipient of two NEA Grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2005 Literary Award in Poetry from the Lannan Foundation. Her poems have won the Tietjens Prize, the Hokin Prize, and the Bock Prize from Poetry, the Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, two Strousse Awards from Prairie Schooner, and five Pushcart Prizes. Her poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, 1994 and 2010, and in The Best Spiritual Writing, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002. An essay appears in the 2010 issue of The Best Spiritual Writing. In 2000, Rogers was a resident at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study and Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy. Her papers are archived in the Sowell Family Collection of Literature, Community, and the Natural World at Texas Tech University. Rogers has been a visiting writer at numerous universities and colleges and was Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas from 1993 – 1997. She is the mother of two sons and has three grandsons. She lives with her husband, a retired geophysicist, in Colorado. Visit Pattiann Rogers' website here.