Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence
First, I want to thank Brian Turner and all the staff who worked on A War Portfolio to make it a part of the Winter 2013 issue of Prairie Schooner. I’d also like to thank the writers and poets whose work is featured in the volume. I hope my words seem humble, because I feel humble in the face of the subject, the talent, the effort that this work represents. The voices in these pages have challenged me as a reader, influenced me as a writer, and I know that I have grown as a human being in the experience of them.
Some pieces in the issue haunt me. I don’t even have to pick up the volume to remember them. I don’t know what I can write to explain or describe my response to “Child Bomb.” Pedro Serrano found the words to tell this story, but I find none I can use in reply.
I first met Prof. Jonathan Gil Harris in January of 2013, when it was bitter cold in Delhi, and not sunny enough to meet outdoors. I found my way inside the food court of the opulent and sprawling Ambience Mall in Vasant Kunj, having first got lost in the meandering alleyways of the garish superstores, showrooms and malls, all strung together on the piece of land flanking Jawaharlal Nehru University. Prof. Harris was patiently waiting for me at a coffee shop and I was embarrassed, for I was late beyond the polite limit, but something about his flaming hair was heartwarming, as was his disarming smile. I realized that unlike many academics I’ve encountered, our “Gil-sahab” (“Call me Gil, after KPS Gill,” he had quipped.
As 2014 begins, I wanted to share this excerpt from my podcast with Jane Hirshfield. She was kind enough to invite me into her home near San Francisco, and we had a sprawling conversation that hardly exhausted itself by the time I had to leave. Since that day I’ve held Jane's New Year ritual in my mind, as well as the poems she shared, which I'll always associate with her home and her generosity as a human and a poet.
RVW: Tell me a little about your widely read and celebrated poem “Tree.”