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By: Gail Obenreder
“I’ve written poems since I can remember. I think my mother still has a few from when I just learned how to write. I was fascinated by words and how beautiful or scary they could sound.”
Kari Ann Ebert became an English teacher, finding satisfaction by inspiring students and instilling the joy of writing. But after her own children were grown, she decided to pay attention to the myriad words inside her. “Poetry called to me more than any other discipline,” so she found a poetry writing group that encouraged and challenged her.
Ebert arrived in the First State as an Air Force spouse. After her divorce, “I decided I liked Delaware enough to stay.” Except for two years at the University of Tennessee to get a master’s degree, the Dover resident has lived here since 1996, near her grown son and daughter.
I Caught a Train to Dublin Once (2016)
after Louis MacNeice
Your empty fists, your broken smoke,
your wooden strength
sift themselves into wisps of thought
carrying me about and seeking to give me more,
though more cannot be gathered up.
My sinews and marrow evanesce
into trails of shadow
passing through landscapes of slanting rain.
Long ago I yearned to translate
a kiss, to distill the joy in laughter, to
navigate the wandering path
of a hand.
Now, looking ahead past the waves of wheat,
past the rolling sea,
past the whitewashed walls,
I follow the tracks of your alchemy
and open my ears to the gold we breathe.
Ebert’s earliest poetic influences were e.e. cummings and Sylvia Plath (“pretty common for an adolescent”). Fascinated with cummings’ approach to poetics and Plath’s dark emotionalism, her early work was dramatic. “I love words and I threw in all the darlings I could find.” But today she finds inspiration in writers of a different kind. Kaveh Akbar “guts me every time I read his poems,” and she loves how Galway Kinnell and Frank Bidart uncover “the strangeness in the familiar, new ways of unraveling something with language.”
One of her great challenges – because of “how slowly I write” – is that of time. Inspired by moments “that cause time to stand still or repeat itself,” Ebert pays minute attention to each verbal nuance in her crystalline poems. “Every word, syllable, sound, punctuation mark” speaks to her, and she gives them “the honor of slow deliberation.”
But the poet has an unexpected outgoing side: Drawn to Victorian and steampunk aesthetics, she takes a break from writing by making wearable art, journals, quilts, and clothing. “I love the practice of upcycling and enjoy it whenever I can.”
The Division’s Fellowship is enormously impactful: “I feel my voice has been heard and respected [and] it feels good to be part of the tribe.” The award will allow her to attend the BOAAT Press Writers Retreat (June 2020 in North Carolina) as one of seven poets selected for a weeklong workshop with award-winning poet Shane McCrae.
Rejection is something all poets struggle with, Ebert included. But it’s greatly rewarding when her poems move a reader. “I feel like poetry should be a connecting art. If I can make a connection with someone who doesn’t think about poetry daily like I do, that’s a huge compliment for me.”
Artist website: kariannebert.comFellowship Home