Episode 6

Amy Wright

Amy Wright is the author of three books of poetry and six chapbooks. Wright’s essays have appeared in The Georgia Review, Fourth Genre, Ninth Letter, Brevity, and elsewhere. She has been awarded two Peter Taylor Fellowships to the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop, an Individual Artist Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission, and a fellowship to Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her nonfiction debut, Paper Concert: A Conversation in the Round, is forthcoming in 2021 from Sarabande Books. She teaches at Austin Peay State University. 

"Habitat" is used with permission by the author.

Links:

Read "Habitat" by Amy Wright

Amy Wright’s website

Forthcoming book: Paper Concert: A Conversation in the Round by Amy Wright

"Yam Weevil” at Verse Daily

“Prey,” an essay at Kenyon Review Online

Review of Cracker Sonnets and interview at New Books Network

Transcript
Alan May:

Welcome to The Beat, a poetry podcast produced by Knox County Public Library. Today, we'll hear a poem by the poet and essayist Amy Wright.

Wright’s latest book of poems, Everything in the Universe, has been described as Whitmanesque, in that her work is “a celebration of every tiny thing.” Listen for these “celebrations” in the poem she’s recorded for us today. Also note the sense of place evoked by the images and characters Wright creates for us. The title of the poem is “Habitat.”

Amy Wright:

"Habitat"

Mac and Paulie cling to the mountainside,

sphagnum moss on an abalone camper.

Their father collects disability.

They are ingenious

manipulators of flag girls

in parking lots, track stars in waffle-joint

back booths, french fryers in ferris wheel

top buckets,

at home unable to avoid

introducing them to Pudding

on the sofa, their young mother

who makes them pretend she’s their sister.

Mud puppies

cut through a school of crappies,

patch the shallows, sprout

toes sensitive as tentacles

on a slug’s head—

ascend the muck thin-skinned

as newborns, or did back then.

Of course, Mac will grow up,

start a tree-trimming business,

meet Scottie who isn’t afraid

of his wolf pup or long silences,

how a hard storm closes

their exit. Imperiled

water shrews and hellbender

playthings give her something to lose

in that nothing-much mobile—

a freshwater turtle

she feeds periodically

a handful of cereal that crackles

when wet like maggots.

Do you want to move someplace else?

Mac asks after lovemaking, her nape wet,

fan blades slowing with her pulse.

Eddie has a body shop in Lafayette. . . .

Scottie pulls a squirrel’s tail

curl through a hairbrush

she keeps near the bed, like all Peary women.

Away from here I wouldn’t know

what it looks like to be happy,

she says. I would test it

the way a girl will suffer her love

to prove his love real,

wouldn’t hear the mourning dove

or see the Blazing Star

nod its fandango assent from a far

field. No, it is better to know chorus frogs

are in danger, the lake sturgeon

almost lost.

What are those creatures to me

I cannot be sorry never to have seen?

Alan May:

That was “Habitat” by Amy Wright. She was kind enough to record this poem for us in the midst of the pandemic, December of last year, while helping out at her parents’ farm in Virginia. Wright’s essays have appeared in The Georgia Review, Fourth Genre, Ninth Letter, Brevity, and elsewhere. She has been awarded two Peter Taylor Fellowships to the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop, an Individual Artist Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission, and a fellowship to Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Her nonfiction debut, Paper Concert: A Conversation in the Round, is forthcoming in 2021 from Sarabande Books. She teaches at Austin Peay State University. You can find Wright’s books in our online catalog or call us at the Reference Desk at Lawson McGhee Library. Also look for links in the show notes. Please join us next time for The Beat.

Various voices:

Thank you for listening to and sharing this podcast from Knox County Public Library in Knoxville, Tennessee. Music for this podcast is by Chad Crouch. Find all our podcasts at pods.knoxlib.org, and explore life-changing resources at www.knoxlib.org. That's "knox l-i-b." Go to our "keep in touch" page to sign up for newsletters. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Make us your essential connection for life-long learning and information.

About the Podcast

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The Beat
A poetry podcast

About your host

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Alan May

Alan May is a librarian at Lawson McGhee Library. He spends a lot of his free time reading and writing poetry.