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2015 Dartmouth Poet in Residence Todd Hearon

About Todd Hearon

Todd Hearon is a prize-winning poet and dramatist, co-founder and artistic board member of The Bridge Theatre Company, Boston. His first book of poems, Strange Land, won the Crab Orchard Poetry Series Open Competition, judged by US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, and his full-length play, Wives of the Dead, was winner of the Paul Green Playwrights Prize (it was subsequently produced at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre). Strange Land was noted in Poetry magazine and other journals for its “poems of uncompromising beauty” (David Ferry); former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky called it “a first book of rare mastery.” With these poems he received a PEN/New England “Discovery” Award and the Friends of Literature Prize from Poetry magazine and the Poetry Foundation. Since that time, with poems from his book No Other Gods (Salmon Poetry), he has received the Rumi Prize in Poetry (Arts & Letters), the Campbell Corner Poetry Prize (Sarah Lawrence College), and was a finalist, last year, for the May Swenson Poetry Award, the Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry and the Lexi Rudnitsky/Editor’s Choice Award (Persea Books). He received a Dobie Paisano Creative Writing Fellowship from the University of Texas in Austin, time he devoted to the completion of his first novel, A Little Space. His poems and plays have appeared in numerous literary journals including AGNI, Arts & Letters, Cincinnati Review, Harvard Review, Kenyon Review, Literary Imagination, Memorious, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry London, New Ohio Review, Salamander, Slate, Southern Review and Southwest Review. He lives and teaches in Exeter, New Hampshire.

On being named the 2015 Dartmouth Poet in Residence

“This is such an inspiring and invaluable opportunity—an investment of trust and rich boost in confidence—to be able to live and work where life and work have for so long been meaningful to poets and writers.  The fellowship is intended for a poet ‘at the crossroads’ of a career; I certainly find myself there and intend to use my time at The Frost Place to drive my work to the utmost extent of my capabilities—wherever that may lead me.  For this opportunity, and for the faith invested, I am unspeakably grateful.”

Plans for residency at The Frost Place

During my residency at The Frost Place, I will be working to complete my new book, called Crows in Eden.  The book—a hybrid project that mixes poetry, drama and prose—grows out of my interest in and research on American “sundown towns,” towns and communities across the US that have been made and maintained all-white, often by sudden and violent displacement of their African-American citizens (though not limited to this ethnic group).  Taking a small town in southeastern Tennessee as my focus, and expanding to consider other similar communities, I explore the physical, psychological and economic consequences of such an act, not only among the victims of it, but among the remaining community then and in successive generations.

Poems by Todd Hearon

  • Little left anymore out of which to fashion even a B-grade myth. My life,
    how it looks to me as a mongrel to its master in anticipation of the snap

    or slap. I have desired belief and lack it—belief comes from terror and is not to be desired
    have mauled the hand that made me and have punished myself punished myself again and again

    for a pettiness that may be aboriginal. And probably is. Pasiphae: recall
    her desire for the Cretan bull, inflamed by the angered god, how she had fashioned

    the magnificent and terrible apparatus, into which she climbed. Belief
    is like that: it comes in the dark, in the anticipation where we crouch, exposed,

    reduced to a purity of heart which is desire for one thing only—not the white
    bull of Poseidon, not its beauty, not its grace, not even the mythic cock but to be

    mastered, humiliated, inhumanly undone by a bruter force than our desire could dream of.
    To be filled. God, I have asked for that, not knowing what I ask, have watched

    them draw Pasiphae’s body out, gleaming and satiated, limp, uncomprehending
    the dark seed that now swells in her, this daughter of the sun. See how she lies

    so lovely on the meadowgrass? There is no peace, no content, no pain anymore like hers.
    How you almost envy her. She has passed over. How you almost said desire.

  • What was the tongue we spoke when the lotus first
    unfolded from the navel of the god, the one who dreams
    the universe, and in whose ear we must have whispered
    our hunger to hold each other? What were words
    must now be reflex, shudder, blood, be impulse, pulse
    a palimpsest of longing written over
    eons, eons ago. If we could scrape
    back bone, back blood, back breath to the original
    dust the dreaming god himself has long
    become, the universal dream a drift of ash
    settling in some dark corner of the sun,
    would we find ciphered there the DNA
    relation to the tongues we speak today
    when we want words to say what words can’t say?