Carrie Fountain, an alumna of the University’s Michener Center for Writers’ MFA program, will celebrate the publication of her first poetry collection, Burn Lake, at a reading and signing at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at the Off Shoot, located at the Off Center theatre space at 2211 Hildago Street in Austin.
Fountain—who hails from Las Cruces and did her undergraduate work in theatre arts at New Mexico State—completed her graduate degree at UT in 2004 and now teaches at St. Edwards University. Her poetry manuscript was selected in 2009 by Natasha Tretheway for the National Poetry Series, a literary awards program began in 1978 to heighten the visibility of good poetry in American publishing. Curiously, MCW benefactor James A. Michener was one of its earliest supporters. When the proposal to start such a program was put before the Library of Congress, Michener read of it and was immediately moved to contribute. He released a statement to the press explaining his decision:
I thought it deplorable that…the poet was at such a disadvantage. I also suspected that while I was writing my long books of prose, there might be some gifted young woman…who was saying it all in some eight-line verse, and saying it much better. There was a real chance that her verse might live a hell of lot longer than my eight hundred pages, and I deemed it deplorable that I could get published while she could not.
Fountain is just that gifted young woman. Set in southern New Mexico, the poems in Burn Lake take as their setting the rapidly changing American Southwest—where the Fountain family settled in the 19th century—and weave together the region’s rich history with her own, exploring issues of violence, sexuality, and the self. Tretheway, in her citation of the book for the National Poetry Series, said of it, “Reading Burn Lake, I was reminded of Heraclitus’ axiom ‘Geography is fate.’ With grace and a keen attention to the implications of history, the poems in Burn Lake grapple with what it means to be tied to a place, knowing that our own losses are not only what is taken from us, but also what we take from others.”
Marie Howe, a visiting poet Fountain worked with during her MFA at the Michener Center says, “I sat down to take a quick look at Carrie Fountain’s book and suddenly an hour had passed. Then I noticed I’d dog-eared almost every page I’d read. I’m stunned by the power of these poems. Here’s all the real trouble we’re in: death and time and pain – held in a clear crisp collection that seems made of joy.”
Copies of the book, released by Penguin this month, will be available for purchase at the event from Austin’s BookWoman.