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Aug 24 Interview with Ross Gay & Other Updates

As summer draws to a close, I thought I'd share some of my recent work, as well as extend an invitation for an exciting poetry event tomorrow evening.

Saturday Morning Poetry with Ann Wallace

Black and white photo of Ross Gay, smiling and standing outside with his arms crossed, with trees in the background.
Ross Gay

This summer the Hudson County Chapter of the Native Plant Society of New Jersey launched a poetry initiative called Saturday Morning Poetry with Ann Wallace. What began as a lovely opportunity to share poems that invite us to slow down and reflect on the natural world has grown into a showcase of contemporary poets from near and far, each week featuring a live reading and poet interview on Instagram. I am delighted to announce that this week's guest is critically acclaimed poet, essayist, and gardener Ross Gay (tomorrow, 8/24 at 7:00pm EST). R will join me live on Zoom to read "Wedding Poem" and discuss the centrality of the natural world in his work. I hope you can join us for what promises to be a delightful conversation. Click here to register.

Going forward the series will continue on Instagram @npsnjhudsoncounty with the highly praised poet Theta Pavis (8/31), renowned writer and naturalist Julie Zickefoose (9/7), national best-seller Maggie Smith (9/14), photographer, write and musician Rachel Mackow (9/22) and North Carolina poet and Wake Forest University Professor Emeritus Thomas E. Frank (Date TBD). And please enjoy my past interviews with Jeannie E. Roberts, Lopamudra Basu, and Christina Kelly.

Thirty Years as a Cancer Survivor

Photo of author at age 22, with bald head, wearing pumpkin colored cardigan smiling and standing in front of a still life painting of oranges and apples and Frida Kahlo calendar
Me, at age 22 in June 1992

I've been reflecting on resilience and survival this year, which makes sense, as I recently hit a significant milestone--30 years since my diagnosis of ovarian cancer at age 22. That's an all-too-rare occurrence, given how deadly ovarian cancer often is, or, more pointedly, was in 1992. But, as you know, cancer was merely the start of my medical journey--and, looking back, it felt like a sprint (a grueling, uphill sprint, but a sprint nonetheless) in comparison to my more recent challenges.

My decades of experience managing and advocating for my health almost felt like training ground for Covid-19. Yet as prepared as I thought I was, living with Long Covid for more than two years has been a painful, exhausting, and humbling experience that at times has threatened to break my will. And still, it has been quietly transformative. For the first time, I have had to focus, not on living through or living in spite of, but on living with a disabling chronic illness.

After thirty years, I am perhaps finally mastering the art of illness. Chief among the lessons I have learned are the value of boldness, but also patience and silence; it is okay to stop the constant motion and to throw your to do list out the window. Better yet, don't create it to begin with. These lessons apply far beyond illness; we are living in a world that is overwhelmed with loss and anxiety, as well as illness. I'll stop before I give away the entire essay--you can read it here.

Photo of colorful cover of Literacy and Learning in Times of Crisis.

On Teaching through Emergencies

Another essay that begins with reflection on my cancer diagnosis--specifically how my illness impacted my final semester of college and how my professors (and friends!) accommodated my needs--is included as the opening chapter of an important new collection, Literacy and Learning in Times of Crisis: Emergent Teaching Through Emergencies (Peter Lang Publishing, 2022).

In Long-Haul Writing: Creating Community Amid Crises, I share the ways in which the support I received in the difficult months of spring 1992 has stayed with me through my teaching career, particularly in moments of collective crisis, and shaped my response to teaching through the beginning of the pandemic:

When COVID-19 spread through the New York metropolitan region in March 2020, I found myself inhabiting two seemingly incongruent roles—as a severely ill patient and as a professor supporting students through the crisis. Yet my illness, rather than pulling my attention off of my teaching, heightened my capacity for empathy—for my students, as well as for everyone struggling to find their footing in the overwhelming moment [...] The experience of teaching through the early months of my COVID-19 illness, draining as it was at times, has had a transformative impact on my pedagogy, as I witnessed how students faced with profound instability wrote through their fears and grief, and found the communal in the individual as they opened themselves up to their classmates and to me.

If you work at a university, please consider asking the acquisitions manager of your library, or, if you work at a high school, your professional development coordinator, to purchase this timely and important collection.

And, Finally, Some Recent Poems

Published in Michigan State University Libraries Short Edition, Summer 2022

I've been as busy as ever composing, revising, and finding homes for my poetry. Recent publications from my Long Covid collection on illness and loss, but also hope and love include The Alchemy of Survival, Training Ground, Names I Don't Remember, Airborne, Tulips, Angle of Recovery, Lilac Season. I have also published a few poems in New Verse News in response to recent events: A Loaded Gun, Pinky Promises, and How to Handle a Leak. And I am pleased to announce some new pieces forthcoming from Clementine Unbound and Panoply in early September. Follow me on Instagram for notice of publication.

Enjoy the tail end of the summer, friends! I hope to see some of you tomorrow evening on Zoom at 7pm EST for my conversation with Ross Gay.

Take care,



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