Not unlike the Southern tradition, you don't find many women poets who inhabit the realm of nature.

"How easy is it, when you're a woman writing a poem, to confuse your body with the body of an animal — that's part of my inheritance," Pippin muses. "And then realizing the failure of that: the idea that we [women] are nature, that we are not acting on it, we are it."

Clear-eyed though it may be, Messenger was by no means a swift or effortless enterprise. It was preceded by a manuscript that circulated for seven years before Pippin abandoned it. Messenger's journey was shorter, but not by much: It took four years to find a publisher.

Asked to assess his wife's collection, Andy Gallagher demurs — save to say that he relentlessly admonished Pippin to continue sending out the manuscript. "For that," Gallagher says, "you can pin a medal on me."

Responds Pippin: "I'm the kind of person who needs to be picked up a lot and dusted off and then sent back onto the softball field. There are people who are good at separating the publishing part from the writing-and-being part, and I think you have to do that to survive it. But I hope that most of us can't, because then I'm not alone. It's very hard to keep trying, and keep trying. But the thing you don't see is that the manuscript gets better — your writing gets better."

Theirs is the mind

I've tried to fall through, their alien

strangeness. Only here

in the grass is my real

self — mammal-solid, her wide

eyes cooling in her head.

And the body

that says I will never


— from "January"

"I'm just trying over and over to find a place to put that — that idea of finding something in nature," says Pippin. "You fail again and again, and you realize you're just a creature among creatures."

Click to return to our list of 2012 MasterMind Award winners.

« Previous Page