Thursday, February 17, 2011

Guest in Progress: Kathleen Nalley's "Starving Artist"

I have a fondness for villanelles—even more so when I learned here that “the villanelle incarnates obsession in a poem," obsession being, well, one of my obsessions—so of course I sat up a little straighter at the Converse Low-Residency MFA Program student reading when poet Kathleen Nalley announced that the next poem she was reading was a villanelle…about the creative life!

I loved it, and I’m so pleased that she agreed to let me post it on my blog. I hope that all of us busy “balancing art and job” can find some inspiration for our way through that messy thicket.

Kathleen is a fabulous poet and a commanding reader with a big, bold, commanding voice—literally and metaphorically. I mean this in the best way; there’s no choice but to listen to her words when she’s at that podium. (She confessed to me that she’s nervous when she reads to an audience, but I promise no one would suspect that; she’s a great reader.) And excellent news: Kathleen recently found out that her new chapbook will be published in October—yay!

Starving Artist
By Kathleen Nalley

Whether you wield pen, brush or Stratocaster,
you can either bow down to Money or Muse.
After all, you can serve only one master.

Balancing art and job could lead to disaster.
Satisfy mortgage or fill the soul: choose
your weapon — pen, brush or Stratocaster.

Expected to climb the corporate ladder faster,
networking when you want to be recluse,
knowing you can serve only one master.

While resting, your mind wanders ever vaster;
each idea, its own energy, your brain, a fuse
no matter you wield pen, brush or Stratocaster.

Around the cubicles, you spin on casters
from meeting to meeting; you can’t help feeling used;
obvious you can serve only one master.

To reach your goals, you must know what you’re after:
making a living and living can’t be confused.
Whether you wield pen, brush or Stratocaster,
you can serve only one master.

About: Kathleen Nalley currently works as the Director of Marketing and Communications for the College of Business and Behavioral Science at Clemson University. She received her undergraduate degree in literature from the University of South Carolina and studied poetry under James Dickey. She took a 16-year hiatus from creative writing, spending most of her career as a magazine editor and corporate marketing executive. A poetry workshop at Clemson University re-ignited her passion for writing, prompting her to enter the Converse College low-residency MFA program. A third-semester student, Kathleen's manuscript, Nesting Doll, was recently selected by Kwame Dawes as a winner of the S.C. Poetry Initiative's 6th Annual Chapbook Competition. It is forthcoming October 2011.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.