“I received my only NEA fellowship—back when the grant was for $20,000—in 1991. I was a first-generation college student from a working class family, and by the time I got the fellowship I was paying off student loans from graduate school, having recently started a full-time job, one I hold to this day. I used my NEA fellowship to take a course off from teaching, and to pay down student debt and a car loan, which weighed heavily on me. That year I lost my best friend to cancer, so the money allowed me to travel to see her before she died. Afterward, I felt that the validation of the fellowship gave me permission to continue to think of myself as a poet, despite the devastation of her loss. I wrote a book on the strength of that validation, resulting in my second book, MOVING & ST RAGE (University of North Texas Press, 1999), dedicated to my friend. At the time I didn’t realize that the NEA also funded the literary magazines I published in, the presses from which I bought books, the museums and concerts and dance recitals I attended. But I understand now just how significant that funding is for all Americans seeking out, deliberately or not, a connection to the arts, which is after all a way to connect to our emotions and thoughts, and in so doing, connect with others, and create, from empathy and imagination, new solutions to old problems and beauty never seen before.”

Kathy Fagan


The National Endowment for the Arts is the largest single funder of the arts across America and has helped make Poets.org possible. Learn more about how you can support the NEA.

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