Fairfield Now - Spring 2009
Poet Annabelle Moseley
By Virginia Weir
"I believe that every life is inspired," said Annabelle Moseley '01, "and consciousness of that inspiration births expression; it's the natural by-product."
For Moseley, that inspired expression is poetry.
Moseley's vocation was clear even as a young child, when she created little books with construction paper and crayon. "I was always fascinated with books ... we had an attic library next to my father's office and I remember climbing the stairs with a sense of both adventure and reverence," Moseley said. An only child, she grew up in Dix Hills, N.Y., on Long Island, near the Walt Whitman Birthplace. When she was 10, her father encouraged her to enter a poetry writing contest. Moseley won, and at the ceremony she met the renowned poet William Stafford, former consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, who told her that he believed her poetry "would someday achieve great things."
"That was amazing!" Moseley said, remembering. "Most important of all, though - my dad was there. He died about nine months later ... It's good to know he got to see me doing what I love the most."
Moseley knew she wanted to attend a Jesuit university; and her cousin and two aunts went to Fairfield. "On my first visit to campus I felt right at home. I saw that Fairfield was a place where I wouldn't ever be 'just a number.'" She was mentored and encouraged at Fairfield by Dr. Kim Bridgford, whom Moseley said was known as the poet on campus.
"Dr. Bridgford took me under her wing. In many ways her guidance picked up where my father had left off."
The admiration is mutual. "When Annabelle stopped by my office with her packet of poems," noted Dr. Bridgford, "I was struck immediately by her talent... she is one of the most accomplished practitioners of structured forms in her generation." Moseley was the first Fairfield alumna to be published in the women's formalist journal Mezzo Cammin, edited by Dr. Bridgford.
At only 29, Moseley has published over 100 poems in literary journals and received numerous awards - most recently, an Amy Award for poetry, sponsored by Poets & Writers Magazine, and First Place in the 2008 Writer's Digest Rhyming Poetry Contest. She has also published a chapbook with Birnham Wood, The Moon is a Lemon (2005), and two chapbooks with Street Press, Artifacts of Sound (2007) and Still Life (2008). Two more chapbooks are forthcoming. Although she considers herself "a poet at heart," she has also published a young adult novel, The Delaney: Journey to Banba, a literary fantasy "in the tradition of C.S. Lewis or Tolkien." The novel is the first of a trilogy, and Moseley is hard at work on the second volume.
Currently, Moseley is the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association artist-in-residence and also teaches ninth grade English literature at a private high school on Long Island. "I love working with the kids - they are a refreshing counterbalance to the solitary world of writing." Before that, she served for three years as poet-in-residence at The Stevenson Academy of Fine Arts in Oyster Bay, N.Y., teaching adult classes in writing.
Moseley takes her craft very seriously, reserving time each evening and on weekends for her writing. "When I have to miss a day or two of my writing routine, which does of course happen, I feel a palpable frustration!" she said. Although she writes free verse, she considers herself primarily a formalist. "There is a magic in emerging from a long day at the desk - after following the rules of sonnet, or a pantoum, or a villanelle - and feeling that I have successfully communicated what I wanted to say."
At present, Moseley is enrolled in Fairfield's new low-residency MFA program in creative writing (www.fairfield.edu/mfa), and she said she is inspired by the writers there. The first residency in January at Ender's Island (off the coast of Mystic, Conn.) brought together 27 graduate students with professional writers who gave classes, workshops, and readings and will work one-on-one throughout a semester with an assigned student.
"I felt confident and unsettled all at the same time," Moseley reported. "Just the right blend to impel me forward. And Ender's Island is so beautiful." She appreciates having found a community of writers in the program, and hopes that an MFA will put her in a better position to eventually find a teaching job at the college level.
The future continues to unfold for Moseley, and she writes her way into it. "It's our job to take up the unfinished story of ourselves. By that I mean ever-seeking, learning, finding wonder and the willingness to transform."
Sonnet for a Studio
Easel, thin neck stretching like an egret,
the charcoal dust that clings and covers skin,
undersketch, a painting's tattooed secret,
a still-life: all of these things live within
the studio - a stark and sacred space;
a hospital, a birthing room, a church -
I come to it when I am seeking grace,
and even when I'm tired of the search,
my art class is unfailingly well-timed.
I like the rush that follows the restraint -
my palette ready, canvas stretched and primed
and when the time has finally come to paint -
my brush bristles with color, builds the bones
of new form - sacred light, and temporal tones.
From "Sonnet for a Studio," Still Life (Street Press 2008)