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Writes of Passage: Dover poet wins $3,000 grant

Andre Lamar * Delaware
andre.lamar@doverpost.com
Dover Post

Her mother’s disease inspired Kari Ann Ebert to pen an award-winning poem, earning her $3,000.

Ebert, of Dover, is one of 19 artists from the state to be named an Individual Artist Fellowship for 2020 by the Delaware Division of the Arts.

She won in the category of “emerging professional award” for her poem titled “Maadulampazham (In Which Her Daughter Hears the Diagnosis).”

“Individual Artist Fellowship grants provide the recognition and exposure that artists need to successfully promote their work,” said Paul Weagraff, director of Delaware Division of the Arts. “The financial award allows them to pursue advanced training, purchase equipment and materials, or fulfill other needs to advance their careers.”

The work of the Fellows will be featured in a group exhibit, “Award Winners XX,” at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover from June 5 to July 23.

Each Fellow is also required to offer at least one performance or exhibit of their work this year. Ebert hasn’t decided when or where she’ll have her solo performance, she said.

This year’s winners were selected from 139 Delaware artists representing disciplines including choreography and composing to writing and photography. 

What was your reaction to being named a Fellow?

I cried. I was just so grateful. I felt like it was a possibility. But I was so grateful. It was my second time applying. I missed the deadline the year before, because I thought it closed at midnight, but I think it closed at 5 p.m. 

What is “Maadulampazham?”

It’s a word that means both a pomegranate (a fruit) and a woman’s brain. When I came across that, I thought “wow, that’s so interesting.” My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She’s in the early stages right now. She’s still very coherent. But she’s never been a really open person with her feelings and things like that.

Little by little with the Alzheimer’s, it started to spill out. So I thought “Maadulampazham” was a really interesting image for a poem. That poem is a contrapuntal poem, so it can be read three different ways. You can read it as one column all the way down, the second column all the way down, and then across as well. 

What’s your poem’s message?

I’m hoping people interpret it how they’d like to. I was trying to show the complexities of my mom’s mind and try to put it into words. It’s very hard when you have a family member diagnosed with something like Alzheimer’s. It’s irreversible and you have to see some of the difficult things. At one point in the poem I talk about these moments and taking these moments where I learn things from my mom, something I never knew, and taking those moments and being grateful for them along the journey. 

What will you spend your grant on?

It’s used to support my writing. So my laptop is literally falling apart. I have to wait forever for it to boot up and it’s super slow. I’m going to get a new laptop. By the way, this has been the most amazing six months for my writing, because I was selected to go to a writer’s retreat. Only seven people were selected. It’s called BOAAT PRESS. I get to work with Shane McCrae. He’s an award-winning, crazy-good poet. That’s in June, but I have to pay for it. A big chunk of my fellowship is going to that, so I’m really thankful. 

How does your mom feel about the inspiration for your poem?

When I wrote it, that piece probably took about 60 to 80 hours to get the words to be read all the different ways. When I wrote it, I sent it to my mom and dad, because it’s a little bit of a touchy subject. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. They were both really sweet and gracious and loved it. That poem also won the Gigantic Sequins’ [8th Annual Poetry & Flash Fiction] Contest. I sent them the book it was published in and they were really happy.