Like many artists and writers, Nancy K. Pearson learned how to funnel her angst into her work.
Her new poetry book “The Whole By Contemplation of a Single Bone,” out this month from Fordham University Press and already the winner of the Poets Out Loud Prize, explores “the possibilities of recovery and transformation in a world where words cease to matter.”
Working through a past shadowed by depression, addiction and misdiagnosis, Pearson writes poems that have been called “restless, unsettling and revelatory.” Her first book was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award.
Though she first started writing poems in second grade, she didn’t pursue it seriously until years later after being hospitalized for severe depression.
“Poetry works best for me because I think in fragments and metaphors,” she says. “I’m always making connections between disparate images or ideas. … My mind likes to leap and I’m obsessed with words, sound and texture.” Her book is $25 and available through Fordham University Press.
Pearson lived in the region after college when she earned a master’s degree in poetry at George Mason University. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native returned to the area after stints in Massachusetts and Texas. She and her partner of 10 years, Elizabeth Winston, now live in Frederick, Md., and have a baby on the way.
Pearson works by day as an online poetry instructor for the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., and as an English adjunct professor at Frederick Community College. She enjoys long-distance cycling and — of course — poetry in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I’ve been publicly out since 1999. Telling my sister was very hard. She’s on the right and I’m on the left of most rivers. We have a great relationship, though. She’s my best friend.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
I love Elizabeth Bishop and Harvey Milk.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Well, I think it was in my backyard when I was a little younger. Now, I’d say the best nightspot is anywhere on the river or bay where you can order a mess of crabs.
Describe your dream wedding.
I had my dream wedding. Elizabeth and I got married in Provincetown, Mass., in an old house on the bay. We were surrounded by friends and family. The sunset lit a fire on the deck and we spilled wine on our dresses and laughed under the stars.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
The rising suicide rate, especially among women and teenagers, is alarming. The issue hits close to home for me. Education about mental health issues is imperative.
What historical outcome would you change?
Let’s not start with “outcome.” Let’s go back and erase the origins of oppression and the idea of “The Other.”
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
I started competitive running when I was 12, in 1984, when women were allowed to run the Olympic marathon for the first time. I watched and re-watched the 1984 Olympics, and hung a poster of Joan Benoit on my yellow wall. I’ve been running ever since. Also, “Angels in America” and Morrisey at the 9:30 club.
On what do you insist?
I insist that my students enter the world (or perhaps just the classroom) with an open mind, an open heart and the ability to learn from others who aren’t like them. I hope I get them thinking about the world outside their heads. I also insist on a good IPA (India pale ale).
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
Let’s see. Last week it was this: “I’m worried about my Houston friends.” They’ve been under water.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
The title of my two books of poems, “Two Minutes of Light” and “The Whole by Contemplation Of a Single Bone.” Perhaps I’m just self-promoting here. Maybe the title should be, “The Riveting Real-Life Horror Story of a Poetry Junkie.”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Freak out. Don’t change us.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
I don’t have advice. The leaders do it better than anyone.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My wife. And perhaps a cold beer on an old porch at sunset.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That lesbians “don’t want to be” with men because of past trauma.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
What’s the most overrated social custom?
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Nobel Peace Prize
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
“I dwell in possibility.” (Emily Dickinson)