An important effect of the fellowship period on my career and work is that I can now consider myself, seriously, as a prose writer as well as a poet.
Chris traveled across the country to Seattle, Saint Louis, and Litchfield, IL where he uncovered unimagined surprises about his family history. His goal was to create a picture for himself of the father he lost to suicide when Chris was only fourteen years old. Through his research, which began in his hometown of Seattle, he discovered that "some of my ancestors were southern tobacco farmers who owned slaves and fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War; in the latter conflict, literal brothers in my family tree fought on opposite sides."
Using this new information, he created a portrait of his family that looked a great deal like the tragedies and triumphs of America as a whole - stories of idealism, stoicism, and hard work, but also stories of alcoholism, hunger, unhappy marriages, and gambling. "A lasting effect of this fellowship is that, in knowing more about my father and the lives of those who preceded him, I have a sharper sense of where I come from and of who I am, and I have a new understanding of just how typical, just how representative, my family is."
Published three books of poems: Black Leapt In (Barrow Street, 2009), winner: Barrow Street Press Award; The Actual Moon, The Actual Stars (Northeastern University Press, 2003), winner: Samuel French Morse Prize; Forgive Us Our Happiness (University Press of New England, 1999), winner: Katharine Bakeless Nason Publication Prize
Recipient, National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and two Pushcart Prizes