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Meet The Crew | Alicia Mountain

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Quail Hill Farm
August 2, 2019

My name is Alicia Mountain—everyone at QHF just call me Mountain. Usually I’d introduce myself as a poet, educator, and Doctoral Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Denver, but this summer I get to say that I’m a farmer. I’m working as a “ringer,” supplementing our skilled apprentices Dorian, Riv, Madi, and Alex under Layton’s leadership. When I was leaving Denver, I told my colleagues in academia I’d be spending a season doing agricultural labor on the most beautiful organic farm, far out on Long Island—work I’ve never done in any sustained way. A few people cocked their heads in confusion, but most swooned with envy. They were right to be jealous. 

In my years as a PhD candidate, much of my attention has been working toward mastery over my areas of research—knowing everything there is to know about a specific poet, school of thought, or technical poetic practice. Much of the rest of my time was spent teaching college students to love writing and thinking about poetry. In the early mornings or late nights, I figured out how to carve out enough time to write and publish a book of my own poems. These were years in which I was celebrated for having knowledge and answers, for being able to explain mysterious verses and distilling my own mysteries into language to could reach others. 

At Quail Hill, I love all the things that I expect my writer-scholar buddies were imagining as they swooned: the vistas, the produce, the feeling of pulling food from the earth, silt on my skin, new friendships, conversations about justice and our obligations as people in this place and time, eggs, sweat, ethics, weariness, joy, flowers, bounty. Perhaps these are the reasons you love QHF too! All that being said, I’ve come to realize that the most valuable part of my time here is the opportunity to be a beginner. I am privileged to be starting something entirely new, knowing that I don’t have the answers, and that it’s okay not to know everything already. I am not striving toward mastery anymore (a concept that itself leads us down dangerous paths). Here, I am learning to be a student of the soil. I ask a lot of questions, I make mistakes, I get pointers, I try to listen hard, I smile a lot. Layton and the apprentices are patient with me. They are also kind and trusting, giving me the chance to surprise myself with what I can accomplish. It turns out I’d rather be deep in a process of learning than have things all figured out. Luckily, this life opens up new mysteries every season, every day.

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Bio: ALICIA MOUNTAIN is the author of the collection High Ground Coward (Iowa 2018), which won the Iowa Poetry Prize, and the chapbook Thin Fire (BOAAT Press 2018). She is a lesbian poet and the Clemens Doctoral Fellow at the University of Denver. Keep up with her at Quail Hill Farm and at www.aliciamountain.com.