Bella Pollen Examines the Lure of Escape and the Pull of Home in her Memoir

While at VCCA this spring, Bella Pollen was finishing up a memoir, which began taking shape during her first VCCA residency in 2012. At the time, she was weighing whether to embark on a new fiction idea or focus on short personal essays. She had never tried the latter and was dubious, but one of the other Fellows encouraged her to try the essays. “I told him I had a lousy memory and he said, ‘Hey, you don't have to worry about the color of the napkins.’” The phrase was freeing, and after that exchange, she was on her way, writing short essays that have now become a memoir of stories linked both chronologically and thematically. “They loosely explore the tension between the lure of escape in all its forms and the pull of home with everything that means,” she says. “The book is divided into five different geographical sections, which incorporate graphic memoir, so the entire project is something of a hybrid and a first for me in terms of mixing mediums and collaborating with an artist.”  

Bella acknowledges with gratitude that the project that has taken up the last few years of her life was initially conceived of at VCCA. “Without VCCA this book would not exist,” she says. “VCCA has also paved the way for many more collaborations in various forms. Since that first visit, I have worked closely with half a dozen Fellows, on my own project and theirs. VCCA simply could not mean more to me in terms of inspiration, creative support and the opportunity to work with other artists.”  

Attending The Commission at Pharsalia afforded Bella, and the other Fellows in attendance, the opportunity to meet those in the community who financially support VCCA and so give its Fellows such vital, creative freedom. Bella’s residency consisted of “the usual business of making new friends, seeing new art, listening to new compositions, finding new poems as well as writing and getting a huge tranche of work done.”

In addition to Amherst, Bella has been in residence at the Moulin à Nef. “Auvillar is a French town which, takes an enormous interest in the fellows who come.”  She’s also spent time at the “residency of cakes and scones” as some of the Fellows have dubbed it a.k.a. the Tyrone Guthrie in Ireland. She’s also created or been invited to mini private residencies with various writers and artists, many of whom she originally met at VCCA.


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