Fellows Friday: Q&A with Catie Rosemurgy

Catie Rosemurgy, 2012 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.

As part of our “Fellows Friday” feature, we focus on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

This week, we speak to poet Catie Rosemurgy, whose wry and sharply imagined poems investigate the layered natures of identity, history, and narrative. Rosemurgy’s poetry collections include The Stranger Manual (2010) and My Favorite Apocalypse (2001). Her current work-in-progress is a collection of poetry and prose that explores the back story of a fictional town called Gold River, tentatively titled The Small Museum of Our Burning.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?

I’m amazed by the risks of live, collaborative performance. Writing poetry can be solitary in a way, though in another way all the poems I’ve ever loved are right there with me. But theater and dance bring real, autonomous bodies into direct and dynamic relationships. The moment of creation is visible, audible. I love the idea of art insisting on the present moment and on the physical proximity of conception and audience.

When did you know you were going to be an artist?

I knew from a pretty early age—grade school?—that I enjoyed writing. I didn’t think of it as “writing” though, but as putting words together into phrases that seemed worth remembering or, rather, into phrases that seemed to be a way of remembering. In junior high I had a heart-shaped page-a-day calendar, and I wrote a line or sentence or phrase on each day as it passed. I would look through previous months and a certain combination of words would bring back a few vivid sensations from even the most uneventful day. It seemed I had discovered a way of living, even briefly, from more than one vantage point. It never occurred to me to stop writing after that.

If you could live with only one piece of art, what would it be?

The Complete Poems and Letters of John Keats, the boxset of HBO’s Deadwood, and a boxset of all the Rolling Stones albums through 1978. Please do not make me choose between them.

Which artist would you most like to have dinner with, from any time in history?

John Keats, but I’ve always wondered why anyone thinks this would be fun. How nerve-racking. But if I could bring antibiotics with me it would be worth it.

If you could collaborate with anyone alive today (someone you don’t know personally), who would it be?

Catherine Irwin and Janet Bean of [the Kentucky-based band] Freakwater. In a perfect world, when I finish my current project, Freakwater’s perfect songs would start playing in the background whenever someone opened up the book.


Raphael Xavier presents Raphstravaganza, a contemporary circus-style performance featuring street performers, extreme BMX riders, acrobatic contortionists, and live music.

Poet and 2012 Pew Fellow Kevin Varrone (Pew Fellow, 2012) spent the past few years designing and building an app that traces the history of the Phillies, as well as his personal relationship with baseball.

Grants & Grantees

The Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia developed a new strategic plan that defines areas of emphasis and programs and services the organization should focus on through 2016.

In this week’s Fellows Friday Q&A, we speak to poet Travis Macdonald, who questions authorship with written works that are lively and whimsical without being frivolous, and which offer critique and reflection of the contemporary moment.

Composer and Pew Fellow Andrea Clearfield on what inspired her to dedicate her first opera to the life of an 11th-century Tibetan yogi, the influence of composer Margaret Garwood on her practice, and more.

Built in 1836, Laurel Hill was one of the country’s first rural cemeteries. In the 21st century, the cemetery attracts visitors to musical programs, tours, photography programs, and more.

Choreographer and Pew Fellow Tania Isaac (2011) presents an iteration of her Center-funded discovery project open notebook: crazy beautiful.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Jill Medvedow has been the director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston since 1998.

Philadelphia Mural Arts Program created a director of strategic planning and partnerships position, charged with leading strategic initiatives and forging new organizational partnerships.

Grants & Grantees

Caribbean-American dancer-choreographer Tania Isaac (Pew Fellow, 2011) fuses choreography with personal documentary and social commentary.

Grants & Grantees

In 1994 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 16 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 34 dance and music organizations in the greater Philadelphia region.

Grants & Grantees

In 2000 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 12 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 47 dance, music, theater, and visual arts organizations and practitioners in the greater Philadelphia region.