As two foxes frolic on a backyard trampoline, one of them revels in bouncing like a kangaroo in a YouTube video that has drawn more than 21 million views. Charlotte Boulay borrowed from that 5-year-old video in naming her first book, a collection of poetry published in April, Foxes on the Trampoline. In her title poem, the foxes “find the ground so suddenly springy” while a viewer peeking out a window yearns for something elusive, perhaps the simple joy the foxes are experiencing.
Boulay’s publisher, the Ecco imprint of HarperCollins, claims a long history of publishing distinguished poets. Boulay is its first new poet since 2008, making this a major publishing event. Originally from Boston, Boulay moved to New Jersey in 2010 for her husband’s job as a professor at the College of New Jersey. In 2011, they moved to Chestnut Hill.
With the publication of her book, Boulay, 35, says she’s ready to get to know the local literary community. “I had a great community in grad school at the University of Michigan,” she says. “After grad school, I was ready to be done for a while with workshops and getting a lot of other feedback on my work. I needed time to deal with it myself and develop my own confidence in it, instead of looking to others. Now, I’m coming out of that. I would like to have other people read my work again.”
She knew little about the local writing scene upon arrival in Philadelphia. “I’m just kind of exploring what might be out there,” Boulay says. She began by reaching out to Al Filreis, faculty director of Penn’s Kelly Writers House (KWH). She’s grateful to him for looping her in on the many goings-on at KWH, as well as to Karen Rile for inviting her to submit to Cleaver magazine, which Boulay calls “amazing.”
Bit by bit, she’s getting to know other writers in her adopted hometown.
“I think writers in general have a lot say to each other about the loneliness of the process and supporting each other — in terms of how you balance writing and other parts of your life, how you make money at your day job, and how you make things work best in terms of supporting your writing life.” Boulay’s own day job is as a grant writer at the Franklin Institute.
Asked if readers are intimidated by poetry, Boulay responds: “Me! I feel intimidated by poetry!” She is eager to do what she can to get her work to more readers. “My attitude about poetry is — if anyone in America asks you about or shows any interest in poetry, it should be your pleasure to oblige them.”