November 27, 2001
Smith Poetry Center to Celebrate
Fifth Anniversary With Readings
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
By Poets Elizabeth Alexander and Ellen Doré Watson
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-The Poetry Center
at Smith College will feature readings by poets Elizabeth Alexander
and Ellen Doré Watson at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10,
in Davis Ballroom. Reading from their respective newly released
collections of poems, Alexander and Watson, the former and current
directors of the Poetry Center, will help celebrate the Poetry
Center's fifth anniversary. The event is free, open to the public
Elizabeth Alexander was Grace Hazard
Conkling Writer in Residence at Smith from 1997 to 1999 and the
first director of the Poetry Center. Hers is a vital and vivid
poetic voice on the topics of race, gender, politics and motherhood.
Of her writing the poet Clarence Major wrote, "Alexander
has an instinct for turning her profound cultural vision into
one that illuminates universal experience."
Alexander's poems, short stories and critical writing have been
widely published, and her play, "Diva Studies," was
produced at the Yale School of Drama. She teaches in the English
and African-American studies departments at Yale University and,
in the summers, at the Cave Canem poetry workshop. Author of
three collections, she has read her poetry and lectured on African-American
literature and culture across the United States and abroad.
Poetry Magazine called Alexander's "Venus Hottentot"
a "superb first book," and the Chicago Tribune said
of "Body of Life," "If Alexander can sing, she
can also strip and peel words to their luminous, ambiguous cores."
In her new volume, "Antebellum Dream Book," she
composes her own kind of improvisational jazz-a music of
resistances and flights of fancy that include the conflicts of
the American Civil Rights Movement, a woman's struggle to see
through a postpartum fog, and a vision in which Alexander assumes
the narrative voice of the great boxer Muhammad Ali. Of this
newly released volume, poet Ntozake Shange said, "Once again
... Alexander uses exquisite care and delicacy to explore turbulent
times and feelings. Bravo!"
In addition to directing the Poetry Center since 1999, Ellen
Doré Watson teaches private writing workshops and serves
as an editor of The Massachusetts Review, an independent literary
journal. Author of three collections of poems--including "Ladder
Music," which recently won the New York/New England Award
from Alice James Books--Watson was hailed by Library Journal
as one of "24 Poets for the 21st Century" and has been
a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Grant
and a Rona Jaffe Writers Writers' Award.
Watson has also translated a dozen books from Brazilian Portuguese,
including "The Alphabet in the Park," selected poems
of Adélia Prado (Wesleyan University Press), for which
she was awarded a National Endowment Translation Fellowship.
Her own poetry balances edgy tempos and sassy rhythms and is
as likely to address a rat on the path as to celebrate a peach
or meditate on a truckload of guns. Former U.S. Poet Laureate
Robert Pinsky wrote of her first book, "We Live in Bodies,"
"Watson is an eloquent, passionate poet; generosity of imagination
distinguishes both her gift for language and her emotional sympathy:
interrogative, tender, wildly inventive, with the wonder of childhood
and a grown woman's comic sense. Watson's poetry is the real
thing." Poet Ruth Stone praised "Ladder Music"
for its "tough, ingenious lyricism...," and poet Stephen
Dobyns wrote that "her poems bang about on the page and
are a great pleasure to read."
Alexander and Watson's readings will be followed by a bookselling
and signing and light refreshments. For more information, call
Cindy Furtek in the Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891.