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October 8, 2003

Smith College to Host Reading by Cuban Poet Nancy Morejón

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- At 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 21, Smith College will host Cuban poet Nancy Morejón for a reading in Stoddard Hall Auditorium. The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Smith College Poetry Center.

Morejón is the best known and most widely translated woman poet of post-revolutionary Cuba. Born in 1944 in Havana to a militant dock worker and a trade-unionist seamstress, Morejón was the first Afro-Cuban to graduate from Havana University, where she majored in French, and the first black woman poet to publish widely and be accepted as a professional writer, critic and translator. Morejón is recipient of the Critic's Prize (1986) and Cuba's National Prize for Literature (2001). She has collaborated with prominent musicians, playwrights and actors and recently extended her artistic talents into the visual arts. Currently, she directs the Caribbean Studies Center at Casa de las Américas, Havana, epicenter of Cuban and Latin American intelligentsia.

Morejón's work addresses contemporary issues of ethnicity, gender, history, politics and Afro-Cuban identity. Her poems stand as vibrant reflections on the intermingling of Spanish and African cultures in Cuba, on what it means to be a child of both traditions, and how the bright threads of this heritage are part of the greater web of the African experience in the Americas.

Like her mentor, the legendary poet Nicolás Guillén, Morejón celebrates blackness but refuses to inscribe identity or struggle within the parameters of any single factor. "I am, at once, Nancy Morejón," she says, "an individual, a unity, who cannot be subdivided into parts as one does when learning math I am not more of a black person than a woman; I am not more of a woman than a Cuban; I am not more of a black person than a Cuban. I am a brief combustion of those factors.

"This "brief combustion" has resulted in poems of quick fire and steadily burning flame, which are, as poet Jayne Corte writes, "lyrical, compassionate, complex, and dazzling in their subtleties.

"Morejón's reading here at Smith celebrates the recent publication of "Looking Within/Mirar adentro," a panoramic anthology representing 46 years and ten volumes of her work, selected and introduced by the distinguished Uruguayan scholar Juanamaría Cordones-Cook. Cordones-Cook who is on the faculty of the University of Missouri, Columbia, will be accompanying Morejón on this book tour and will read the English translations and provide cultural and historical context for the work.

Morejón's visit is co-sponsored by the Department of Spanish & Portuguese and Nosotras of Smith College. The reading will be followed by book selling and signing. For more information, contact Cindy Furtek in the Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen Doré Watson, director, at (413) 585-3368.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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