Ellen Doré Watson was hailed by Library Journal as one of "24 Poets for the 21st Century." Director of at Smith since 1999, Watson balances edgy tempos and sassy rhythms in poems 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: "Ellen Watson is an eloquent, passionate poet,” and Ruth Stone praises her “tough, ingenious lyricism.”


In her most recent volume, Dogged Hearts (Tupelo Press 2010), Watson lends her voice to a multiplicity of characters, each with his or her own dilemma, distraction, or disarray. “The poems are wild, delirious—they go every which way,” writes Gerald Stern.  Earlier books include Broken Railings (winner of the Green Lake Chapbook Prize from Owl Creek Press), We Live in Bodies and, winner of the New York/New England Award, Ladder Music (fromAlice James Books, 1997 and 2001, respectively), and This Sharpening (Tupelo Press, 2006). Her journal appearances include American Poetry Review, Tin House, Orion, Field, Ploughshares, and The New Yorker.

Watson’s honors include a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists Grant, a Rona Jaffe Writers Award, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, Zoland Poetry Fellowship to Vermont Studio Center, and National Endowment Translation Fellowship.    She has translated a dozen books from the Brazilian Portuguese, including The Alphabet in the Park, the selected poems of Brazilian Adélia Prado (Wesleyan University Press), and she has also co-translated contemporary Palestinian poetry from the Arabic with Saadi Simawe, most notably in the volume Iraqi Poetry Today (Zephyr Press).

In addition to creative writing at Smith, Watson’s teaching includes the Colrain Manuscript Conference (core faculty),     the Drew University Low-Residency MFA program in Poetry and Translation, and a generative writing workshop in Northampton. She also serves as Poetry and Translation editor of The Massachusetts Review.



Poems by

Ellen Doré Watson

As it was

Yours, Lena

God or No God

Women for the World

(available as a broadside,

see text and links below)


               Women for the World

She draws crowds or fire. An oak, she towers.

She forewarns, she floors, she’s sieve, she’s oars

—all whirl and brimming—living for the world.

She’s 13, first in her family to say AIDS out loud.

She’s mopping nuclear meltdown at 69. She sun-

screens orphaned elephants’ ears—knows mother

is shade. Thick-armed or reedy, she splits atoms,

invents windshield wipers, white-out. She labors

in the bush the hut the tub the ward. She delivers.

Exponentially. She sisters. She gives us Hospice,

Kevlar, the Mars Rover, the bra. Carriers of water,

keepers of memories or bees. At 10, circumcised,

about to be wed, she spills hot tea in his lap, grows up

to write her memoir from jail—with eyeliner on t.p.

She will not be forbidden the world. Game-changers,

gene-mappers, those who build bridges, who are bridges,

who get the story told. Sharp- or honey-tongued, she

legals, loyals, triages, stops the superhighway. She sings

herself, and everyone. Flecked with paint or pain, knee-

deep in the way out or in. She drives. We women—elected,

reflecting, dissecting, refracting—ignition for the world.








Poetry Center Readings:

Fall 2000
Fall 2001 - Celebrating the Poetry Center's 10th Year          (with Elizabeth Alexander)
Fall 2006
Fall 2010