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News Release

September 13, 2004

Poets Eleanor Wilner and Diane Gilliam Fisher
To Read at Smith

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Smith College will present poets Eleanor Wilner and Diane Gilliam Fisher at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 28, in Stoddard Hall Auditorium. The event, which is hosted by the Poetry Center, is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

One of the most vital and original voices in American poetry, Wilner sees herself as a bearer of cultural memory and myth. Writing from what Poetry magazine terms a “mythical impulse,” Wilner’s “imaginative energy [is] directed outward, rather than inward, toward the world, rather than the self.” Her sixth and most recent collection, “The Girl with Bees in Her Hair,” strives to further illuminate the powerful, timeless myths that shape an ongoing human narrative.

Committed to issues of peace and justice and known for what poet Alicia Ostriker has called “visionary amplitude and revolutionary intelligence,” Wilner eschews the confessional mode and instead aims to invoke and invigorate the goddesses who have “traded their togas for faded rags,” whose siren calls have fallen on deaf ears. The poems’ subjects—Cassandra and Persephone, quintuplets, the politics of media, bees—are embedded in dense layers of contemporary, historical and metaphysical allusions that reflect their author’s wide-ranging intellectual curiosity. And also her raucous sense of humor, as in “The Muse” from her collection “Reversing the Spell”:

There she was, for centuries, the big
broad with the luscious tits, the secret
smile, a toga of translucent silk, cool
hand on the shoulder of the suffering
poet—the tease who made him
squeeze those great words out.

Wilner's work—as a scholar, critic, translator and poet—is far-ranging and widely anthologized, and her accolades include the Pushcart Prize, the Juniper Prize and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. On the faculty of the Master of Fine Arts Program at Warren Wilson College since 1989, Wilner makes her home in Philadelphia. She was the Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence at Smith College in 2000-2001 and has returned for a second stint for 2004-2005.

Poet Diane Gilliam Fisher refuses to shy away from the complexities of history, instead using story to illuminate a multiplicity of truths. Her newest work, “Kettle Bottom,” re-imagines the West Virginia coal mine wars of 1920–1921 through the voices of miners, mountaineers and immigrants. In taking on the voice of each character that populates the work’s larger historical narrative, Fisher brings intimacy, immediacy and compassion to the retelling of a violent time.

In Wilner’s words, “Fisher makes the stone of the West Virginia mountains yield up its human past and gives a second, enduring life through her art to the people of her home place, who would otherwise be ‘all gone under the hill.’”

Fisher, whose family was a part of the Appalachian migration from West Virginia and Kentucky, was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. Fisher has a doctorate in romance languages and literature from The Ohio State University and a master of fine arts degree from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers, where she worked with Wilner.

Currently, she lives in Brimfield, Ohio, with her husband and children. Fisher was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council in 2003, and “Kettle Bottom” received the 2004 Intro Award from Perugia Press, a poetry publisher based in Florence, Mass.

Wilner and Fisher’s reading will be followed by a book-selling and signing. For further information, call 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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