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October 4, 2005

Founder of Smith's Poetry Center Annie Boutelle to Read

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Smith College will present poet Annie Boutelle at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, in Stoddard Hall Auditorium. The event is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

With astonishing ease, Boutelle’s poems manage to be elegant, fierce, gorgeous and spare—all at once. Her two books of poems, both published this year, quietly offer entry into other lives and other languages, and their quietness belies the depth of feeling that rises up as we look at the world through her clear-eyed gaze.

“Becoming Bone” (Arkansas University Press) seeks to recover the inner life of Celia Thaxter, one of 19th-century America’s most popular poets. “Like whaler’s scrimshaw, images incised on shell and bone, Boutelle’s lines seem etched, indelible,” writes poet Eleanor Wilner. “In a language as spare, exact and essential as necessity itself, [she] tears aside the flowery veils of feminine concealment of another age, to give voice to the inner life of an islanded soul.” Gerald Stern, former poet laureate of New Jersey, has dubbed the book “a magnificent secret history.”

In “Nest of Thistles,” winner of the 2005 Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize and, in part, an autobiographical exploration of her childhood in Scotland, Boutelle applies a similarly fierce intensity to the recovery of her own life and language. With patient care, she maps the borders of unrecoverable loss and unbounded joy. Irish poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill admired the book’s “powerful resonance, a quivering presence like a Highland landscape seen through a summer heat haze.” Writes poet Henri Cole, “Boutelle’s poems are muscular and clean. She writes with her ear. And though death often clings to the edges of them, it unexpectedly breathes life into the surface of things. If you listen, you can hear a heart’s quiet roar.”

Born and raised in Scotland, Boutelle was educated at the University of St. Andrews and New York University. She is the author of “Thistle and Rose: A Study of Hugh Macdiarmid's Poetry” and numerous essays on scholarly and popular topics, and her poems have appeared widely in journals, including the Georgia Review, Green Mountains Review, the Hudson Review, Nimrod and Poetry.

Boutelle, who lives with her husband in western Massachusetts, is the founder and guiding light of Smith College’s Poetry Center. A member of Smith’s English department since 1984, Boutelle heeded former Smith President Ruth Simmons’s 1996 call to “dream big dreams,” envisioning a program to bring an ongoing stream of distinguished poets to Smith. Faculty, students and alumnae responded enthusiastically, and thus the Poetry Center was born. As chair of the Poetry Center Committee, Boutelle continues to guide the Center’s efforts to secure full and stable funding and to develop an outreach program.

Boutelle’s reading will be followed by book-selling and signing. For further 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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