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March 8, 2007

Winners of First Smith College Poetry Prize Named

Poet Naomi Shihab Nye, Prize Winners to Read at Smith April 3

Editor’s note: For a photo of Naomi Shihab Nye, contact Marti Hobbes at (413) 585-2190.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.— Sarah Loucks, a young poet from Boston’s Milton Academy, was named this week as the winner of the first Smith College Poetry Prize for High School Girls in Massachusetts, a contest open to sophomores and juniors in the state, sponsored by the Smith College Poetry Center.

Loucks won the competition with her poem “In Memoriam.” Three runners-up were also named: Michaela Forfa of West Stockbridge, a junior at Monument Mountain Regional High School;  Joanna Rosenberg of Westford, a junior at Westford Academy; and Elizabeth Scheer of Northampton, a junior at Williston Northampton School.

The high school poets were chosen from among 120 contest entrants. Loucks won a $500 cash prize, and she and the three runners-up will each receive a signed copy of “19 Varieties of Gazelle,” a book by Naomi Shihab Nye, who judged the contest.

Nye will read from her work as part of the Poetry Center’s reading series on Tuesday, April 3, at 7:30 p.m. in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall. The event is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

Also April 3, Loucks and the three runners-up will spend the afternoon at Smith, meeting with Nye and poets at the college. President Carol T. Christ will present the prizes at Nye’s reading, when each will also read her winning poem.

Nye calls herself a “wandering poet,” growing up in St. Louis, Jerusalem and San Antonio. Poet William Stafford said that Nye’s poems “combine transcendent liveliness and sparkle along with warmth and human insight,” while The Grand Rapids Press noted, “When she exhales, the world becomes different. Better.”

The primary source of her poetry, said Nye, is “local life, random characters met on the streets, our own ancestry sifting down to us through small essential daily tasks.”  Since 1980, she has written more than 20 books, including poetry, anthologies, novels and children’s literature. Her book “19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East” was a finalist for the National Book Award. She has also won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, Guggenheim and Lannan Fellowships and appeared on PBS’ “NOW with Bill Moyers,” National Public Radio’s “A Prairie Home Companion” and “The Writer’s Almanac.” Nye continues to reach ever younger and broader audiences with such collections as “The Tree is Older than You Are: A Bilingual Gathering of Poems and Stories from Mexico” and “A Maze Me: Poems for Girls.” She currently lives in San Antonio with her family. 

To commemorate Nye’s visit to Smith and as part of the Poetry Center’s growing broadside series, renowned artist Barry Moser, Printer to the College, has made a fine letterpress broadside of Nye’s poem “Cross That Line,” from “You and Yours,” complete with an original illustration. The broadside’s public unveiling will take place on April 3, when it will be available for sale at a one-time reduced price.

Nye’s reading will be followed by a book sale and signing. For more information, call Cindy Furtek in the Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen Doré Watson, Poetry Center 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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