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November 13 , 2007

Back to Our Roots: Poets Elizabeth Alexander, Karl Kirchwey, Meredith Martin and Abe Louise Young to Read at Smith

Editor's note: For a photo of any of the featured poets, contact Marti Hobbes at (413) 585-2190.

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—In an evening celebrating the work of four poets critical to the development of Smith's Poetry Center, now in its 10th year, Smith will present poets Elizabeth Alexander, Karl Kirchwey, Meredith Martin and Abe Louise Young at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4, in Stoddard Auditorium. The event is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

Elizabeth Alexander

While at Smith as a Grace Hazard Conkling Poet from 1997 to 1999, Alexander served as the first director of the Poetry Center. With founder Annie Boutelle, Alexander guided the center through its first two years, establishing its focus. A professor at Yale University and a scholar of African-American literature and culture, Alexander recently published a collection of essays, "The Black Interior." Poet Clarence Major wrote, "Alexander has an instinct for turning her profound cultural vision into one that illuminates universal experience." Hers is a vital and vivid poetic voice on race, gender, politics and motherhood. Alexander was recently awarded the inaugural Jackson Prize from the nonprofit literary organization Poets & Writers and was one of three finalists for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. Her latest collection of poems, "American Sublime," is rich with persona poems, jazz riffs, historical narratives, sonnets, elegies and "ars poeticas," a literary device that uses the form of poetry to define or describe the nature of poetry itself.

Karl Kirchwey

Having served for 13 years as director of the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center in New York City, Kirchwey was uniquely qualified to provide crucial ideas to the Smith Poetry Center, which was under development during his years at the college as Grace Hazard Conkling Poet from 1995 to 1997. Author of four books, Kirchwey currently directs the creative writing program at Bryn Mawr College and has published four volumes of poetry, most recently "The Happiness of This World." His poetry brushes away the layers of fog and cobweb settled over history, revealing classical resonances in every piece of contemporary life. Poet Mary Jo Salter has aptly called him "a poet for whom the world of antiquity is as real as this morning's breakfast." Kirchwey's poems have been widely anthologized in volumes such as "Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets," "The Best of the Best American Poetry 1987-1998" and "After Ovid: New Metamorphoses."

Meredith Martin, Smith Class of 1997

Martin studied poetry at Smith with Kirchwey and Boutelle and helped develop the proposal for a poetry center. Martin earned a doctorate in comparative literature from the University of Michigan and teaches at Princeton University. She is at work on two book-length projects—"The Rise and Fall of Meter: Poetic Form and English National Culture, 1880-1920" and "'I'm Nobody or I'm a Nation': Colonial Metrical Education and the Formation of Poetic Identity"—as well as articles on Gerard Manly Hopkins and Robert Bridges.

Abe Louise Young, Smith Class of 1999

Writer, educator and editor Young assisted Alexander in the first two years of the Poetry Center and went on to earn a master's of fine arts at the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James Michener Fellow. Young has published poems, essays and reviews in many journals and anthologies. Editor of "Hip Deep: Opinion, Essays and Vision from American Teenagers," she has led writing workshops with residents of public housing and gifted high school students and has won praise for innovative teaching at the college level. She has also worked as an oral history consultant for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Danish-American Dialogue for Human Rights and is founder and director of Alive in Truth: The New Orleans Disaster Oral History Project.

The reading will be followed by a book sale 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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