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Ellen Doré Watson

Visiting Poet

Ellen Dore Watson

The New York Times described Ellen Doré Watson’s most recent book, pray me stay eager (Alice James Books, 2018), as a “master of the spontaneous moment, the merging and blending of consciousness, the delicious difficulties of relationships and questions rising from an intensified experience.” Watson has written five full-length collections of poetry and translated a dozen volumes from Brazilian Portuguese. Among her many accolades, Watson won the Rona Jaffe Writers Award and received a fellowship for translation from the National Endowment for the Arts. Poetry and translation editor of The Massachusetts Review for four decades, she is currently core faculty at the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference. Watson served as Director of the Boutelle-Day Poetry Center from 1999-2018; her hard work, vision, and care shaped our Center into the vibrant home for poetry that it is today.

Select Poems

Between 6:10 and 6:24 the dream drained like a cup.

But as she unsheathes herself in morning dark, he lingers

as if real, this boy-child burrowed into borrowed warm.

She recalls how a younger self set out at a prance, singing,

but each time as she rounded the curve the gate banged

shut. Whose voice did she erase last night before listening?

Now nothing hammering but the hours. The boy is gone.

She imagines floating across the grass toward barn-smell,

dill makes a dry rain of its seeds. She could pull the sky

close and textured down around her shoulders, but what

a chill shawl it would make. Like bringing miscarriage

into a room. Like finding yourself on the same path again

and there’s that slam, advance echo. Like pain waiting,

already yellow. 6:50. What is there she longs to topple?

Who to wake, what to build? She’ll learn to forgive

the leaf-blower this day and to pray. Bless all who tend

a hurting blossom. And Dear Rash World so far outside

my window, oh fuck, may this third new nub of child live.

From DOGGED HEARTS (Tupelo Press, 2010)

The naturalist says recognition is not seeing; seeing

leaves judgment home, asks questions. Why is grief

a towering cumulus? What are the characteristics

of this or that species of defeat? A doctor who treats

brain injuries watches a woodpecker, asks, why no

head trauma? Learns the tongue serves as shock

absorber and the brain’s not loose like ours. Some

moths disguise themselves as bird shit, bark. Look

at the fish. Look at the fish again. Let’s see if this

works for sanityElegance. Choose your abstraction

and observe daily through the seasons, noting change

and pattern. Despair fades to disquiet. Look hard

at humility. Where there’s water, there’s fish, there’s

Osprey. If bitten, determine: by fear or honesty?

Keep calm. Timely administration of the right

serum insures the possibility of recovery. Look again.

From PRAY ME STAY EAGER (Alice James Books, 2018)

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.

From PRAY ME STAY EAGER (Alice James Books, 2018)

Available as a Broadside

About Ellen Doré

Photo Credit: Stephanie Garland

Poetry Center Reading Dates: October 2000, October 2001, October 2006, October 2010, April 2018, March 2022