Poetry Center Staff

Jennifer Blackburn, Administrative Assistant

Born and raised in the not-so-wild wilds of suburban Boston, Jennifer earned her BA in English from UMass-Amherst and her MFA in Poetry from the University of Arkansas. A published poet, her work appears in Subtropics, Hayden’s Ferry Review and the Journal, among other magazines. “There’s something about all poetry that satisfies the puzzle player in me. Word play makes me shout and clap my hands. I love quiet poems, too—poems that are (on the surface) about nothing…poems that make readers see that what appeared to a dead end is actually a door to a larger, stranger world.”

Poetry Center Interns

Liliana Farrell, ’13, intern (Fall 2011- Spring 2013)

Liliana Farrell ’13 was born in Providence, RI and then proceeded to make a grand tour around the East Coast and Western Canada before she and her family settled near Washington D.C. She found refuge from her dust storm of creative turmoil in poetry (reading, listening) and film (watching, dissecting). Pretty soon she was committing pen to paper in yet another teenage, angst-ridden, misguided attempt at artistry. Poor kid. It ain’t easy being a writer.

“One of the reasons I find poetry so engaging is that it continues to be relevant. We’re currently living in an age where fiction is dead and theatre is coming close to its curtain call. For people of every age and background, poetry is a way of expressing complex emotions and ideas in a concise and memorable form. How can I explain that a smear of a words on a page can change the way I look at the world? How can eighteen short lines of text sum up twenty years of muddled reflection? You’ll have to come to the Poetry Center to find out.”

Janan Scott, ’13, intern (Fall 2011- Spring 2013)

Janan Scott ’13 was born in Nicosia, Cyprus and has lived a nomadic existence leaving roots scattered in many places including Pakistan, Kenya, France, and Baltimore, Maryland. She is happiest when among the trees and particularly enjoys making lentil soup and eating salad. She believes that spending time upside down is rejuvenating; she knows that family is precious, friendship is rare, and that anyone can write poems. “Poetry is an act of improvisation. This does not mean it is born of randomness or coincidence; on the contrary it is the very deliberate reaction to the tug of gravity we encounter every day. Poetry, I think, is most concerned with the return to a state of playfulness, where only relentless curiosity allows the paper bag to become hat, the fork to become paintbrush, the cardboard box to become forest. Poetry, then, is how we become children again.”

Jamie Samdahl ’15, Poetry Center Intern

“Poetry is unruly. Literally. You can’t make rules about what is poetry and what isn’t. You want me to describe what poetry is? Poetry is language with or without constraints. Poetry is order and chaos. Words. Blank pages. Sound. Silence. You know poetry when you hear or see it, but your description is meaningless. Poetry simply is.” Jamie Samdahl ’15 grew up on her family’s mountainside blueberry farm in Princeton, Massachusetts. This has meant a lasting affinity for east-facing windows, homemade maple syrup, and slow dances by the woodstove. Passionate about poetry above all else, reading and writing have become as necessary to her body as eating or breathing. She has recently returned from living abroad in India where she spent a week on trains, studied in a monastery, and temporarily ordained as a Buddhist nun. “You never have to look far for poetry, and that’s a comfort. You hear it on blues radio, in the advice your mother gives you. Even without a book in reach, you dream it.”

Elizabeth McCormack ’16, Poetry Center Intern

Elizabeth McCormack 16 grew up on her family’s vegetable farm in New Jersey, listening to her father recite William Blake, Edgar Lee Masters, and other greats. Escaping the poetry bug was unthinkable. Her earliest creative writing experimented with her own Magic Tree House stories in the second grade (she thinks they involved a tiger). Elizabeth loves the mountains and ocean, and tries to work poetry into every corner of her life. At Smith, she is also an English Department liaison and volunteers at the Northampton Survival Center.

“It might be too bold a claim to say that poetry is some cosmic force in my life, stepping in when the inexplicable takes over. But if it forces me to examine the complications of human relationships, compels me to enter another’s perspective, then what else is poetry besides the type of understanding we search for everyday? Poetry is the unsure, hopeful smile between strangers, the space between truth and lie; it is the clichéd but honest gold light at the end of a day, illuminating wild flowers on the side of a littered highway. For me, poetry is what happens when we have no other way to communicate the parts of ourselves we so desperately, humanly need others to know. It’s those parts we most fear, but must cherish and finally, take pride in.”

Janelle Tan ’18, Social Media Intern/Web Assistant

Born into a family of accountants, Janelle Tan ’18 grew up in Singapore and scribbled poems in the margins of her Math homework. She reads fashion magazines with her morning coffee, has an affinity for concrete jungles, and can only hit the high note in ‘Defying Gravity’ in the shower. You’re likely to find her petting cats, sitting in the ‘Poetry’ section of any used bookstore, or perfecting her eyeliner in the mirror.
“Broken glass on my bed, someone’s mismatched socks, a bike chained to a lamp-post and drowned in snow – all of it is poetry. It is assembling narratives from the pieces of other people’s lives I pick up on the metro and seeing my own reflection in the finished product. Poems are a living, bleeding mirror.”

Sophia Deady ’16, Gladys Justin Carr Intern

Stephanie Garland ’14, Photographer

Katherine Dymek ’14, Eleanor Rose Baptista Intern