Our 20th Anniversary Year! Viva!
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Alumnae on the Cusp: MARNEY RATHBUN ’16, MEREDITH NNOKA ’14 & ABE LOUISE YOUNG ’99

Tuesday, February 20, 2018
7:30 pm, Alumnae House Conference Hall

MARNEY RATHBUN grew up on Cape Cod. She received her B.A. in Africana Studies from Smith College in 2016 where she completed an undergraduate honors thesis on the poetry of Lucille Clifton entitled “The Poetics of Space: A Close Study of Lucille Clifton’s Aesthetic and Ethic.” She is currently in her final semester of an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at New York University. As a senior at Smith, Marney was awarded first place in the “Jubilat Makes a Chapbook Competition” for her collection entitled I call my father by his name (Jubilat, May 2016). Marney’s poems can be found in (b)OINK Magazine, The Fourth River, Reservoir, and elsewhere. Her work loosely engages the queer, feminine subject in relation to family and childhood trauma, and aims to be as formal as it is accessible. She is currently editing a manuscript of essays about her father under the advising of Sharon Olds. Marney teaches elementary school in Brooklyn, NY and is an adjunct graduate professor in the English Department at NYU. On the weekends she waitresses, and on Tuesdays, she sings.

MEREDITH NNOKA is a Smith College graduate with a degree in Africana Studies and English. Originally from Maryland, she is currently a graduate student in African-American literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her work has appeared in The Massachusetts Review, HEArt Online, Mandala Journal, The Collapsar, and elsewhere. Her poem “Prelude to Your Leaving” was nominated for inclusion in the 2017 Best of the Net anthology. Her first chapbook, A Hunger Called Music: A Verse History of Black Music, won C&R Press’s Winter Soup Bowl Competition.

ABE LOUISE YOUNG ’99, was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. A Sophia Smith Scholar in Poetry and a dynamic presence here on campus, Young served as the Poetry Center’s first intern, working closely with Elizabeth Alexander and Annie Boutelle as the Poetry Center was created and through its first two years.

After leaving Smith, Young earned an M.A. in Performance Studies from Northwestern University, taught writing at Loyola University in Chicago, and went on to complete an MFA at the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James Michener Fellow. She has published poems, essays, and reviews in many journals and anthologies. A gifted poet herself, Young is two-time winner of the Academy of American Poets Anne Bradstreet prize, as well as runner-up in the Ellen LaForge memorial Poetry Competition, and was awarded the Nell Altizer Prize in Poetry from Hawaii Review. She is author of two poetry chapbooks, Ammonite (2008) and Heaven to Me (2016). Her poems and essays have appeared in Witness, Verse Daily, Narrative Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, and The Nation. Among her prizes are the 2017 Vilcek Prize from the Bellevue Literary Review for “Poem for a Friend Getting Lighter and Lighter,” selected by Kazim Ali, and a Grolier Poetry Prize.

A self-described social change artist, Young has conducted writing workshops with diverse constituencies in more than 30 states, including residents of public housing and gifted high school students, and has won enthusiastic reviews for innovative teaching on the college level.
She has worked on a wide variety of story-based social change projects, including Jailhouse Stories: Voices of Pre-Trial Detention in Texas; Queer Youth Advice for Educators: How to Protect Your LGBTQ Students (Next Generation Press); and she created and directed Alive in Truth: The New Orleans Disaster Oral History Project. Young has also worked as an oral history consultant for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Danish-American Dialogue for Human Rights, interviewing Holocaust rescuers whose stories were contributed to the U.S. Holocaust Museum.
During her 2018 visit to Smith, Young also mounted an interactive exhibit, Poet to Poet: A Friendship in Letters, in the Campus Center’s Nolen Art Lounge. This installation of intimate letters between Young and Alan Shefsky showcases outrageous verbal play, naked honesty and the process of two people becoming life-long confidants using words and art, in the 3,000 letters and ephemera they exchanged until Shefsky’s death from brain cancer in 2014. The exhibit also includes a wall of letter-writing prompts and stationary supplies and envelopes that invite visitors to write letters themselves.

Supported by the Program for the Study of Women & Gender