“Writing in form is a way of developing your thinking - your thinking along with the tradition. In a way, it's not you alone, it's you in partnership.” — Marilyn Nelson
Born on this date in 1946, poet, translator and children's book writer Nelson is author or translator of 12 books and three chapbooks. Professor emeritus of English at the University of Connecticut, she is the founder and director of Soul Mountain Retreat, a retreat center for new or emerging writers, especially poets.
Born in Cleveland, the daughter of one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, she was brought up living on military bases, and began writing while in elementary school. She said she gravitated to poetry and never looked back, although readers of her kids’ books say they’re glad she continued in that genre, too. After earning a Ph.D. in English, she taught at Connecticut for many years and ultimately was honored by the State of Connecticut as its Poet Laureate – a position she held from 2001-06.
Nelson’s poetry collections include the terrific The Homeplace, which won the Anisfield-Wolf Award and was the first of three of her books to be finalists for the National Book Award. In 2012, the Poetry Society of America awarded her the Frost Medal “for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry,” and in 2013, she was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Soft spoken and thoughtful in all she says and does, Nelson said a person’s voice is as important in presenting a poem as are the words on paper. “Many performance poets seem to believe that yelling a poem makes it comprehensible,” she said. “They are wrong.”
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