Highlighted by The Poetry Center at Smith College
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Meet our September Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight: Ellen Doré Watson

Highlighted by The Poetry Center at Smith College

Ellen Doré Watson is the Director of the Poetry Center at Smith College and author of four full-length collections of poems, most recently, Dogged Hearts (Tupelo Press, 2010). Among her honors are a Rona Jaffe Writers Award, fellowships to the MacDowell Colony and to Yaddo, and a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship. Watson has translated a dozen books from the Brazilian Portuguese, including Ex-Voto, poems by Adélia Prado. She serves as editor of poetry and translation at The Massachusetts Review, and is a core faculty member at Drew University’s Low-Residency MFA program in Poetry and Translation. 
Poetic Profession "Poems are bigger than the poet. Writing, we’re outside of the stream of movement and outcome, in a realm where we can be our better selves, or our not-selves, open and questioning. Questions enlarge us so much more deeply and fully than answers, leading us away from assumptions and black & white thinking and instead toward surprise and devilish uncertainty. Chinua Achebe said writers don’t give prescriptions, they give headaches. Yes!  Headaches of the best kind—gnarly conundrums of human complexity.  I’m in it for that, and for words that pleasure the mouth, the good weight of ache, ways to stretch, kindness like water. Oh—anything true!" -Ellen Doré Watson

BECAUSE WALKING                        

 
Because walking is a yielding, what to do but look?
In the frothy stream, a square-headed boy in waders,
full of purpose. Early onrush of violets knitting
the green. Lanky woman tra-la-la-ing, either impish
or loony, we can’t know, but we wish her her wishes.
The earthworms are out in force, the dogwood newly
 
naked. Seeing—the first kind, vast and made of seed-
flash—brings us to our knees. Rage, too, can do this:
hammer and landslide, an exhilaration. Like a coyote’s
release—ragged, tentative, then the cutting loose. What’s
wrong with being called an outcry, a fearsome clanging
that marks not simply bruises but the long road, the map,
 
the map lost, the lost? The flit of what we can have?
And always there is the slow re-leafing, until one day
the window, the one we can’t—no matter what—see into.
Time to lean back, shoulder-blades to shingles, slide
down and sit a bit in the dirt. Breathe in all that’s left:
cellar damp and petal breath. Good to have come on foot.

The Poetry Center at Smith College hosts 10-12 readings per year, free and open to the public, featuring internationally known poetry stars, as well as exceptional emerging poets. We are committed to a diversity of voices, in terms of style, gender, age, race, sexual orientation, and language (presenting at least one foreign-language poet’s work each year). In addition to the free reading series, we bring the world of poetry to the surrounding community via our annual poetry contest for high-school girls, outreach to social service units, local schools, and arts organizations in the Pioneer Valley. Our historic poetry archive—including videos of readings, audio interviews with poets, fine letterpress broadsides, and a website rich with poems, poet biographies, photographs—is available to current and future readers, scholars, and alumnae the world over.

Massachusetts Poet in the Spotlight is a monthly installment from Mass Poetry. Each month we shine the spotlight on a poet affiliated with, and nominated by, one of our poetry partners.
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