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Poetry and Writing: Marilyn Nelson

Olivia Snaije By Olivia Snaije Published on April 27, 2017

Marilyn Nelson is one of PEN World Voices Festival's speakers for 2017 where she will read passages from works that influenced her alongside passages from her own writing. Her latest book is American Ace.

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The award-winning author and translator of some 25 books of poetry, Marilyn Nelson is a professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut, was founder/director and host of Soul Mountain Retreat, and held the office of Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut from 2001 to 2006.

She graciously answered a few questions for Bookwitty:

When did you begin to write?

Not sure, exactly. Sometime in elementary school. I remember my 6th grade teacher took not of it and predicted I'd someday be a famous poet.

Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

Very inconsistent. Mostly I write from research and struggle to make form strong enough to carry content.

What is poetry for you?

Shaped language. Both beautiful in the ways it is shaped, and true in its literal and figurative content.

What are your thoughts about the world these days?

Oy vey. I pity the future.

When you seek inspiration, where do you go?

Inspiration is magical; it comes of its own accord. Grace.

Can you name a few poets or authors you are enjoying reading right now?

I may come back to this question. I'm on a train now, en route to a day of office hours and teaching. Flying to TX tomorrow at dawn, for a couple of days. Then have to judge a poetry competition and read student end-of-semester portfolios. Frankly, I have had no time lately to read for pleasure. New books by friends and acquaintances arrive almost daily, and are added to guilt-inducing stacks in every room of my home. 

Photo Credit: Curt Richte
Olivia is a journalist and editor and manages the editorial content for Bookwitty in English. She is based in Paris.