Sandra Beasley, winner of the 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize, is the fourth Summer Poet-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi.
The acclaimed author will live in Oxford from Sunday (June 13) to July 13 as a guest in the Lawrence House, a gift to the Department of English from John and Renee Grisham.
During her stay, Beasley plans to continue writing her third collection of poetry, make a weekly classroom visit and co-host a writers’ salon for graduate students. She also is slated to present a public lecture and reading at 5 p.m. June 30 at Off Square Books, 129 Courthouse Square.
“The Poet-in-Residence program is perfectly timed with a crossroads in my professional career,” Beasley said. “With my second collection of poetry coming out in April, and a nonfiction manuscript due to Crown in early June, I wanted to find a place to regroup and tap a new creative well. I knew going away from home could be productive, so I jumped at the chance to apply.”
“We chose Sandra Beasley because of her remarkable resume,” said Beth Ann Fennelly, associate professor of English and SPiR program director. “I think she’ll have a lot to teach our students no matter what kind of poetry they aspire to write. She will also have a lot to share with those who are hoping to learn about publishing.”
Beasley won the Barnard prize for “I Was the Jukebox” (2010, W.W. Norton). Her first collection, “Theories of Falling” (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2008), won the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Slate and The Believer, and will be included in “The Best American Poetry 2010.”
Other awards for her work include a 2010 D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities Individual Artist Fellowship, the 2009 Friends of Literature Prize from the Poetry Foundation, the 2008 Maureen Egen Exchange Award from Poets & Writers and nine nominations for the Pushcart Prize. Beasley previously received fellowships to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Millay Colony for the Arts, Virginia Center for Creative Arts and Vermont Studio Center.
She said she was happy to learn of her selection to visit UM.
“I’ve never been to Oxford or to Mississippi,” she said. “I’m intrigued by William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak, and I can’t wait to step foot into Square Books, which I’ve heard many people describe as the best bookstore in the South.”
Beasley said she is looking forward to visiting with kindred poets Fennelly and UM English faculty such as Ann Fisher-Wirth and Tom Franklin, whose works she has admired from afar.
“My one regret is that I won’t have the opportunity to meet Barry Hannah, whose legendary contributions to Southern literature and the Oxford community echoed all the way up the East Coast,” she said.
Fisher-Wirth said she is looking forward to getting to know Beasley.
“Sandra Beasley’s work is imaginative and delightful,” she said. “She has a terrific sense of humor, yet she’s also very much in touch with her emotional tenderness and a formidable, wild intelligence.”
An MFA graduate of American University and literary chair of the Arts Club in Washington, D.C., Beasley is also an essayist whose work has been featured in The Washington Post Magazine. She previously worked as an editor for The American Scholar.
The Summer Poet-in-Residence Fellowship bridges the gap between the Grisham Visiting Writers Series of the spring and fall.
“For our students to now have year-round access to accomplished poets and fiction writers is an exciting cultural opportunity,” said Ivo Kamps, chair and professor of English.
Award-winning poets Paula Bohince, Tung Hui-Hu and Jake Adam York have visited the university as the first three Summer Poets-in-Residence.
For more information about the Summer Poet-in-Residence Program, call Beth Ann Fennelly at 662-513-4327 or visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/english/mfa/SPIR.html.