College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Traci Brimhall selected as Summer Poet in Residence

Traci Brimhall, acclaimed for her use of myth and folklore in her poetry, was the sixth annual Summer Poet in Residence (SPiR).

Brimhall, doctoral candidate and King/Chávez/Parks Fellow at Western Michigan University, is author of Our Lady of the Ruins (W.W. Norton), selected by Carolyn Forché for the 2011 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Rookery, winner of the 2009 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award and finalist for the ForeWord Book of the Year Award. A review for Our Lady of the Ruins in Publisher’s Weekly describes the poems as “part Dylan Thomas, part saint’s legend and part Tolkien.”

The SPiR program is designed to both provide ample writing time to the poet and enrich UM summer course offerings with the presence of an active poet on campus.

Beth Ann Fennelly, associate professor of English and director of the M.F.A. program, said Brimhall was a wonderful poet in residence.

“She was a finalist for the last two years, and every year she applied, she sent a new manuscript, instead of repeating the same poems,” Fennelly said. “She kept coming very close, but this year’s poems blew us away. Many of them are set in Brazil and make use of myth and folklore as well as her mother’s experiences. What’s unique about them is their authority — they create a world immediately, without a lot of scaffolding or explanation. They are economical in their conception and wild in their delivery, rich and nuanced and moving.”

Brimhall told students during her class visits about the importance of revision.

“Most writing textbooks only devote a chapter to revision or leave it out entirely,” Brimhall said. “An aspiring paleontologist told me that it is very difficult to tell a prehistoric fossil from the ground around it, and the most important thing a paleontologist could learn was how to tell the difference between rock and bone. It struck me that revision contains much of this same struggle.”

She also hoped to bring curiosity and passion to the students.

“As valuable as I believe a classroom environment is, I have learned in my own educational life that my passion has been one of my greatest teachers,” Brimhall said.

Her poems have appeared in New England Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Slate, The Missouri Review, Kenyon Review Online, FIELD, Indiana Review and Southern Review. Brimhall is a former Jay C. and Ruth Halls Poetry Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and an Emerging Writer Fellow at The Writer’s Center. She has received scholarships and fellowships to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the Disquiet International Literary Program.

She holds degrees from Florida State University and Sarah Lawrence College and serves as poetry editor for Third Coast and editor at large for Loaded Bicycle.

Read about the five other SPiRs and their reflections on their time in Oxford.