St. Olaf College | News

English Department to host nationally acclaimed poet Marilyn Nelson

The St. Olaf College English Department will welcome nationally acclaimed poet, author, and educator Marilyn Nelson to campus April 28 as part of the Claire Gilbert Marty Visiting Writers Series.

Nelson will give a poetry reading at 7 p.m. in Viking Theater that is open to the community. Please note that organizers have asked that all attendees wear masks for this event. Earlier in the day, she will meet with creative writing students. 

A three-time finalist for the National Book Award, Nelson is the author or translator of more than 20 books and chapbooks for adults and children. Among these are numerous critically acclaimed books, including A Wreath for Emmett Till, a Coretta Scott King and Printz honor book; The Fields Of Praise: New And Selected Poems, which won the 1998 Poets’ Prize; Carver: A Life In Poems, which won the 2001 Boston Globe/Hornbook Award and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award; and Fortune’s Bones, which was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and won the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry. She is also the author of the memoir How I Discovered Poetry and the biography Augusta Savage: The Shape of a Sculptor’s Life.

The long list of honors Nelson has received include the Annisfield-Wolf Award, the Poets’ Prize, the PEN Winship Award, the Lenore Marshall Prize, the Frost Medal, the Poetry Society of America’s award for “distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry,” and fellowships from Fulbright, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. The Homeplace, Nelson’s award-winning collection of poems, detailed the history of her family, including her father’s years as one of the Tuskegee Airmen, the celebrated group of Black aviators who fought during World War II.

Nelson earned her B.A. from the University of California at Davis, her M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, and her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. A professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut, over the course of her career she also taught abroad as well as at St. Olaf for several years. She most recently served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

About the Claire Gilbert Marty Visiting Writers Series
The Claire Gilbert Marty Visiting Writers Series was established in 2017 in honor of the late Claire Gilbert Marty, a St. Olaf alumna who exhibited a passion for literature and how the intricacies of human relationships could be illuminated through the literary arts. The Visiting Writers Series established in her memory seeks to both honor her character, faith, and intellect, and to enrich the St. Olaf community by inviting writers whose work complements her fascination with the complexities of life and appreciation for wit and humor. Previous writers who have visited campus as part of the series include Ramona Ausubel and Jamel Brinkley.