| There’s virtue in slowness, says Susan Stewart ’73, who famously took eight years to complete her national-award-winning volume of poems, Columbarium. “I want to get people to read more slowly, and to re-read … and see connections," she has explained.
And so when this well-known poet and cultural critic calls herself “one of the slowest poets” because she re-writes and revises so often, we may consider this a point of pride.
On Feb. 20, Stewart discussed her work, writing process and life in Learning to Write: A Discussion with Susan Stewart. Held in Dickinson’s Stern Center, the presentation offered a valuable opportunity for Dickinsonians to see the poet read her own works and hear about the experiences that have sparked Stewart's award-winning verse.
A native of York, Pa., Stewart began writing as a child and honed her skills at Dickinson College, where she earned a B.A. in English and anthropology. Her experiences at Dickinson prepared her to next earn an M.A. in poetics from Johns Hopkins University, and a Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dickinson nurtured her creativity and fostered a global perspective and hope for positive social change
Stewart has authored five volumes of poetry and several critical books, including Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, which received the 2002 Christian Gauss Award for Literary Criticism and the 2004 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism. She has also co-translated Euripides’ Andromache, among other works and is currently translating the work of Italian poet Alda Merini. A recent poem, “First Idyll” was published in The New Yorker.
One of Dickinson Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Dickinsonians, Stewart has received many honors for her work, including the Lila Wallace Individual Writer's Award, two grants in poetry from the National Endowment in the Arts, a Pew Fellowship for the Arts, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation. Stewart also earned a National Book Critics Circle Award for one of her books of poetry, and she is currently a professor of English at Princeton University.
Stewart, who has said that she often gets her best ideas when walking or rowing a boat, and who said that “boredom is necessary for any kind of creativity,” told the audience that her experiences at Dickinson nurtured her creativity and fostered a global perspective and hope for positive social change—all crucial ingredients in her celebrated work.