NEWBERRY — Marilyn Nelson, three-time finalist for the National Book Award, was chosen by the English program as the 2013 Newberry College Gerding author.
Nelson will be the featured guest speaker of The Gerding Author Series, held on Thursday at 7 p.m. in Wiles Chapel, with a reception and book signing at 8 p.m. in Summerland Honors Room of Smeltzer Hall on the Newberry College campus.
Born in Cleveland, Ohio, into a military family, Nelson has won two Pushcart Prizes, two Yaddo residencies, fellowship form the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation and the 2012 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America. Three of Nelson’s collections have been finalists for the National Book Award: The Homeplace (1990), The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems (1997), and Carver: A Life in Poems (2001).
In 2001 Nelson published Carver: A Life in Poems, which received numerous nominations and awards, including the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, and designation as both a Newberry Honor Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Through the collection’s 44 poems, Nelson creates a lyrical rendering of the life of George Washington Carver, a renowned and revered African American botanist and inventor widely respected for his scholarly mind, hard work and humility.
In 2004 Nelson established Soul Mountain Retreat, a writer’s colony that aims to “encourage and support emerging and established poets, especially those belonging to traditionally underrepresented racial or cultural groups.”
Nelson is the daughter of one of the last Tuskegee Airmen. Her mother was a school teacher. She spent much of her youth living on different military bases and began writing poetry in elementary school.
She received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Davis and holds a Masters from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. Nelson is a professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut at Storrs and was Connecticut’s poet laureate from 2001 to 2006.