I grew up in western Pennsylvania, a paradoxical place of farmlands and forests, quarries and strip mines. Scholarships enabled me to earn degrees from Smith College and Stanford Law School, and I relocated to Northern California where I live now. After years of private practice followed by years of advocacy for kids with autism, I left law to pursue my writing. The year I turned 50, I went back to school, earning an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson in January 2010.
Paradise Drive won the 2015 Press 53 Prize for Poetry and was widely reviewed in venues including the Times Literary Supplement, San Francisco Chronicle, Philadelphia Inquirer, Huffington Post, and journals including Georgia Review, Harvard Review, Hudson Review, Pleiades, Poet Lore, and Smartish Pace. My first full length book, All That Gorgeous Pitiless Song won the Many Mountains Moving Book Prize and was released in 2010, the same year that God, Seed: Poetry & Art About the Natural World won the Foreword Review Book of the Year Award for Poetry. Mom’s Canoe and Dark Card, recipients of the Robert Phillips Chapbook Poetry Prize in consecutive years, were released by Texas Review Press in 2008 and 2009.
My poems, book reviews, essays, and short stories are widely published. Recent recognitions include the 2015 James Hearst Poetry Prize judged by Jane Hirshfield, American Literary Review’s 2015 Fiction Prize judged by Garth Greenwell the 2015 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize, and fellowships from MacDowell, Sewanee, and the Frost Place. In 2017 I was appointed Marin County Poet Laureate, and my project description is below. I’m the poetry editor and write a weekly column for Women’s Voices for Change, and an assistant editor reading fiction for Narrative Magazine.
My 2017-19 Marin County Poet Laureate project, “Poetry as Sanctuary,” ties in with California’s status as a Sanctuary State and also has a broader application. Poetry is a sacred space – church, a hospital, a hospice bed – offering refuge for our most private, urgent, and otherwise ineffable expressions. Reading and writing it opens an escape from technology, stress, life-overload, grief, and other emotional pain. Perhaps the most important service poetry can provide now is respite from or a way to respond to current political events. Poetry can build community, and I’d like to use it to raise the awareness and empathy for what is at stake under the new administration for our undocumented immigrant population here in Marin. To this end, I’m organizing a series of community open mikes on themes such as Peace, Immigration & Diversity, and Gender, along with readings featuring immigrant poets in the county libraries.