Faculty Project Spotlight
Professor Kirsten Porter
In October 2014, I signed on to be the editor of The Collected Poems of Ethelbert Miller
. I first met Miller in 2007 when I was an undergraduate student at Marymount and he was a Visiting Poet
. Editing Ethelbert’s Collected Poems of Ethelbert Miller
would be no small undertaking; his writing career began in the early 1970s, and 1974 marked the publication of his first book of poems, Andromeda
. Today, Ethelbert is known for his work as a DC-based poet and literary activist, and he is also the author of eleven books of poetry and two memoirs. A book of his collected poems would need to represent over forty years of writing and service to the community. Such a book would need to tell the story of a man in love with language, with words, with community. The story would need to include the sadness, the loneliness, the quiet moments of the writer listening to the music inside his head: so much story in one book to signify a lifetime of work.
As editor, it was my job to select poems from Miller’s personal collections, the Gelman Library archives, and his eleven books of poetry. Once I selected the pieces for inclusion in the book, I then needed to arrange the work in a cohesive fashion. Lastly, and perhaps most dauntingly, I needed to write the book’s introduction, which would require intensive research and conducting interviews. Working on this project has been the most difficult and rewarding experience in my professional career thus far. I am very grateful to Miller who entrusted me with the responsibility of editing this important collection. I am also thankful for the encouragement I received from my Marymount colleagues—Dr. Holly Karapetkova and Dr. Marguerite Rippy were especially supportive.
In the end, I am very proud of the final product—a comprehensive collection honoring Miller’s aesthetic and encapsulating the heart of the poet. In March 2016, Willow Books published The Collected Poems of Ethelbert Miller. I have enjoyed speaking about the book and my editing process at many venues, including Upshur Street Books, Baltimore’s CityLit Festival, and Busboys & Poets. Miller continues to write poems, and I, in turn, continue to collect and edit his work. There are many more collaborative projects for us in the works!