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Adams House Poet Reads Published Works

By Robert J. Saranchak, Contributing Writer

Seamus Heaney beware: there's a new poet in Adams House.

Adams resident Susannah L. Hollister '01 read last week from a collection of her poems, The Binding Lesson, published recently by the Bow and Arrow Press.

With a grant from the Office of Fine Arts (OFA) and a helping hand from Sarah M. Hulsey '01, also of Adams House, 50 editions of the collection were published early last year.

"It is very exciting to have my own work in a beautiful form like this," Hollister said.

She said the work's four poems--"Anticipation," "Temporary amnesia, very common," "July Swim" and "How the Constellation Is Born"--"all deal in some way with framing, separating what is inside and outside."

Hollister and Hulsey applied for a grant from the OFA about a year ago to cover the cost of making the collection and of holding an exhibition and reading in the library of Adams House.

Hollister composed the poems throughout the summer and fall of 1999 and completed them by winter. After Hollister determined an order for the poems, Hulsey took over the project, designing and producing the collection.

Hulsey had been working at the Bow & Arrow Press--a small, artistic press mainly used as a teaching tool for publishing within the Harvard community--for about a year. She did all of the printing in one month and then spent about five months binding the collection by hand.

Hulsey said the project to which she volunteered so much of her time was rewarding.

"It has been a pleasure," she said. "Susannah was not at all pushy, but was always interested in spending time at the press."

To celebrate the completion of the work, Hollister held a reading in the Adams House library last Thursday.

With an audience of about 60, Hollister read from her collection and Hulsey spoke about the publishing process.

"It was very exciting to make public what we have been working on for a year," Hollister said.

For Hollister, writing has been a lifelong interest, but she said she only began to explore poetry at the end of her senior year of high school.

She composed "The Landing" in the spring of her sophomore year.

"'The Landing' is the first poem that I wrote that I really felt satisfied with. It started a new phase for me," she said.

Hollister said she is considering graduate work, and possibly a career, in English.

"Some combination of teaching and writing would be a great way to spend my life," she said.

She said aspiring poets at Harvard should be persistent--both in writing and finding sources of funding.

"You have to have a creative mindset to get out a first draft, but then you must go through a critical process; establishing the balance is very difficult," she said. "Funding from the OFA is there to be had. You just have to pursue it."

For Hulsey, The Binding Lesson was an opportunity to take on a larger project.

"I don't intend to make a career out of publishing because it is a very hard life," Hulsey said. "But I do intend to continue to work on smaller, artistic editions like this for a large part of my life.

The Binding Lesson will be on display in the Adams House library this semester along with a broadside of The Landing, a series of six sonnets also by Hollister.

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