OSWEGO — Poet Laura Donnelly of SUNY Oswego’s English and creative writing department has earned the 2018 Provost’s Award for Scholarly and Creative Activity.
Donnelly, winner of the Cider Press Editors’ Prize for “Watershed,” her acclaimed 2014 book of poetry, will be recognized this fall during the college’s Academic Affairs Retreat.
Letters of support for Donnelly came in from other accomplished writers and editors, including SUNY Oswego colleagues Leigh Allison Wilson, director of creative writing and of the college’s Interdisciplinary Studies and Activities Center, and Patricia Clark, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Wilson said Donnelly is “a godsend to our program,” attracting enthusiastic students to all of her courses, from “Poetry Writing: Advanced” to “Poetry Since 1945.”
“The students love her. There is no other way to put their devotion to her and any class she teaches, for they routinely take all of her classes that they can fit in their schedules,” wrote Wilson, who also is an award-winning author. “Her teaching style is demanding but also extremely forthcoming and committed to poetry as an art form …”
Clark pointed out that even prior to its publication, Donnelly’s latest book manuscript, “Garden Vernacular,” has been named a semifinalist for the Perugia Press Prize, which recognizes the unpublished works of the best new women poets. Clark, too, pointed to Donnelly’s ability to convey her skills and passion in her courses and projects.
“Her students exercise ideals of literary citizenship through the several collaborative projects that Dr. Donnelly has organized for them,” she wrote. “For example, she has teamed up with art faculty and students for Tyler Art Gallery’s Downtown Artist Series. Dr. Donnelly has supported student poetry readings, such as Voices Against Violence, a student poetry slam event that features work that speaks against all forms of violence, homophobia and racism.”
Praise for ‘Watershed’
Donnelly’s creative work and scholarship includes a residency at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious artist residencies, Clark noted. Authors James Baldwin and Truman Capote, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, and poet Robert Lowell are among past recipients of the residency.
In her chapbook “Nocturne — Schumann’s Letters,” Donnelly drew on her talent as a classical pianist and research on Clara Schumann, a 19th-century female pianist and composer, Clark said.
But it is Donnelly’s “Watershed” that has drawn acclaim from national-caliber reviewers and glowing remarks from her supporters for the Provost’s Award for Scholarly and Creative Activity.
“Thematically, ‘Watershed’ explores the natural world as both a source and a destabilizer of meaning in human efforts to understand our relationships with our surroundings and one another,” wrote Fiona Coll, another colleague of Donnelly’s in English and creative writing. “Specifically, ‘Watershed’ reflects on the impulse to transform our encounters with the natural world into art …”
Clark quoted Jennifer K. Sweeney, author of “How to Live on Bread and Music:” “Lovely and urgent in their strangeness, the poems in Laura Donnelly’s ‘Watershed’ conjure spaces to dwell in and return to, spaces of astonishment held by a deft ear for inner experience and a numinous power to sense back toward the ancestral.”
Other supporters, including Janet McNally of Canisius University and Nancy Eimers, Donnelly’s dissertation director at the Western Michigan University, pointed to the poet’s contributions to and leadership in the scholarship and craft of writing. Donnelly has published reviews in such prestigious forums as Kenyon Review Online, earned residencies such as the Ragdale Foundation, served on panels such as “Girlhood, Womanhood, Coming of Age” at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, and, locally, has organized readings and events at River’s End Bookstore.