Ellen Doré Watson

Ellen Doré Watson was hailed by Library Journal as one of “24 Poets for the 21st Century.” Her collections of poetry include Ladder Music and We Live in Bodies (Alice James, 2001 and 2002), This Sharpening (Tupelo, 2006), and most recently Dogged Hearts (book and audio book: Tupelo, 2010). She has also translated a dozen books, including The Alphabet in the Park: Selected Poems of Adélia Prado(Wesleyan University Press, 1990) and works by Brazilian poet Ignácio de Loyola Brandão as well as contemporary Arabic poetry (co-translated with Saadi Simawe). She is the Poetry and Translation Editor for The Massachusetts Review and the director of The Poetry Center at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Watson’s poems have appeared widely in journals, including The American Poetry Review and The New Yorker. Among her awards and honors are the Bullis-Kizer Prize from Poetry Northwest, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship, and a 1990 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Grant.

In 2011, she was appointed an Elector of the Poets’ Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.


Poems are bigger than the poet. Even when writing out of myself, I can be wider and see farther than in real life. Writing, we’re outside of the stream of movement and outcome, in a realm where we can be our better selves, or our not-selves, open and questioning. Questions enlarge us so much more deeply and fully than answers, leading us away from assumptions and black & white thinking and instead toward devilish uncertainty. Chinua Achebe said writers don’t give prescriptions, they give headaches. I love that. Headaches of the best kind— gnarly conundrums of human complexity.

Devon Bohm interviews Ellen Doré Watson at Mason’s Road

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