The life work of influential Washington, D.C., poet E. Ethelbert Miller will be celebrated with a reading, reception and book signing at Marymount University on Tuesday, April 5. The public is invited to the reading from 1 to 2 p.m. in Reinsch Auditorium, with the reception and signing to follow in the Lee Reception Room from 2 to 4 p.m. There is no cost to attend.
Ethelbert is an amazing poet, literary activist and friend, said Kirsten Porter, who teaches literature and languages at Marymount and edited The Collected Poems of E. Ethelbert Miller (Willow Books/$35), which will be available for purchase. Not only is he a wonderful poet but he also has a wonderful heart. He knows and helps everybody and is a community treasure. I want the event to be a true celebration that honors his work and all hes done for the community.
The author of eleven collections of poetry, Miller has also written two memoirs, Fathering Words: The Making of an African American Writer and The 5th Inning. For many years he served as the director of the African American Resource Center at Howard University. He is the board chairperson of the Institute for Policy Studies, a board member of The Writers Center and editor of Poet Lore magazine. Hes also a regular contributor to National Public Radio.
Porter, who received a bachelors degree in English from Marymount in 2007, met Miller at a campus reading while an undergraduate.
I started with that simple connection, she said. I bought a book, had him sign it and told him I wrote poetry. He asked me to send him some work, and it was the start of friendship, a mentorship. Then hed send me things he was writing and Id give him feedback.
Miller encouraged her to attend graduate school and wrote her recommendation to George Mason University, where she earned a masters of fine arts. She was a copy editor on his second memoir. For this project, she selected poems from his 40-year career and wrote the introduction.
Its the most intense work Ive ever done, she said of the year-long project.
In the introduction, Porter wrote that Millers poetry sings of the sadness, loneliness and longing for spiritual and human connection found in an imperfect world.
His words are a call for love and equality, a protest against oppression, a prayer for change, she added. His language promotes compassion, healing, and amazing grace.
Dr. Hollynd Karapetkova, chair of Marymounts Department of Literature and Language, is excited about the event.
Ethelbert is very open and generous with our students when he visits campus, Karapetkova said. They share their work and get substantial feedback. Hes such an important figure in D.C. and in the country.
Poet and literary activist E. Ethelbert Miller and Marymount Universitys Kirsten Porter are pictured outside the Library of Congress. (Photo courtesy of Donna Porter)