The first Thornton Reading of the semester will feature poet and essayist Emma Bolden, who will give a public reading at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 19, in Hall Campus Center’s Memorial Ballroom. A Q&A session and book signing will follow the reading, and select copies of her work will be available for purchase while supplies last.
English professor Dr. Robin Bates, who’s known Bolden for a long time, made the event happen.
“I first met Emma when we were both at Auburn, and we have kept up with each other ever since, through multiple moves to different places, through different jobs, as she left academic life, but never writing,” Bates said.
“She has always been a brilliant writer and a kind person, full of wit and an ability to revel in the very things that make life chaotic. That thing about yourself that you feel silly and maybe a little embarrassed [about]? That will be the very thing Emma likes about you. I think that is what makes her such a wonderful writer.
“She reaches for the very, very human parts of us and shows us how we’re beautiful. I love teaching her poetry, the way my students respond to it. Her work comes through with this really immediate message of, ‘It’s OK to hurt, and there are still good things.’ I don’t think there is anything more important right now.”
While at Lynchburg, Bolden also will visit a class called Narrative Health, part of the medical humanities minor at Lynchburg. It’s taught by English professor and Richard H. Thornton Chair Jer Bryant ’03, ’10 MA, MFA.
“One of Bolden’s foci involves illness, its treatment, and the emotional impact of illness,” Bryant said. “My students are very excited to read her poetry and to hear about her decision to write about sickness and its effect on the sufferer.
“Bolden is such a dynamic writer; she creates poetry, memoir, and even hybrid works. It will be exciting for our campus community to encounter such a well-rounded artist. It’s my hope that our students will see that one can explore many genres as a writer.”
In addition to the class visit, Bolden will meet one-on-one with two creative writing minors who have shared their works with her ahead of time.
An Alabama native, Bolden was the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2017. Two years later, she received a Literary Arts Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
Her debut memoir, “The Tiger and the Cage: A Memoir of a Body in Crisis,” was published in 2022. Her third full-length poetry collection, “House Is An Enigma,” published in 2018, won the 2017 Cowles Poetry Book Prize.
In 2016, Bolden published her second full-length collection, “medi(t)ations,” a lyric essay/poetry hybrid.
It followed her 2013 full-length collection, “Maleficae,” a series of poems about the witch trials in early modern Europe. “Maleficae” was a finalist for the 42 Miles Press Poetry Prize and the Cleveland State University Press First Book Award as well as a semi-finalist for the Perugia Press Prize and the Brittingham and Felix Pollak Prizes.
Bolden has also penned three chapbooks of poetry. Her poetry and prose has appeared in such journals as the Black Warrior Review, Puerto del Sol, Shenandoah, New Madrid, the Mississippi Review, TriQuarterly, StoryQuarterly, Pinch, Waccamaw, The Rumpus, Prairie Schooner, Conduit, the Indiana Review, the Greensboro Review, Redivider, Verse, Feminist Studies, The Journal, Guernica, and Copper Nickel.
Bolden has been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily, and her work was included in Best Small Fictions 2015, Best American Poetry 2015, and The Norton Introduction to Literature (13th Edition).
She was the winner of the 2009 Betty Gabehart Award for Nonfiction from the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, the Yalobusha Review’s 2010 All-In Nonfiction Prize, the 2014 Barthelme Prize for Short Prose from the Gulf Coast journal, the Spoon River Poetry Review’s 2014 Editor’s Prize, the Press 53/Prime Number Magazine 2014 Award for Flash Nonfiction, and So to Speak’s 2015 Feminist Poetry Contest.
Bolden currently serves as an editor of the Screen Door Review. She previously served as senior reviews editor and as associate editor-in-chief at Tupelo Quarterly. She received a BLA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
This event is sponsored by the Richard H. Thornton Endowment in English.