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Ellen Doré Watson


Poet and translator Ellen Doré Watson’s 5th collection, pray me stay eager, is from Alice James (2018). Named by Library Journal “one of 24 poets for the 21st Century,” her poems have appeared in APR, Tin House, Gulf Coast, and The New Yorker, and honors include fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, and the NEA (to translate Brazilian Adélia Prado). Teacher and director of the Poetry Center at Smith College for 2 decades, she also serves as poetry and translation editor of Massachusetts Review and core faculty at Colrain Manuscript Conference and Drew University’s MFA Program in Poetry and Translation.

The Value of Support

"Before my 1997 Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award, I’d won a chapbook prize, local Cultural Council awards, and an NEA Translation Fellowship—all of which I’d applied for. To receive the Jaffe at 37, pregnant with both my first child and my first full-length collection was huge, especially having only recently returned to my own work after a decade of translating. It’s hard to express how much it meant to receive such recognition at that moment of tender beginnings—and by utter surprise. The financial support was a boon, but the fact that total strangers had found the work of this late bloomer worthy of such a prestigious award was even more meaningful; the greatest gift was the confidence that I could be a mother, translator, and also a poet.


Over the years that followed, I’ve enjoyed the invaluable support other awards and 'time out time' (at MacDowell, Yaddo and other artist residencies), plus exquisite, necessary sustenance from a long-running women’s critique group, colleagues from Smith, Drew and poets near and far. But it began with the Jaffe, which told me I could bound forward: the gift of belief in oneself that we can’t ask for, but are sometimes miraculously granted."

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