Past Issue: Marilyn Nelson


Winter 2019 |Marilyn Nelson| Vol. 2, Iss. 3

Welcome to The Fight & The Fiddle, a publication of the Furious Flower Poetry Center at James Madison University. Each issue gives you a 360-degree view of a Black poet, including an interview, new poems, a critical essay, and a writing prompt inspired by our featured poet. 


The author of more than 20 books — edited, translated, and written — Marilyn Nelson is, without question, a literary luminary. Her award-winning work speaks to a range of audiences, covers a range of subjects, and carries relevance both to history and the present moment. She has been the recipient of honors from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Poetry Society of America; most recently she was awarded the 2017 Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature. As a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, the founder of Soul Mountain Retreat (which she ran for 10 years), the poet laureate of Connecticut from 2001 to 2006, a Cave Canem faculty graduate, and professor emerita at the University of Connecticut at Storrs where she taught for more than 30 years, Nelson has not only been a vital contributor to American letters, but she has also been instrumental in shaping the literary landscape through teaching and service. 

  • The Interview: Marilyn Nelson speaks with editor Lauren K. Alleyne about writing in persona, her relationship to research, and the Petrarchan sonnet’s perfect balance.
  • Critical Essay: In her essay, “On Minor Miracles and Why We Still Need Marilyn Nelson’s Poetry,” Dr. Destiny O. Birdsong argues for the necessity of Nelson’s work in contemporary times, even as it tackles history.
  • Poems: Read new poems “Kismet,” “Big Sister,” and “Almost Sisters” by Marilyn Nelson.
  • Writing Prompt: Can you follow The Golden Rule?



Photo by Adriana Hammond.