Radio’s Garrison Keillor Reads Poem by MWA’s Sue Ellen Thompson

It was “totally mysterious,” says poet Sue Ellen Thompson when asked how National Public Radio star Garrison Keillor came to read her poem, “Leaning In,” on his program, “The Writer’s Almanac.” She included the poem in her book The Golden Hour, published by Autumn House Press. “I guess he just saw it. That’s all I know,” says Thompson.

She is an MWA member who has published four books and is also the editor of The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (2005), a selection from the work of 94 American poets that has been used in college classrooms across the country.

Thompson is not averse to her work being called ‘slice-of-life’ poetry. “It is more autobiographical than not,” she says. To the novice, the poetry is easy to read and follow. In fact, Thompson says, “I have been very aware how many people have been turned off by poetry. I try to keep that non-poetry-lover in mind when I write.” She recalls that she was not exposed to contemporary poetry in high school because it wasn’t part of the curriculum. “It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized poetry could sound like normal, natural speech.”

CLICK TO HEAR what Sue Ellen Thompson’s poetry sounds like, as read by the Mr. Keillor, following his story about Henrik Ibsen.

She writes about her own life in an elegant style that integrates her experience in such a way that the reader instantly understands. “That experience becomes the reader’s experience, too,” she says.

She became a serious poet at about age 30. She was still single and moving up the ladder in the publishing business when she realized that “this is what my life was going to become.” She quit and went to Oxford University in England to study poetry. She returned to her native Connecticut and became a freelance writer so she could devote several hours a day to her craft.

Her approach and the content of her poetry “changed focus” and became more complex when she married and raised a daughter. She says her daughter was “a great kid as a child, but then her adolescence was really hellish.” Her third book, The Leaving, was largely about the mother-daughter relationship. Thompson is currently writing another book, to be published next year, about how her relationship with her daughter, who is transgender, has changed and evolved.

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2 Comments to “Radio’s Garrison Keillor Reads Poem by MWA’s Sue Ellen Thompson”

  1. I heard that poem read earlier this week and loved it. What an immediate image it brought to mind, then expanded to a larger concept. Real genius.

  2. Sue Ellen,
    I’m already a fan of your poetry which makes magic of our ordinary lives. How wonderful to hear your work read in an unexpected moment by and unexpected voice.
    Sonia Linebaugh

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