Rolex Arts Initiative – “That Email Changed My Life”:
Pulitzer-Prize Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Celebrates Rolex Arts Initiative & Publication of Ordinary Light at the Harvard Club
Over five years ago, a mysterious email appeared in Tracy K. Smith’s inbox. When Smith, a professor of literature at Princeton University, saw the subject line ““Mentor/Protégé Initiative” she thought, “Oh, they might want me to be a mentor to someone like a kid.”
Instead, she had been invited to participate in Rolex Mentors & Protégé Arts Initiative asprotégé. The Rolex Arts Initiative was inaugurated in 2002 to revive the traditional relationship of master and apprentice, explains an official publication of Mentors & Protégés: “We had recognized that the support of young, individual artists was lacking in the marketplace and designed this programme to fill the void.”
“That email changed my life,” said Smith on March 24, 2015, at the Harvard Club celebration of “Ordinary Light,” her new memoir. During the 2009-2011 mentor/protégé cycle, Smith worked with mentor, Hans Magnus Enzensberger, a Munich-based novelist who has been described as one of Germany’s greatest living writers.
Published by Knopf on April 2, 2015, “Ordinary Light” draws readers into Smith’s younger years with lucid prose: into her “obedient” childhood as the much-younger baby of five siblings, growing up in California, weekly trips to Church, rediscovering her parent’s roots in Alabama, and, just before she went to college, her mother’s diagnosis of cancer–all set against the backdrop of race, faith, and the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter.
In pages that illustrate her mother’s vitality and character, “there was something gleaming and spirited beneath it, something that instigated pranks and stunts that could bend the rest of us over in laughter,” Smith writes, painting memories that vividly recall her mother’s voice. “Or the evening when the topic of nicknames came up for discussion in the family…..When it was my mother’s turn, she said that she didn’t want to be called Mom, or Mama, and that we should cease calling her Mommy. She told us with a straight face, ‘Call me Sexy.'”
Smith described working back and forth with Enzensberger on earlier versions of her memoir in a 2011 interview with Wild River Review.
“I started out with a big ambitious mess. It was about a formative relationship with a teacher in high school, about my mother being diagnosed with cancer, about the parts of that process, parts of the experience of her death. Then there was a chunk about my first marriage and the act of rebellion that the marriage represented. And then my daughter…
“Then Magnus said, ‘You know, this is not a story about college. It’s not a story about motherhood for you. It’s really a story about your family and your mother is the central character in that. Get rid of all of this other stuff.’
“I didn’t want to hear it, but I lived with it for a little bit and I think he’s really right. It’s a narrower story now that will involve a great deal more time in each of those moments that constitute it.”
“He’s written poetry and novels and has got more experience in prose than I do. He said, ‘Put away your poet’s ear and build characters; let them talk, let them live on the page so that we don’t need you to interpret what they’ve done.'”
“To find a tone of voice which is fresh is not easy.” Hans Magnus Enzensberger
“Our wild differences in age, language and background were actually an advantage,” recounts Enzensberger, who places his first experience as a protégé back to the refuge he found in a research library at the age of 10 or 11 at the height of Hitler’s regime in Germany.
“A good editor asks the best questions,” notes Smith in her remarks.
“Mentorship is a relationship of mutual renewal.” Homi Bhabha
Editor’s Note: Read Wild River Review’s full interview with Tracy K. Smith, in which the Pulitzer-prize winning author talks about motherhood and writing, the essential art of questioning, and why poems are an attempt to stop time. https://www.wildriverreview.com/literature/Rolex-Arts-Weekend/Tracy-K-Smith/Stocke-McConnell
Learn more about the Rolex Arts Iniative: http://www.rolexmentorprotege.com
In 2006, Kimberly Nagy founded Wild River Review with Joy E. Stocke; and in 2009, they founded Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC. With more than twenty years in the field of publishing, Nagy specializes in market outreach and digital media strategies as well as crafting timeless articles and interviews. She edits many of the writers who appear in the pages of Wild River Review, as well as clients from around the world.
Kimberly Nagy is a poet, professional writer, and dedicated reader who has interviewed a number of leading thinkers, including Academy-Award winning filmmaker, Pamela Tanner Boll, MacArthur Genius Award-winning Edwidge Danticat, historian James McPherson, playwright Emily Mann, biologist and novelist, Sunetra Gupta and philosopher Alain de Botton.
Nagy is an author, editor and professional storyteller. She received her BA in history at Rider University where she was influenced by professors who stressed works of literature alongside dates and historical facts–as well as the importance of including the perspectives of women and minorities in the historical record. During a period in which she fell in love with writing and research, Nagy wrote an award-winning paper about the suppression of free speech during World War I, and which featured early 20th century feminist and civil rights leader, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
Nagy continued her graduate studies at University of Connecticut, Storrs, where she studied with Dr. Karen Kupperman, an expert in early contact between Native Americans and the first European settlers. Nagy wrote her Masters thesis, focusing on the work of the first woman to be accepted into the Connecticut Historical Society as well as literary descriptions of Native Americans in Connecticut during the 19th century. Nagy has extensive background and interest in anthropological, oral history and cultural research.
After graduate school, Nagy applied her academic expertise to a career in publishing, in which she worked for two of the world’s foremost publishers—Princeton University Press and W.W. Norton—as well as at Thomson, Institutional Investor Magazine, Routledge UK, and Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic.
Kimberly Nagy in this Edition
AIRMAIL – LETTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
AIRMAIL – VOICE FROM SYRIA
ARTS – ART
ARTS – FILM REVIEWS
ARTS – MUSIC
ARTS – PHOTOGRAPHY
The Triple Goddess Trials: Fire in the Head: Brigit’s Mysterious Spark
The Triple Goddess Trials: Introduction
The Triple Goddess Trials – Meeting Virginia Woolf at the Strand
The Triple Goddess Trials: Me and Medusa
The Triple Goddess Trials: Aphrodite and the Lightbulb Factory
The Triple Goddess Trials: Goddess of Milk and Honey
The Triple Goddess Trials: Kali’s Ancient Love Song
ASHLEY – Renee Ashley: A Voice Answering a Voice
BELLI – Giocanda Belli – The Page is My Home
BOLL – Pamela Tanner Boll: Dangerous Women: An Interview with Academy Award Winner Pamela Tanner Boll
DANTICAT – Create Dangerously- A Conversation with Edwidge Danticat
CHARBONNEAU – A Cruise Along the Inside Track: With Le Mobile’s Sound Recording Legend Guy Charbonneau
de BOTTON – The Art of Connection: A Conversation with Alain de Botton
GUPTA – Suneptra Gupta – The Elements of Style: The Novelist and Biologist Discusses Metaphor and Science
HANDAL – Nathalie Handal – Love and Strange Horses
KHWAJA – Waqas Khwaja: What a Difference a Word Makes
MAURO: New World Monkeys: An Interview with Nancy Mauro
MORGANSing, Live, & Love Like You Mean It: An Interview with Bertha Morgan
MOSS – Practical Mystic–Robert Moss: On Book Families, Jung and How Dreams Can Save Your Soul
OGLINE – BEN FRANKLIN.COM: Author & Illustrator Tim Ogline explains why Ben Franklin would be a technology evangelist today
OLSEN – Greg Olsen – Reaching for the Stars: Scientist, Entrepreneur and Space Traveler
PALYA – Beata Palya – The Secret World of Songs
SCHIMMEL – Moonlight Science: A Conversation with Molecular Biologist and Entrepreneur, Paul Schimmel
SHORS – Journey into the Male & Female Brain: An Interview with Tracey Shors
von MOLTKE and SIMMS – Dorothy von Moltke and Cliff Simms: Why Independent Bookstores Matter, Part I
WARD – On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part One, and
On the Rocks: Global Warming and the Rock and Fossil Record – An Interview with Peter Ward, Part Two
WILKES – Labor of Love: An Interview With Architect Kevin Wilkes
LITERATURE – MEMOIR
LITERATURE – POETRY
LIVE FROM THE NYPL
Fountain of Curiosity: Paul Holdengraber on Attention, Tension and Stretching the Limits of Conversation at the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library at 100: From the Stacks to the Streets
Paul Holdengraber: The Afterlife of Conversation
That Email Changed My Life: Rolex Arts Initiative. Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Tracy K. Smith Celebrates Rolex Arts Initiative
First Editions / Second Thoughts — Defending Writers: PEN and Christie’s Raise One Million Dollars to Support Freedom of Expression
ON AFRICA: May 4 to May 10 — Behind the Scenes with Director Jakab Orsos: Co-curated by Award-Winning Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Page is My Home: Giaconda Belli – Nicaraguan Poet, Writer and Public Intellectual
Georgian Writer David Dephy’s Second Skin
The Power of Conversation: David Grossman and Nadine Gordimer – The Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture
NEW FROM WILD RIVER BOOKS – Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines
Daring Collaborations: Rolex and LIVE from the NYPL at the New York Public Library
Wild River Books Announces the Stoutsburg Cemetery Project: The Untold Stories of an African American Burial Ground in New Jersey
Wild River Books: Surprise Encounters by Scott McVay
Wild River Review and Minerva’s Bed & Breakfast Presents – “BITTER” Writing in a Weekend: How to Write About the Things We Can’t Change
ALLEN – Quarks, Parks, and Science in Everyday Life: Filmmaker Chris Allen’s Documentary Where Art Meets Science in a Vacant Lot
HOLT – Rush Holt: An Interview with Rush Holt
MANN – Boundless Theater: An Interview with Emily Mann
Keeping Time: A Conversation with Historian James McPherson