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Poet Plumly Praised

In a sad coda to National Poetry Month, noted poet and Barnesville native Stanley Plumly has died.

According to published reports, Plumly, 79, died of multiple myeloma on April 11 at his home in Frederick, Maryland.

Plumly served as Maryland’s poet laureate for nine years, from 2009 to 2018. He wrote 10 volumes of poetry and four works of nonfiction.

Returning briefly to his Eastern Ohio roots, he participated in the former James Wright Poetry Festival at the Martins Ferry Public Library several years ago.

The Poetry Foundation released a statement issued by the University of Maryland’s Department of English, where Plumly’s death was mourned “with great sadness.” He had been a distinguished professor of English at the university and director of its creative writing program.

The Washington Post’s obituary for Plumly stated, “In 1985, he joined the faculty at the University of Maryland, where he founded the graduate program in creative writing, which he led until shortly before his death.”

Earlier in his career, he taught at the University of Iowa, Princeton University, Columbia University and the University of Houston. His first book of poetry was published in 1970.

As a poet and author, Plumly earned considerable critical acclaim over the years. His 2007 volume, “Old Heart,” won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Paterson Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. He also was a long-time contributor to Poetry magazine and the Kenyon Review and an editor of other publications.

A biographical sketch on the Poetry Foundation’s website stated, “His collection, ‘Orphan Hours’ (2013), confronted his own cancer diagnosis as well as the possibilities of mortality, including the creative potential of memory.”

Writing in the Harvard Review, Chris Cunningham called that collection “the synthesis of art and memory.”

The Poetry Foundation also noted, “Plumly was called one of the most English of American poets, and his devotion to the British Romantic poets was clear in his scholarly interests and publications.”

In the Washington Post article, writer Matt Schudel observed, “Mr. Plumly published several volumes of poetry, drawing on his roots in rural Ohio and his lifelong devotion to John Keats and other Romantic poets of the early 19th century.”

Plumly was born in Barnesville in 1939. As a child, he lived in Winchester, Virginia, before returning to Ohio. He graduated from Wilmington (Ohio) College and earned a doctorate in English literature at Ohio University.

Schudel commented, “Mr. Plumly’s poetry drew on images of nature and the sometimes dark and troubled memories of his youth. He wrote longingly and sometimes with brutal honesty about his parents …”

Jacques Kelly, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, said of Plumly, “His poetry often referenced his childhood and adolescence in Ohio, where he observed its agriculture, trees and birds. He was also a scholar with a particular interest in Keats and other early 19th-century Romantic poets.”

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On a brighter poetic note, West Virginia author Anna Egan Smucker, who grew up in Weirton, has a new collection of poetry coming out soon.

Smucker’s chapbook of poetry, titled “rowing home,” is set to be published this summer by Finishing Line Press of Georgetown, Kentucky.

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Author Rajia Hassib, an Egyptian immigrant who lives in Huntington, has written a new novel, “A Pure Heart.”

The book, which has received early praise from critics, is to be released in hardcover in August by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Hassib appeared at the Ohio County Public Library’s Lunch With Books series in November 2015 and talked about her first novel, “In the Language of Miracles.” That book was a New York Times Editors’ Choice and received honorable mention in the Arab American Book Award competition.

A publicist for Viking stated, “In ‘A Pure Heart,’ Hassib paints another affecting portrait of a family struggling to recognize each other in the aftermath of tragedy.”

The central relationship in her new novel is between two sisters, one who lives in the United States and one who remains in Egypt.

Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer.net.

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