Smith College Alum Lynne Francis '10 Wins Amherst Poetry Contest

Sarah Robinson '17 Contributing Writer

Smith College alum Lynne Francis ’10 recently won the Amherst Live Poetry Prize in the 2014 Winter Show for her poem “Pomegranate Tart.” Francis was born in Virginia and came to Smith as an Ada Comstock Scholar in 2006. She interned in the poetry center for two years, having picked up poetry later in life. In her words, she “grew up in the suburbs, a typical high school kid in the ’60s,” and after getting married and raising two kids, began desiring to write. ”I carried around books of poetry I didn’t understand,” wrote Francis, “but read as much poetry as I could.” Francis named several Smith professors as influences along her poetic journey: “I am forever indebted,” she wrote, “to Professors [Susan] Van Dyne, [Nikky] Finney, [Ellen] Watson and [Annie] Boutelle – poetry goddesses all, and now friends.” The biannual Amherst Live contest is meant mostly as an outlet for spoken word-type poetry. “Now more than ever, poetry needs to be spoken out loud, so that we can hear what our lives sound like when we really listen,” says Amherst Live’s website, http://amherstlive.com/, about poetry’s necessity in the modern world. “Particularly these days, when sidewalk reveries have given way to smartphone pecking, and even those few moments of quiet dreaminess allowed us at the gas pump are interrupted by advertisers, poetry has an important role to play.” The contest is different from standard poetry slams, as the pieces must be read by someone other than the poet. The website explains, “This arrangement both spares poets the obligation of appearing onstage, and also ensures a collaborative element which is essential to Amherst Live.” “Pomegranate Tart” was read aloud at the contest by Floyd Cheung, Smith professor of English language and literature, who taught Francis during her time at Smith. Cheung says he was “deeply honored” to have been able to read Francis’s piece. “Her twist in the Persephone myth is brilliant. In Lynne’s version, the daughter takes the pomegranate – a symbol of sexuality and loss – and transforms it into an offering, a sign of hope and return, through of course, the startling stains remain.” Another unique aspect of the Amherst Live competition is that the audience chooses the winner. After rounds and rounds of readings, two finalists return and the audience picks a favorite with the loudness of their cheers. According to the website, Lynne was chosen “by a margin of 2.1 decibels on the official Amherst Live decibelmeter.” Once a winner is chosen, prizes are awarded: $200 for the winner and $150 for second place. The winners are also featured on the Amherst Live radio, web and TV broadcasts, along with two tickets to upcoming shows. This year’s second place was “Creation Story” by Beth Filson, read by Katherine Glatter. This year also saw five runner-ups: Emily Bloch, Dan Chelotti, Carol Connare, Daniel Hales and Jonathon Tucker. For those interested, Amherst Live is already preparing for their Spring 2014 show on Tuesday, May 20. For more information on tickets and submission requirements, visit their website at http://amherstlive.com.