Whatever brings you here, welcome and enjoy!

EideticWhat’s new . . . Beth was awarded the 2021 Barabtarlo Prize from the International Vladimir Nabokov Society for “Visual Agnosia in Nabokov: When One of the Senses Can’t Make Sense.” Her essay shows how Nabokov uses narration to convey the effect of his characters’ distorted visual perception at key moments. Nabokov has been Beth’s favorite novelist since her teens and the focus of much of her research.

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In July 2021, Beth received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for Mapping Worcester in Poetry, with the Worcester County Poetry Association as community partner. The project will identify, mark, and celebrate places in the city associated with the life or work of nationally known Worcester poets (Stanley Kunitz, Elizabeth Bishop, Charles Olson, Frank O’Hara, Etheridge Knight, Mary Fell, Christopher Gilbert) while encouraging new poems about public spaces by contemporary poets from various neighborhoods, cultures, and communities.

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In spring 2021, Beth’s students wrote ekphrastic poems (about works of art) that were exhibited in Cantor Gallery and online as part of the Metanoia Senior Show at Holy Cross. They also edited and produced Sonder, their own poetry journal, available here.


Raven Woos the Dove video

Members of Beth’s “Poe’s Haunted World” seminar performed a script reading of Act 1 of her screenplay, The Raven Woos the Dove, in a video livestreamed as part of Poe Fest International 2020. It tells the true story of Poe’s romance with poet Sarah Helen Whitman, involving a courtship through the mail with unsigned, forged, and misdirected letters; a marriage proposal in a cemetery; a suicide attempt; and a wedding called off at the last minute after an anonymous note warns Helen not to marry him. Tareq, Will, Lizzy, Tyler, Anna, Devyn, Kelly, Griffin, Grace, Paige, Jonathan, and Eve read all 13 parts and produced the video. Read an interview about it here.


An article about Dickinson, the new Apple TV+ series, includes Beth’s comments on Emily Dickinson as an independent creative force. In fall 2019, Beth gave a talk before a concert  featuring adaptations of Dickinson’s poems for voice and piano by five composers.



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In May 2019, Beth was given the Distinguished Faculty Scholar Award from the College of the Holy Cross. She is only the second person to receive this award, bestowed for an exceptional record of scholarly excellence.

Beth received the Poe Studies Association’s Gargano Award in 2018 for an outstanding essay on his work. Her essay, “The Horror of Taking a Picture in Poe’s ‘Tell-Tale Heart,'” compares the narrator’s obsession with focusing a ray of light onto an old man’s eye to early photography.

WCPA poetry contest

In September 2018, Beth was invited to name both prizes awarded each year in the Worcester County Poetry Association’s College Poetry Contest, an annual competition that she started a dozen years ago. She named the prizes — one for poems on the page and one for poems performed aloud — after Elizabeth Bishop and Etheridge Knight, two of the many renowned poets associated with Worcester.

A few years ago, BetContourh took part in an unusual project, called “A Tale of Two Cities,” that paired poets from Worcester, Massachusetts, USA, and Worcestershire, England.  She and her buddy poet, Polly Stretton, met over email, exchanged poems, and then crafted brand-new poems in response to each other’s work.  You can read the results in a special issue of Contour Magazine edited by Nina Lewis, the Worcestershire Poet Laureate who conceived the project.

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Besides writing poems, Beth sculpts book objects from clay. Each piece tries to convey the experience of reading a particular book. Beth held her first solo show, “Library of Clay,” at the Cantor Art Gallery at the College of the Holy Cross in 2018.  She later showed her sculptures and read her poems at a Solidarity Salon at the Lily Pad in Cambridge.

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In 2018, Beth was named the Monsignor Edward G. Murray Professor of Arts and Humanities at the College of the Holy Cross.

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Forty years after its initial publication, in 1976, Beth’s poem “Morning Diary” was reprinted in the golden anniversary edition of her high school literary magazine.

In 2016, Beth became the Director of Scholar Programs and the Director of the College Honors Program at the College of the Holy Cross, a position she held for three years.

Hand Me Down coverBeth’s chapbook, Hand Me Down, came out from Finishing Line Press in 2013, after placing as a semifinalist in the 2012 New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition. Hand Me Down was nominated for the 2013 Massachusetts Book Award in poetry and includes “Revenant,” which won the Frank O’Hara Prize in 2005. Beth is now writing a series of poems about her namesake, Mad Sweeney — the 7th-century Irish warrior king, poet, and madman — and his wife.

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Beth’s latest online scholarly publication is an article in Orbit on female sleuths in metaphysical detective stories by Thomas Pynchon and William Gibson. Her most recent co-edited volume, Nabokov and the Question of Morality: Aesthetics, Metaphysics, and the Ethics of Fiction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), includes her essay on farcical trials, sentences, and punishments in his work.