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LSC-Tomball Professor’s Poetry Inspires Pictorial in The New York Times

TOMBALL, Texas – A picture is worth a thousand words?  Yes, that’s usually how it works.  But sometimes, it works in reverse, and words inspire the pictures.  And that’s what Lone Star College-Tomball English Professor Melissa Studdard found when her poem “Everyone in Me Is a Bird” became one of only six selected for a special feature in The New York Times. 

“I’m excited and honored to be one of the poets chosen for this collaborative effort,” Studdard said about her selection for the poetry and pictorial feature, a concept that pairs poems with photographers who let the poems visually inspire them.

Studdard’s poem appears in “Being Women:  Poetry and Imagery,” the second installment in what’s become an annual series.  The poem-pictorials are published in both the print and online editions of the Times making the literary and photographic artistry available to a global audience.

“I didn’t even know my poem was being considered for the feature.  I learned about it when I was contacted out of the blue by Times Editors Kerri MacDonald and Morrigan McCarthy asking for permission to reprint the poem,” said Studdard, adding with a laugh, “I’m still not sure how they came across my poem, though I imagine they found it at the Academy of American Poets website. In any case, I’m glad they did!”

For the photographers, this assignment was about freedom and finding inspiration in language.  For Studdard, whose writings are often about her own personal struggles with relationships and the expectations of others, she’s inspired by what’s in her heart, “My poem is about breaking the invisible constraints placed on us by friends, family, society, even the ones we put on ourselves that can inhibit our growth as individuals.”

Maddie McGarvey, one of the two photographers chosen to visually interpret Studdard’s poem, explained.  “This poem can be interpreted in many ways, depending on how you feel about your own womanhood or gender,” she writes in the Times feature. “There is so much pressure in society to be a certain type of person or female, and not everyone feels like they fit that mold.”

Studdard says she hopes her writings continue to encourage others to think about their personal struggles.  But, for now, she’s thrilled her poem is travelling around the world with pictures inspired by it.

To hear Professor Studdard read her poem aloud and see the accompanying photo pictorial, click here.

Studdard has penned several books over the past 10 years including I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast, which consists of approximately 40 unique poems.  Studdard is also the author of the best-selling novel Six Weeks to Yehidah, its companion journal, My Yehidah, and The Tiferet Talk Interviews. Her awards include the Forward National Literature Award, the International Book Award, the Readers’ Favorite Award, and two Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards.

Studdard’s poetry, fiction, essays, reviews, and articles have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies, including The Guardian, Psychology Today, Harvard Review, Southern Humanities Review, and Poets & Writers. In addition to writing, Melissa is the executive producer and host of VIDA Voices & Views for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and an editor for American Microreviews and Interviews.

Lone Star College-Tomball is located at 30555 Tomball Parkway, at the intersection of SH 249 and Zion Road. For more information about the college, call 281.351.3300 or visit LoneStar.edu/Tomball.