Stephanie Pruitt, who received her Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing in May 2010, has been named one of “Forty Favorite Poets” by Essence magazine in honor of its 40th anniversary. Pruitt’s name appeared alongside such luminaries as Maya Angelou, Lucille Clifton, former Poet Laureate Rita Dove, Marilyn Nelson, Elizabeth Alexander, and Gwendolyn Brooks.
“I did a double take when I saw my name in the proximity of so many of the writers I have long admired,” Pruitt said. “It’s nice to be recognized and I take this as a nod that I’m moving in the right direction, but success for me comes one poem at a time.”
Pruitt, a native of Nashville, received the 2010 Academy of American Poets Prize and the 2009 Sedberry Prize. She was a finalist for Poet and Writers’ Maureen Egen Award.
Her current project is a collection of poems about two fictional half-sisters during the period from 1840 to 1860; Pruitt’s poems follow the sisters as they escape from a Middle Tennessee plantation and settle in the North.
Her poems construct their narrative backbone on documented, historical places and occurrences. Pruitt did research in a number of archives around the United States, many of them in Tennessee, including Belle Meade Plantation and The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s home.
Here’s an excerpt from Pruitt’s poem Black Pepper 1841:
Knowing one day, others may run
cook stows it away
in apron pockets as she prepares
a meal she will not sit down to eat.
Teaspoons of crushed black gold
coating boot heels with hope
that it will defeat the hounds.Let those well seasoned feet run.