As co-poets laureate and women from marginalized communities, Melissa Kwasny and M.L. Smoker aim to celebrate poetry as an art that fosters connection, relationships and bridge building. They will share their poetry, their creative processes and how poetry can provide a source of understanding and hope. Through their presentations, they will collaboratively demonstrate how poetry can speak to issues of diversity and inclusion, landscape and the environment, and culture and history.
Melissa Kwasny is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Where Outside the Body is the Soul Today and Pictograph, and a collection of essays on the poetic image, Earth Recitals: Essays on Image and Vision. Along with M.L. Smoker, she edited an anthology of poems in defense of global human rights, entitled I Go to the Ruined Place, as well as Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry. Kwasny has taught poetry writing in graduate and undergraduate programs and in the public schools for over thirty years.
M.L. Smoker, Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux, is the author of one collection of poems, Another Attempt at Rescue. She is a lifelong educator and advocate for Indian education, who has worked at the tribal college, K-12 and state department of education levels. She was previously the director of Indian Education for the Office of Public Instruction for almost ten years and currently works for the non-profit Education Northwest as a practice expert in Indian education.