Poet Laureate Chelsea Rathburn
Chelsea Rathburn is the author of three full-length poetry collections, most recently Still Life with Mother and Knife, a New York Times “New & Noteworthy” book released by Louisiana State University Press in February 2019. Rathburn’s first full-length collection, The Shifting Line, won the 2005 Richard Wilbur Award, and her second collection, A Raft of Grief, was published by Autumn House Press in 2013.
Rathburn’s poems have appeared in the nation’s most esteemed journals, including Poetry, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The Southern Review, New England Review, and the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series. In a 2019 feature, NPR called Rathburn’s work “arresting” and “a gentle whirlwind.” In 2009, she received a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
While she was born in Jacksonville and raised in Miami, Florida, Rathburn has deep roots in the state of Georgia, where her mother’s family has lived since the 1830s. In 2001, Rathburn moved to Decatur after completing graduate school at the University of Arkansas. Since 2013, she has lived in the North Georgia mountains with her husband, the poet James Davis May, and their daughter. She’s a professor at Young Harris College, where she directs the creative writing program.
Rathburn has taught poetry workshops in a variety of settings and served as a local, regional, and state-wide judge for Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry recitation contest created by the National Endowment for the Arts. As a professor at Young Harris College, she has designed one of the most successful undergraduate creative writing programs in the southeast. Since she was hired in 2013, Young Harris students have won national and statewide poetry awards, including the Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival Contest and the Iris N. Spencer Awards, published in national literary magazines, and gained acceptances into some of the most competitive graduate creative writing programs in the country. “For me, one of the most thrilling aspects of teaching is helping my students find the language to tell their stories,” Rathburn says. “Many of the writers I work with are, like me, first-generation college students, and I want them to understand that their voices, their stories, matter.”
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