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October 17, 2013

PSU assistant professor's book earns Oprah pick



Many of the poems have an Adirondack theme.

“What The Trees Said” was written over the course of two years.

“I write very slowly with poetry and very fast with prose — the opposite of what people think.”

With poetry, she said, “I revise a thousand times, and sometimes it ends up like the first draft — it comes full circle.”


The book combines Cohen’s poetry with images by Steve Bromberg, a photographer who lives and works in China.

“The pictures were prompts for me — not literal prompts, but emotional prompts.”

For example, “The University of the Trees” is a poem about what might be learned from a long-term immersion in the forest and a leisurely, meditative study of the life there. The poem is paired with a photograph of the gnarled roots of an ancient tree, surrounded by the profusion of life in the deep forest.


Cohen’s previous works include a children’s book, “Georgie the Flying Dog,” which she co-wrote with Caren Haines and features illustrations by Duane Bronson.

That book came about because her daughter, as a young child, had a best friend who was autistic. The book was written to promote kindness and friendship toward those who are different. In the book, Georgie the puppy is different and feels lonely. Then, he forms an unlikely friendship with a parrot — and learns to fly.

Cohen’s varied career reflects interests that go back to her own earliest childhood. Her mother loved poetry and read children’s classics to her. 

Cohen can still recite most of A.A. Milne’s poetry, and she was deeply touched by Robert Louis Stevenson’s “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”

Such early experiences with the wonder that literature can offer helped spark her own love of writing — and, in turn, the course of her life.



At an event set for 1 p.m. Saturday at Saranac Lake Free Library, Elizabeth Cohen will read from the "The Hypothetical Girl" and her new poetry collection, "What the Trees Said."

She will also conduct the free writing workshop, "Writing in Multiple Genres," focused, she said, on "the fiction in poetry, the poetry in fiction and how both inform nonfiction writing."

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