Out & About

October 17, 2013

Animals muse for poetry

Award-winning poet reads from original works

PLATTSBURGH — Amber Flora Thomas decided her life’s path as a poet in her 20s.

“I got an enthusiastic response from my classmates at Humboldt State University,” said Thomas, a professor of creative writing at East Carolina University and this year’s guest speaker at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Black Poetry Day on Thursday, Oct. 24.

“I was taking classes every semester. I was already getting work published and sending it out to contests. I won a scholarship to attend a semester-long intensive poetry workshop at Bucknell University. They award it for two people a year. At that time, it really confirmed to me I was on the right path.”

In the winter of 1993, she relocated from her native California to Lewisburg, Pa., where she worked with poet Molly Peacock.

“She has been one of my first important mentors and been a really good friend throughout my writing career,” Thomas said. “That was the point I knew it was a good path for me. I was finding success with it.”

At work on a new manuscript, she is the author of “Eye of Water: Poems” (University of Pittsburgh, 2005), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, and “The Rabbits Could Sing: Poems” (University of Alaska Press, 2012). Awards include the Dylan Thomas American Poet Prize, Richard Peterson Prize and Ann Stanford Prize. Her poetry has appeared in many publications, including Orion Magazine, Alaska Quarterly Review and American Literary Review. 

She received her Bachelor of Arts from Humboldt State University and Master of Fine Arts from Washington University in St. Louis. Before she decided on poetry, Thomas aspired to be a singer.

“I knew what I wanted to do with music and voice. I got to college and started taking the voice classes. I was coming up against people who had incredible range and experience, and I could not compete. I had an option to move on to advanced courses. I thought I was not going to be able to pull it off. I didn’t have a strong enough voice for that,” Thomas said.

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