Ellen McGrath Smith teaches in the Writing, Literature, and Composition programs. She is editor of the English department e-newsletter, The Fifth Floor, and a founding coordinator of the Writing Center's Writer's Café Program.
Smith earned a PhD in English literature from Duquesne University, where her dissertation (Deritualization, Sincerity, and Accessibility: Protestant Poetics and Twentieth-Century American Poetry) looked at seventeenth-century British and twentieth-century American poetry. In this work and other criticism and scholarship, she has worked with texts by George Herbert, John Milton, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandberg, Marianne Moore, W.D. Snodgrass, and Anne Sexton; moreover, she has been instrumental in recovering and sustaining critical interest in the work of twentieth-century American poet Sara Henderson Hay ["A Stepmother for Anne Sexton's Transformations: Sara Henderson Hay's Story Hour." Sagetrieb 19.3 (Fall 2006)] as part of a lineage in American women's poetry. Her critical work has been published in Sagetrieb, The Denver Quarterly, The American Book Review and other journals. With a special interest in the sociopolitical implications of poetic form, Smith has written extensively on the "hybrid" prose poem form and has long been a contributor to and editor for Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics. Other contributions to American Writers Supplement, The Encyclopedia of American Literature, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Multiethnic Literature, and Salem Press Critical Insights:The Bell Jar.
In 2008, McGrath Smith was one of four coordinators of the conference Lifting Belly High: Women's Poetry Since 1900, which was hosted by Duquesne University; drawing an international audience, the conference received support from local universities, including Pitt's Contemporary Writers Series.
Links to critical work and craft essays:
National Poetry Foundation Plenary Panel on No More Masks!
"The Poetics of Gracelessness," Cerise (Summer 2011):
Smith earned an MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh in 1993, also completing a certificate in Cultural Studies. Poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, Cerise, The Same, Kestrel, Oranges & Sardines, Diner, 5 a.m., Oxford Magazine, The Prose Poem, Southern Poetry Review, Descant (Canada), and others. Her poetry has been recognized with an Academy of American Poets award, a Rainmaker Award from Zone 3 magazine, and, more recently, a 2007 Individual Artist grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. She has been a finalist for the Agnes Lynch Starrett Award, the Marianne Moore Prize, and the May Swenson Award. Her fiction has appeared in numerous journals, including Kestrel and Weave, and her hybrid nonfiction piece, "The Locust: A Foundational Narrative," appeared in the Los Angeles Review as a 2012 winner of the Orlando Prize from the A Room of One's Own Foundation. Her books include the chapbooks, The Dog Makes His Rounds and Other Poems (Another Thing Press, 2002) and Scatter, Feed (Seven Kitchens Press, 2014), and the hybrid collection Nobody's Jackknife (West End Press, 2015).
Anthologies in which McGrath Smith's poetry appears:
Beauty Is a Verb: The New Disability Poets. Ed. Jennifer Bartlett, Sheila Black, and Michael Northen. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press, 2011.
Letters to the World: Poetry from the Wom-Po Listserv. Red Hen Press, 2008.
Joyful Noise: An Anthology of American Spiritual Poetry. Autumn House Press, 2006.
In a Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to Shakespeare. U of Iowa P., 2005.
For a Living: The Poetry of Work. U of Illinois P, 1995.
Links to poems published online:
"The Shape of the Bell," Cerise (Summer 2011)
"Theodore Enslin, Poet of Maine," Wordgathering 3
"While Bottling the Wine," Janus Head (Spring 2003)
"First Communion," TPQ Online (April 2004)