Michelle Boisseau, 1955–2017
November 20, 2017
Poet and University of Missouri–Kansas City professor Michelle Boisseau passed away last week on November 15. The cause was lung cancer. She was sixty-two.
Boisseau was the author of five volumes of poems, the most recent of which, Among the Gorgons, was published in 2016. Her 1996 book, Understory, won the Morse Prize. She had recently won a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation and also received two fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts. Her co-written textbook, Writing Poetry, is in its 8th edition. She taught at UMKC for twenty-two years.
Earlier in November, several students, colleagues, and friends gathered to celebrate Boisseau’s life and work. Virginia Blanton, co-chair of the UMKC English Department, said, “A video of this event captures Michelle’s essence as a mesmerizing poet, as a contemplative student of nature, as an [sic] charismatic national voice.”
In her artist’s statement for her 2011 NEA grant, Boisseau wrote:
I like the fossil buried in the word “encouragement,” how it gives heart to the faltering. Sometimes in writing, particularly in writing poems, you find yourself on the edge of a dry, whistling canyon. If there's a river below, it seems only an incoherent rumor of one, its refreshment doesn't reach far enough to touch you. Encouragement—and encouragement materially and spiritually—is the answering voice that responds to the poet's. You might have been on the brink of losing faith, afraid that all that you were hearing in response to your words were echoes of your own voice. Being awarding an NEA Fellowship right now in my life has been to hear the answering voice that says, "Keep going, keep going.”
Photo Credit: UMKC