Spires, Elizabeth


Born: 1952

Ohio connection: Birth

Elizabeth Spires, daughter of Richard C. and Sue (Wagner) Spires, was born in 1952 in Lancaster, Ohio. She received a B.A. in English from Vassar College in 1974, and an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University in 1979. She married novelist Madison Smartt Bell in 1985, and they have a daughter, Celia Dovell.

Spires worked as an assistant editor for Charles E. Merrill Publishing Company, 1976-77; freelance writer, 1977-81; visiting assistant professor of English, Washington College, 1981; poet-in-residence, Loyola College, 1981-82; and professor of English, Goucher College, 1982-present. As her career as an author began, Spires considered the writing of short stories, but she had begun to focus on poetry while at Vassar College, and decided to go in that direction. After graduation, some of her poems began to appear in prestigious magazines, including The New Yorker, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, and The Partisan Review. In addition to poetry anthologies, Spires writes books for children, with The Mouse of Amherst probably being the best known. Some of her other children`s books are The Falling Star; The Wheels Go Round; With One White Wing; and Riddle Road: Puzzles in Poems and Pictures. Poetry books include Boardwalk, Globe,Annonciade, and Worldling. Her poetic works explore elements of mortality, spirituality, individualism, and relationships. Spires and her family currently reside in Maryland, where she is professor of English at Goucher College.

Academy of American Poets’ Prize, 1974; Mademoiselle Magazine College Poetry Prize, 1974; W. K. Rose fellowship, Vassar College, 1976; Individual Artist’s Grant, Ohio Arts Council, 1978; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1981, 1992; Pushcart Prize, Pushcart Press, 1981, 1995; Ingram Merrill Foundation award, 1981; Artist’s Fellowship, Maryland State Arts Council, 1982, 1989; Amy Lowell Travelling Poetry scholarship, Harvard University, 1986-87; Sara Teasdale Poetry Award, Wellesley College, 1990; Towson State University Prize for Literature, 1992; Guggenheim Fellowship in Poetry, 1992; Whiting Award, 1996; Witter Bynner Prize in Poetry, American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1998; Maryland Author Award, 1998.