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Nationally recognized St. Louis poet Alison Rollins shares latest work, her inspiration

St. Louis poet Alison Rollins
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis poet Alison Rollins

St. Louis poet and librarian Alison Rollins started along her poetry journey in high school at Nerinx Hall in Webster Groves.

She is now a published poet, is pursuing a library sciences degree and is the librarian at the high school she attended.

“As a high school student, I had a little journal and I would kind of do doodles or different things especially during high stress periods, so during exam periods or times I felt like I was not really in control of my destiny,” she told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “It was a way for me to release and express myself.”

That expression led to national recognition when last year she won a prestigious 2016 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship for young poets under 31 years of age.

“It was a hometown win I consider it,” Rollins said. “It was nice to be validated in that sense as a budding artist in the community and to have that monetized support to continue to focus on my craft.”

“I’m very drawn to surreal imagery but I’m also drawn to capturing the mundane or everyday experiences of life,” she said of where she draws inspiration. “I was recently in a conversation with someone and we were trying to discuss what would be a St. Louis aesthetic or what does it mean to be a writer born and raised in St. Louis as a very interesting Midwestern city?

“I don’t think anything is really topic-wise off limits to me. What I’m most captivated about is making language seem odd or strange or pushing the boundaries of how we normatively would think about different experiences or different ways that even words are grammatically arranged on a page. It’s very experimental and playful for me in that way,” she said.

Further, Rollins said her being a young woman of color influences her work as well as her specific high school experience.

“Going to Nerinx Hall as an actual student, I was very immersed in the sense of empowerment and a commitment to social justice,” she said.

Listen to the audio below to hear more from Rollins and hear her read two recently published poems, “Elephants Born Without Tusks” and “Character Building.”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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